Thank You!

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Thank you for coming here every day,

For making a difference in your own special way,

For cheering me up and making me smile,

For always being willing to go the extra mile.

For caring, for sharing, for sometimes saying no,

For challenging me and pushing me, it means more than you know,

For living our values day in and day out,

For living our brand, for having some clout.

For believing and trusting in good times and bad,

For telling me to switch off from my phone and iPad,

For trusting me, encouraging me every step of the way,

And not just on Employee Appreciation Day!

I hope you all have a fabulous day today, make a commitment moving forward to sow appreciation into your daily to do list! It will make an amazing difference…I promise!

Doing the right thing…

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How often do we encourage people to do the right thing? Do we let them know when they have? I’ve had some interesting conversations around this recently and it reminded me of a case study for Fulham Football Club. We’re so lucky to have Robert Ordever working with us now at OC Tanner as our European People and Operations Director. The relationship started at one of our events and this is what Robert had to say at the time…

After listening to the O.C. Tanner Learning Group keynote speech on recognition and appreciation, Ordever saw where recognition could help, “We’ve tended to treat recognition as something that happens in award presentations perhaps monthly, perhaps every two months, and what we were missing out on was the power of praising the smaller milestones.”

It’s simple really: Thank people at the right times for doing the right thing. As Ordever explains, “We were cheering the goal, but not cheering the great passes and moves that lead to the goal. And not doing it at the instant, at the moment, made us miss our chance to have that behaviour repeated. If you can show people what ‘great’ looks like, you’ll see it repeated.”

Ordever invited the O.C. Tanner Learning Group to train 150 managers as a way to get the message out. “O.C. Tanner’s training tied into our values and showed our managers the impact appreciation does have on business.”

A message that is being received, “I believe in any organization there is a certain amount of cynicism when it comes to saying ‘thank you’, but the Learning Group presentation overcame that,” says Graham Gilmore, Venues Operations Director. “To sit in our own environment and learn about this concept of recognition and appreciation put us all on the same playing field. We were all given the same challenge. And though it might not be comfortable, we laughed our way through it.”

“Every idea goes through the ridicule, discuss, adopt phases—and this was no different,” explains Ordever. “The idea of the ‘soft thank you’ may not seem natural to my managers or fit into what can be a macho environment. But almost immediately after our sessions, I have received very positive feedback. It’s being discussed.The key for me is what we do with this knowledge next: adopt a culture of appreciation into our organization.” (Here’s the link to the original case study)

Sometimes to make a difference all it takes is telling people that what they did was right which encourages them to do more of it. Doing the right thing often takes courage, it means putting yourself out there but it reaps the rewards. Make sure you are clear about what ‘doing the right’ thing means in your organization and then encourage managers to reinforce those behaviours whenever they see it. Every company has values, sometimes it just takes a little time to help people understand that a value is so much more than a word, it’s a guiding principle for your vision as an organization. Share the stories when you see great work happen, celebrate when even more of it happens and shout about it when the business results follow!

The importance of balance – taking it one brick at a time!

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One Brick at a TimeWe’re just coming to the end of a full on house renovation. For anyone who has been through this, it’s a complete upheaval!

This weekend marked a momentous milestone though, at long last,our kitchen was fully functioning! I honestly feel like a different woman! I know our environments are important to us, but what I didn’t realise was how much my kitchen meant to me. It’s where I feel in control – its where our family comes together, its where I make sure our kids are fed and watered and it is the heartbeat of our house. Without it, we’ve been a bit lost!

I came across this wheel recently whilst doing my NLP practitioner course/workshop and it got me thinking about the juggling act we face to create balance in our lives. My physical environment has been out of kilter now for six months and it has had a knock-on effect on several of the other areas on the wheel. It made me realise that there are few times in our lives where we are able to create true balance and actually there are certain things that are out of our control.

Wheel of Life

Working in this space though, it makes me feel even more passionately that we have a responsibility to make our workplaces the best they possibly can be. We need to create a physical environment at work that encourages people to develop and grow. We need to give people a sense of opportunity and inclusiveness. We need to encourage people to look after themselves both physically and mentally. We need to have fun and get to know the people around us as people, not just colleagues.

My job is to weave appreciation in as an underpinning thread, that shifts the balance of the conversations towards all the positive things. What can you affect today to help your people achieve balance at work?

The power of a story, inspiring young talent and sparkly red shoes!

