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Memphis Daily News
Promote a Culture Of Everyday Gratitude
November 23, 2017
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald

Gratitude is our tradition. Giving thanks and recognition for the good in our lives, for the freedoms in our country and to all those among us who, by their words and actions, lift us all is part of our national culture, our country’s tradition. It was even declared a national holiday in 1941.

It was kneaded into our national conscience centuries before by the Pilgrims and Native Americans, a diverse group of people who recognized the need to come together to thank God and each other for the bounty in their lives.

But what happens to our tradition of gratitude the rest of the year? What is our tradition of thanks and recognition in the marketplaces of our lives? How do we encourage those who contribute to the success of our business? What is our tradition when we want to thank those who use their gifts and talents in the service of others, in the service of our team, our workplace?

Shortly after being appointed superintendent of Catholic Schools in 1998, I addressed one of the challenges to our schools such as a need for teachers. Many teachers were approaching retirement age. We had a shrinking teacher pool, and a salary scale below that of the local public school district.

We needed a strong teacher recruitment and retention plan, and I needed the collective wisdom of our teachers to lay the foundation for that plan. I met with a group of two teachers from each school and asked them to interview every teacher in their school as to why they teach in a Catholic school and what would it take to stay. The teachers met with me again two weeks later to share the results. A higher salary, which I expected to be No. 1 on the list, was No. 8.
The teachers wanted an opportunity for upward mobility. They liked the teaching environment and valued principal and parent support. They wanted more professional development opportunities and updated classroom resources.

What mattered most, however, was being appreciated, recognized and affirmed for the work they do. While the system always recognized longevity of service, longevity did not translate into the quality of their contributions. So a new tradition started with the annual education awards ceremony.

The awards, given for a variety of contributions to education, promoted a spirit of appreciation for the gifts of all, a source of pride for the schools and teachers, and raised morale. Creating that tradition of gratitude is not just for educators, it is for employees in all businesses. Providing those intangible rewards promotes a loyal workforce and a culture of appreciation and gratitude that leads to success.

In the work I do now as a national consultant for businesses and institutions, one of the first things I ask of the leadership is how they appreciate those whom they lead. Then I assist them in planning that tradition of authentic appreciation and gratitude in their workplaces to ensure that continuous improvement will be the norm and the contributions of all will be celebrated.

Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit

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