All too often, we forget about the importance of recognizing the small acts of greatness that are all around us in the workplace. We may wish to recognize often, intend to do it, and wish we had more of it ourselves, and yet there’s often a disconnect with need and action.
When I reflect on why this is and speak with other leaders, it’s quite apparent that there isn’t clarity in “how” to recognize greatness that meets the key criteria (for busy leaders) of being quick, easy, low-cost and sustainable. Sometimes even the most “warm and fuzzy” among us struggle to go beyond an ambiguous “good job” for fear of the ramifications of missing someone, starting something we can’t continue, or even just maintaining when our workload kicks into high gear.
Here’s the thing. A few of us have been experimenting with a strange medium for recognition that is catching on because it communicates an important message. We carry around little squishy plastic frogs (that you can buy in a package of about 15 for $1 at our local dollar store). Why frogs? It stands for Forever Recognize Others’ Greatness. Why little squishy frogs? They’re fun. Recognition should be fun and we don’t have enough of it in the workplace today. Why carry them around? You never know when you will catch someone “doing greatness” as part of their everyday work. It also reminds us to recognize people all day long by feeling them every time we reach into our pocket. Why carry a few at a time? We know if we leave our office at the end of the day with frogs still in our pocket, we either didn’t spend enough time out of our offices or we didn’t sustain our intention of noticing greatness.
I should probably mention I work for an organization of over 1500 people and I’ve been there for 6 years. I’ve met a lot of people, but I also try to notice greatness in people I have never met – handing over squishy frogs and telling someone about a great thing you just noticed is quite an introduction tactic! I should also mention that I’m a senior leader. I think it’s important that people see folks who are making decisions for the organization noticing the great things that people do. After all, staff are the people adding value to the customer’s experience everyday, and we can never forget to keep the customer front and centre. When staff feel valued, they will be more resourceful to leverage this talent, which only benefits the customer.
Does it work? Do professionals really like to get handed a colourful squishy frog in the middle of a busy workday? You bet they do. Here’s just one story:
K is a dynamic nurse who took on a peer leadership role less than year ago. She thrived in the role, so much so that she began to wonder if she could spread her degree of influence as the manager of many areas. She applied for the first opening, prepared extensively, got focused, and put herself out there. After an interview I saw her and asked, “How awesome did you do K?” She replied matter-of-factly, “I gave it my best shot and was totally me. I was prepared, I gave them a list of all the things I’ve done to develop myself over the last year, I told them my ideas for making things better, and that I am a clean slate ready to be moulded. I told them I’m ready for the challenge and I’ll work hard. And if I don’t get it, I’m ready for any other challenge that they feel is right for me.” I was blown away. I was so proud. There was only one thing to do. I consulted my pocket and pulled out a purple colour to match her vibrant personality. “K, have you ever been frogged?” She eyed me suspiciously and replied “No…” I shared, “Well, you deserve to be. I have a frog for you. FROG stands for Forever Recognize Others’ Greatness. The greatness I want to recognize in you is your leadership. You just keep growing and thriving in anything you put your mind to, and are helping your peers to come along with you. We are a better place because of you K.” Tears formed in the back of K’s eyes and a smile swept across her face. After a few seconds, she whispered, “Thank-you”, took the frog and stated “I wish it was sticky so I could hang it right on my badge! I think I’ll use a safety-pin from home. I will wear it proudly.” Nothing else needed to be said. She knew she was great. The frog was a symbol that reinforced it.
Any medium will do if it fits with a compelling and sincere message. Sometimes, even a little squishy frog that costs a dime can do the trick!
Sarah McVanel is a leader in organizational development, communications and community engagement in healthcare. She is a certified HR, OD and coaching professional. Look for her upcoming book with colleague Brenda Zalter-Minden, FROG: Forever Recognize Others’ Greatness or visit her blog www.strengthsbasedleader.com.