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I attended a conference recently called ‘Grow Your Own Talent’ at the International Festival for Business in Liverpool. One of my biggest take-aways from this was a half an hour breakout session with a young man called James. He had just completed work experience at Royal Sun and Alliance organized through the local Career Academy and he was tasked with asking us some questions around our careers and where they started!! It was a brilliant idea and for me it brought to mind a picture I think we’ve probably all seen doing the rounds on the LinkedIn circuit recently.

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Every person has a story and more often than not, the story has ups, it has downs, it has lefts, it has rights, in fact sometimes it goes full circle.

Everyone who spoke talked of a ‘journey’…a journey that they were still on…a journey that could change at any given moment because of a circumstance, an opportunity, being in the right place at the right time.

We hear a lot about story-telling at the moment and the power that this has…the power for me and I’m sure it was the same for James, is that stories expose are vulnerability, they show that we are real people, that mistakes happen and that the world of work is challenging to say the least. Bad decisions are sometimes made but everything that happens helps us to learn. It’s a bit like the ‘yellow brick road’ in the Wizard of Oz…the way is paved with setbacks along the way but with the right people to guide you and shiny red shoes, you’ll be just fine. It hopefully guides us on our journey to realize who we are and what we stand for (to trust our instincts and our heart like the tin man), to become more resilient (like the scarecrow), to stand up for what we believe in (like the cowardly lion) and to have courage in our convictions (like Dorothy!).

I believe it’s important to share more stories. Often the world presents us with a viewpoint that we have no reason not to believe. For young people, the pressures must feel enormous. To go to university or not, to go straight to work, to earn money and stand on your own two feet, to enter into massive debt, to leave home, to buy a house, etc ,etc ,etc. Real life stories from real life people – just like you and me – help put these viewpoints into perspective to help young people to understand that life isn’t perfect, it won’t ever be exactly what it says on the tin but hey, it can be a whole lot of fun and in 20 years when you’re looking back and telling your own squiggly story of success, you can smile and remember that mistakes are there to be made so we can learn from them and become better people because of them!

My journey to becoming an Appreciateologist is no different. It’s as squiggly as they get but I’m so glad I’m here. I’m here because this stuff matters to me so much more than just a job. It matters to me because of who I am and what I believe in. This comes from a place where I’ve been on the receiving end of recognition and appreciation done appallingly. This was the best and biggest learning part in my life though. The times when our values are challenged kick starts something within us to fight back and stand up for ourselves and all that we are and it makes us realize that we have choices in life and that ‘journey’ we talk about is ours for the taking. My mission is to help companies to really see how appreciation can change the direction of an individual, a team and a company because I know it to be true. It has worked for me, I see it working all around me and through my own story, I hope to inspire others along the way!

Hopefully for James, our stories inspired him to know that life is a journey, our careers are a journey and much like Christopher Columbus said:

“You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore”

Let’s inspire our young people by being honest with them and sharing our stories so they have the courage to forge out their own paths and realize that the path to success is an adventure but an adventure so worth taking!!!

2-4-6-8 Who do you appreciate?

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Yippppeee! It’s Friday! One of my favourite things to do before I leave for the weekend is to stop what I’m doing for half an hour and reflect on the week. I look in my calendar and remind myself what happened, I write a list for Monday so I don’t have to think about work over the weekend and most importantly, I sit and think about the people who have made a difference for me this week. It might be big things, it might be small things but I log into our system and I send a funny e-card, I build an e-button or I nominate them.

I really think about what it was that made a difference and then I write a note to let them know how it demonstrated one of our values and most importantly what it meant to me! I LOVE doing this…it makes me feel great and I know it puts a smile on that persons face for the weekend! It doesn’t matter how you do it, but why not do the same? Stop right now and let people know that they helped made your week great!

Have a lovely weekend!

Begin with a seed and a story will start growing…a blog for the end of term!

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A story for the end of term…

As I thought about an appropriate gift for my daughters teachers this week, I found myself thinking back to work. I talk about appreciation and the difference it makes in organisations every day but actually it makes a difference everywhere – the same rules apply.

The majority of people want to be valued for what they do, they want to know that you noticed, that you listened, that you appreciate them and that they made a difference to you in some way.

Chloe-Lou, my eldest, is just about to finish reception and we received her first report last week. All I can say is WOW…I’m not just saying WOW because it was a lovely read, which it was…my main WOW was how well her teacher knows our little girl. This wasn’t just a few lines about how well she was reading and writing. This was a heartfelt, genuine account of the last year interjected with stories. It was my little girls wholehearted journey through her first year at school. This was not a rushed report, this was a considered, genuine, well-written account of observations and interactions (interestingly it was also like reading my own performance appraisal but that’s a different story!!!!). It highlighted so many positives and it constructively gave us learnings to work on which were specific and detailed enough so we know how we can support her more. I love that you could tell how much she was cared for through the words that were chosen and the genuine affection that has existed from the minute she walked through the door last September.

