Watering the Tree of Thanks

Last Wednesday, team members at Barry-Wehmiller’s global headquarters in St. Louis arrived at their desks to find a small card and a paper leaf. The card read:

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect upon the many blessings we’ve had throughout the year.

Take a moment to think of one (or two!) things for which you are thankful and capture them on the leaf.

Bring the leaf with you to the GPL celebration to help us build a Tree of Thanks!

That afternoon, we held a GPL recognition ceremony during which we celebrate a team member who embodies the tenets of our Guiding Principles of Leadership cultural vision statement.

As our team members entered the atrium, they placed these leaves on the “tree.”

It was heartwarming to read some of the things for which our people are thankful. “Family” and “health” appeared on many leaves. One particularly touching leaf said: “Wife is cancer free.”

Others said things like: “My talented team.” “This BWC family!” “Awesome team members.” “Positive work environment.” And one even said: “I’m thankful for our safe and comfortable environment to do meaningful work.”


I recently came cross an article from Michael Hyatt that talks about the ways gratitude improves our lives. He shared these four points:

Gratitude reduces our stress. Thankfulness redirects our attention from our difficulties to the benefits we enjoy. It’s like creating a stockpile of good thoughts for when times are tough. It also helps us reframe our losses and stay connected emotionally to friends and family.

Gratitude inoculates us from negative emotions. When we focus on what we don’t have or how our decisions could have turned out better, we leave room for resentment, envy, and regret to build. Gratitude can keep these feelings at bay.

Gratitude sustains our relationships. Let me just ask, do you like hanging out with people that gripe and complain? Me neither. It’s gratitude that draws people together, builds trust, and strengthens ties. That’s true in the workplace, among friends, in families, and between husbands and wives.

Gratitude improves our health. Grateful people visit their doctors less often and live longer than others. The research shows that thankfulness helps us sleep better, control our blood pressure, and generally reduce physical complaints.

These points stuck with me because they’re the components of creating a caring workplace where people feel like they matter. When we create a culture based on caring, where we express our gratitude for our people through our communication and through recognition, the benefits extend far beyond the walls of our corporate building.

It was very heartening to see the leaves of our people who expressed gratitude for our culture, their teammates and the entire BW family. But I hope it’s not just a one-time exercise during a corporate event. Like leaves on a tree, I hope our people and our leaders are expressing gratitude in abundance!

Truly Human Leadership is found throughout Barry-Wehmiller Companies, where Bob Chapman is Chairman and CEO. A $3+ billion global capital equipment and engineering consulting firm, Barry-Wehmiller’s 12,000 team members are united around a common belief: we can use the power of business to build a better world. Chapman explores that idea in his Wall Street Journal best-selling book, Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring For Your People Like Family, available from Penguin Random House.

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