3 Ways to Lead with Grace

We recently selected our next Book of the Year, and while I won’t give away the surprise just yet, I will say that we’re laser focused on grace. We’ve talked a lot this year about Graceful Accountability – the practice of giving grace and expecting high performance – and this week I’d like to share 3 simple ways that we can all lead with grace in our workplaces, in our homes, and in our communities. 

1. Practice the GREET model. Originally intended for healthcare providers learning the delicacies of bedside manner, we train on the GREET model across industries to anyone who works in customer service…which turns out to be all of us. We all have a customer, be it an internal colleague, an external buyer, or simply someone we want to become (and stay) our friend. So, here’s what we do: 

  • Greet – Don’t underestimate the value of a simple “hello”, “good morning”, or “how are you”. People notice. 
  • Rapport – It’s a cliche that we talk about the weather or sports when making small talk, but sometimes cliches are really important. Building rapport is a way of leading with grace by treating someone like a person first
  • Expectations – Clearly state the purpose of the conversation or meeting. When Mary Ila calls me with questions or guidance on a current project, we spend the first minute or two on Greet and Rapport, and then she’ll say, “Well thanks for calling, I don’t think it will take long, I wanted to talk/ask about ______.” 
  • Explanation – Often omitted, explanations bring a lot of value. Explaining the why or providing details helps someone feel informed and part of the discussion. This is also where psychological safety (grace) comes into play. 
  • Thanks – Always, always, always thank someone for their time and input. Even if (especially if) the conversation was difficult or the feedback uncomfortable.

2.  Be the bridge. Mary Ila wrote a series earlier this year about meeting Survive and Thrive needs in our workplaces, and she talked about relational needs being the bridge between the two. Fueled by insight from Celeste Headlee, Mary Ila talks about communicating with voice, not just with writing. When was the last time you spoke gratitude for someone instead of sending a thank you email? Are we really creating a bridge to help others cross from Survive to Thrive if we’re not talking to them?

I’m ashamed to admit that right now I cannot remember the last time I spoke gratitude. Of course I say “thank you”, but it’s like a reflex. That’s not gratitude. When it occurs to me to show gratitude, I turn to texts or emails or may even send hand-written postcards and thank you notes by snail mail. I’ve never really liked talking on the phone, and my schedule is too busy to add more get togethers – and this is where I’ve failed in my mission to lead with grace and be the bridge. I’ve put my focus on time and efficiency, not on relationships. I’m working on it, but I have a long way to go. What about you? 

3.  Set the tone by going first. If you want to help others lead with grace, you have to be the first domino. Be upfront about your own personal work style and preferences, and ask your team to do the same. Leading with grace is about meeting people in the middle, and allowing flexibility for people to be people first. It’s also about showing that you are also a person first, and that you need a little grace sometimes, too. 

At the end of the day, the old saying that “you get what you give” rings true. If you give grace, others will give it right back when you need it. How are you leading with grace in this holiday season?  


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Jillian Miles Massey