Earlier this week, I caught Chloe-Lou’s teacher and I said thank you. I said some of the things I mentioned above to her face and her words back to me were ‘Ooo I’ve got goosebumps’. I only said ‘some of the things’ as I then wrote a thank you card that said all of the above as I wanted her to be able to read it again if she chose to and to keep it and to remember that she is valued by us and by Chloe-Lou and that she has made a massive difference in creating a really positive first experience of school for all of us. I enjoyed doing all of this. It made me feel great. Chloe-Lou wrote a little card too and really it took no time at all. Our gift didn’t cost much, it was a packet of seeds. A packet of seeds that said on a card:

“There was a child who wanted to write
But didn’t know where to start
Begin with a seed, begin with a seed,
Begin with a seed and a story will start growing!”

Appreciation changes everything in all areas of our lives – with ourselves, with our families, with our friends, with the person in our local shop through to the people we work with in our organisations. It’s a powerful and oh so simple thing, don’t forget to use it!

How do you nurture the dormant seeds in your organisation?

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The rather fabulous Kevin Ames from the OC Tanner Institute delivered his ‘Appreciation Experience’ keynote at an event in Leeds a couple of weeks ago. He is such an inspirational speaker and even though I’ve heard him speak several times now, he inspires me with something new every time. He talked about dormant seeds being brought to life with the right nourishment as an analogy of the people working within our organisations. This really resonated with me. How do we create the right nourishment to help people realise their full potential?

1. Plant the right seeds.

Before a person even joins your company, how do you recruit? Do you recruit based on cultural fit and values? When they join, how are they feeling? If I think about my own experience, it would be a mixture oBlog picture 2f nerves, excitement and expectation but we’re all different. We might be petunias, snapdragons or sweet peas. When we join an organisation, it’s not just about making sure we have the right equipment on our desks, it’s about helping people feel part of the team and the organisation right from the word go. It’s helping people understand how they fit. How do you onboard people where you are? How do you make them feel valued in your team? Here’s a link to a great blog that delves into this in more detail.

2. Water your seeds regularly.

Your watering can is filled with the great work that people do in your organisations.Blog picture 1 All you need to remember is to tell people how they’re doing right from the start, to ask for feedback on how you’re doing as an organisation, to let them know that they’re on track, to spotlight when they live one of your values so they do more of it. When somebody recognises us, we blossom, we flourish and we begin ‘sprouting’ those seeds of potential in an environment of trust. Here’s another blog to get you to focus on the simple things to keep your people watered. When we go out to speak to individuals in large organisations, often the reality can be very different to what you might think it is. Water your seeds, regularly!

3. Keep your seeds warm.

For me this is about opportunity and well-being.Blog picture 3 Essentially caring for your people and providing them with the right environment to want to stay and thrive. If we go back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, are our people’s base requirements being met, how do we know because only then can we encourage our people to really start to grow and develop.

4. Move your seeds to natural light when they’ve sprouted.

So you’ve been nurturing the potential in your people, encouraginBlog picture 4g the day-to-day effort, now you can start seeing the fruits of your efforts as they start to produce results. Shine a light on their accomplishments, show them that you noticed and help those other seeds push through the surface by demonstrating and communicating what great looks like!

5. Maintain and watch your plants.

Plants need care just as people do. Care doesn’t have to be the touchy feely stuff, care can just be the simple act of communicating to your team that you have their back. That you will act with honesty and integrity and talk to them in a respectful way about all the great things they are doing and to be open with them about areas for improvement always being specific so that learning can happen. Be consistent, be sincere, be fair in all of your interactions. Get to know your team, read their signs, talk to them, spend the day with them, give them space to think, to absorb, to learn and to grow.

6. Harden off your plants.Blog picture 5

Help your team navigate the challenges of the workplace. Help them to understand who their ‘go to’ people are early on and let them know that your door is open but you are happy for them to go forth and prosper, to make mistakes and to learn. The workplace is an ever-changing landscape. We need to give our people the tools and the skills to create their own paths, their own futures. Appreciation can change the course of someone’s day and it doesn’t have to cost anything. Always remember that you have this powerful skill on the tip of your tongue!

7. Maintain your plants.

Blog picture 6Maintain the morale of your people and use recognition and appreciation to do it! For most of us, the one thing we feel when faced with change, is a degree of self-doubt. These are the weeds that we need to dig out and remind people that they were recruited for a reason, because we believe in them and the potential they have. You might also read this as weeding out the bad eggs in your organization. Remaining positive and true to myself I would argue here that everyone has potential; every person is a dormant seed that can flourish in the right environment. Maybe appreciation could make all the difference if we do it every few days for even the most challenging of people out there even if it’s your boss, maybe see the difference a little positivity and appreciation can make if you send recognition upwards.

