68: Leading with Gratitude

Mylynn Tufte, North Dakota’s former state health official, explains the power of gratitude in advance of her Insight and Inspiration talk on Thursday, Nov. 18; Rhea Farberman, Director of Strategic Communications and Policy Research at the Trust for...

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Mylynn Tufte, North Dakota’s former state health official, explains the power of gratitude in advance of her Insight and Inspiration talk on Thursday, Nov. 18; Rhea Farberman, Director of Strategic Communications and Policy Research at the Trust for America’s Health, suggests communicators tell audiences that pandemic guidance can and will change; ASTHO reminds state and territorial health professionals to complete their PH Wins workforce surveys; and Dr. Steven Stack, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, shares a “thankful” note to celebrate Public Health Thank You Day coming up Monday, Nov. 22nd.

ASTHO webpage: Insight and Inspiration

de Beaumont Foundation webpage: Poll – Unvaccinated Americans Consider Vaccine Requirements a Greater Health Threat than COVID-19

ASTHO blog article: Understanding the Impacts of COVID-19 on the Workforce

APHA webpage: Public Health Thank You Day

ASTHO logo



This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Tuesday, November 16th, 2021. I'm Robert Johnson.

Here's today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.


Gratitude has been called the most exquisite form of courtesy. On Thursday, you can learn how to lead with gratitude.

Mylynn Tufte, North Dakota's former state health official, headlines ASTHO's final Insight and Inspiration event on November 18th. She joins us now for a preview of that talk. It's today's morning conversation.

Can you define for us what it means to lead with gratitude?


So for me, leading with gratitude means to, from the beginning, starting with "everyone's a leader"—and no matter where you are, what your job description is, where you live, what your demographic factors are, everyone's a leader.


Some people might hear that term and think that you really just want me to say thank you all the time to the people that are on my team. Is it more than that?


It is more than that.

And I was just having a discussion with a leader that I look up to and he said, "I don't really like it when people lead with gratitude or start with gratitude, because sometimes it doesn't feel authentic," and I really talk about appreciation and I'm appreciative of people.

So, it's more than just saying words; you have to be authentic and sincere in your leadership style and it has to feel right for you. So, it's more than that.


Okay, so now you've got us interested. We know it's more than saying thank you. You need to tell us how to do it. What if that's all we know and we want to do better?


You could read about an article, you could take a podcast, you could do things that model people that you think are doing this well. I look back at people that have made me feel appreciated in the way they did this. I think my former boss, Governor Burgum, did a great job in leading with gratitude, and it's something that I tried to model in my style when I was at the Department of Health, too.

Anytime the governor opened up his public speaking and talks, he would lead with gratitude. And one of the things that he did so well was to thank people for their time—thank people for their time, for being there, and investing in being present, and their investment of their skills and resources, and just the authentic nature in the way he did this.

Another—I think amazing—story is this former CEO of Campbell's who would write these notes to his employees. And if you look this guy up, his name is Doug Conant, he wrote over 30,000 notes to his employees over his tenure—you know, just thank you and sincere gratitude for the work that they did. I think public recognition or just recognition of people's work is another way.

And then, also understanding certain employees or team members like to be recognized in different ways, and understanding the diversity of the skills and gifts that people bring to the table.



The pandemic has been a tough learning experience for everyone involved in the response—that includes communicators who've had to deal with constantly changing messages.

Rhea Farberman is director of strategic communications and policy research at the Trust for America's Health. In a recent conversation with Robert Jennings on the Public Health Speaks podcast, Farberman said it's important for audiences to know things will change as new information about the COVID-19 virus becomes available.


We interviewed Surgeon General Murthy a couple months ago, and he emphasized that whenever he gives public health guidance, he wants to leave room for that guidance changing, which I think is really smart.

Telegraph to your audience that this is what I know today based on what data is available today; but tomorrow I might learn something new, and I'm going to update my guidance to the public based on that new information. I think it's really important for the public to understand.


The Public Health Speaks podcast is published two times a month. It's produced by the National Public Health Information Coalition.


People working in state and territorial health agencies are reminded to fill out their PH WINS surveys. The information will help policy makers better understand the state of the workforce.

ASTHO has a new blog article on the topic. It includes links to existing reports and surveys and more information about the PH WINS initiative.


Finally this morning, we are showing gratitude to public health workers with a month-long celebration of Public Health Thank You Day, set for next Monday, November 22nd.

Today's thankful note is from Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health.


So, in Kentucky, I'm most thankful for the public health team across the entire state, both at the state level and in the local health departments. I have seen women and men across all 120 counties and in the state capitol in Frankfurt sacrifice time and time again, go above and beyond the call of duty time and time again, working incredibly long hours, work over holidays nights and weekends, and put the needs of the people of Kentucky ahead of their own desires and needs, at times.

They've made fantastic sacrifices that have enabled us to find a way to get through this pandemic, to help provide tools and resources and supplies. So, it is the people that I have the privilege to work with in public health for which I am most grateful. I owe a great debt of gratitude to them for the privilege to serve as their commissioner and also for the work that they've done that has helped ensure our success.



Remember, every story in this newscast has a link to follow for more information—those can be found in the show notes.


That'll do it for today's report.


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Be sure to join us again tomorrow morning for more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day.

Steven Stack MD

Kentucky Commissioner for Public Health

Mylynn Tufte

Senior Director, Population Health Practice Lead, Optum

Rhea Farberman

Director of Strategic Communications and Policy Research, Trust for America’s Health