“Eat your vegetables”, parents perpetually nag their kids.

“Why?”, ask the rebellious future CEOs.

“Because they are good for you”, snaps the parent.

“How are they good for me?” ask the curious innovators.

When I was growing up, my exasperated my mom would shake her head and give up. We never got past the why and how.

The World Health Organization recommends eating five portions of fruits and vegetables daily because research proves they provide both many long-term and short-term benefits. Like compound interest, the benefits accrue and build on each other. The day-to-day benefits are invisible or hard to see, but lifetime benefits are real and substantial.

Gratitude and listening are the fruits and vegetables of the business world. Great leaders who have and use strong gratitude and listening muscles deliver better results in the short and long term. The more you listen and approach difficult and complex challenges with gratitude the more sustainable a leader and the business.   Multiple research sources state that gratitude improves innovation, engagement, relationships, trust, and bottom-line results. Businesses require teams to accomplish large goals. Without truly listening, hearing, and understanding others, a group’s progression to a high-performance team will be slow to non-existent.

Gratitude requires daily practice combined with processes and behaviors to support them systemically in a culture. Gratitude is contagious, just like yawning. One yawn and everyone is yawning. A little genuine gratitude spreads fast and has an oversized impact.

When did you realize that eating fruits and vegetables was important to you? What led you to change your behavior? Was it your poor health, your physician, or research? Once you believe healthy eating is truly good for you, you cannot forget it. You change your behaviors, which become your norms, and are healthier because of them. Gratitude and listening are similar. When you truly understand and believe their multiple benefits, you can’t un-know this. Creating a strong gratitude muscle and deeper listening skills becomes urgent and a necessity for leaders’ and businesses’ health and success.

Sounds easy, vegetables, fruits, gratitude, and listening. Yet there are many challenges in creating sustainable cultures and leaders of appreciation. One main challenge is ensuring that the gratitude and listening are authentic, not just going through the motions or it most likely will backfire.

For those leaders who already practice gratitude and listening their challenge is to constantly adjust and tune gratitude and listening muscles, so they don’t get stale and atrophied. There is no such thing as too much listening and too much gratitude.

It just makes sense to eat your fruits and vegetables and practice gratitude and listening daily. What’s stopping you?