So hopefully I’ve given you a little food for thought there on how you could nurture the dormant seeds in your organization and create an environment and a culture where flowers of every shape and size prosper and flourish!

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Unpacking my suitcase…how appreciation helped me on my journey!

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I know I go on about it all the time but appreciation really does change everything. I often think the most powerful way of getting this across is by telling my own story.

A few weeks ago I celebrated my first year with OC Tanner. It was a great year, a challenging year, a scary year, an emotional year and lots of things in between. I’d moved from a company where the focus was always on ‘what you’re not doing’ to a company that really does focus on the positive. This was an amazing shift and exactly what I hoped it would be but I also didn’t quite trust it. I always had the fear that at some point, the truth would reveal itself and I would be in the grasp of another company who talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk.

“Unpack your suitcase’ said Ian

The amazing @Kingfishercoach (Ian Pettigrew) very kindly gave me some strengths coaching recently and he perfectly described how I felt…”I’d found my home but hadn’t unpacked my suitcase”! What a great analogy…there was a part of me holding back, a part of me just waiting a bit longer just to make sure it was right, that I fitted in, that it was the perfect company in every way. Ian’s suggestion to me was to go away, unpack my suitcase and be my big-hearted positive self! So I have and the positive reinforcement from my peers has helped me get there much faster.

Celebrating one year with OC Tanner

These are some of the things that people said at my one year anniversary…

“The most refreshing thing about you is your motivation and drive to really make a difference in the work place. You really DO want to create a better place to work for people and your passion for this is truly inspiring to me and the whole team”.

“I have to say you are one of the most passionate appreciateologists I have ever met. Your passion shines through every time you speak about our company and what we do. I am sure you have all seen the movie Miracle on 34th street where the little girl manages to get the whole of America to believe in Santa Claus one by one. This reminds me of Dawn and I picture her in a meeting speaking about OC Tanner and eventually everyone round the table saying ‘I believe’!”.

“Your energy and enthusiasm knows no bounds and I love the fact you’re so full of great ideas even if sometimes slightly on the wacky side and you’re always willing to go out of your way to help others’.

“You have only been here for one year but it feels like you have always been here. You are the glue that keeps this team together, always good for a hug, a coffee and a chat. I know you were right for OC Tanner when you kicked me under the table when I interviewed you!”

How do you think I felt when I heard these amazing things being said (and also printed off so I could keep and remember them!)…yep that’s right, on top of the world. I felt valued, I felt noticed, I felt that people really cared about me too and also that I fitted right in.

We do walk the walk here. We do practice what we preach. We are not perfect but what is perfect. What we are though is driven to make a difference. To get companies to go out and appreciate their people. To recognize what great work looks like and to tell people when they see it happening. To value the contributions that people make not just once but throughout the course of their careers. If I can help companies on that journey through my amazing job then that makes me happy!

How has appreciation made a difference for you?

Look Up…remember a smile is the best curve on your body but how will you know if people can’t see it!

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I watched a really powerful YouTube clip earlier today called ‘Look Up’. If you follow me on social media then I posted this on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter too. Here it is again if you missed it…

I am as guilty as the next person of looking down A LOT and feeling a physical twitch when I don’t have my phone to see what’s going on in the world…and yes I do this when I should be spending time with my family too and am consciously trying to stop myself doing this! The clip really made me stop and think about the moments I have missed or not appreciated fully as I was half looking at my phone or screen at the time.

I’m not saying that I’m going to stop using social media or get rid of my devices! I love it from a work perspective and have really enjoyed getting to know new people through twitter (and meeting them in person I hasten to add!), share content, build connections and keep up to speed through LinkedIn and keep friends and families up to date with our lives when we can’t see them as often as we would like through Facebook. I think these are all great things and I think connections can be made through finding like-minded people when blogging, etc…the danger comes when it becomes addictive and you define yourself by your online presence and digital communications rather than much stronger bonds that are formed when you are physically in the same room looking at another person and seeing the twinkle in their eye when they smile, seeing the enthusiasm in their face when you hit the nail on the head and find a common interest). When you realize that you’ve said completely the wrong thing and you can see it in their face.

I came across a great article in the Huffington Post that really made sense too and include it below by Karen Van Bergen (thanks Karen). Karen wrote the article below and this paragraph really resonated with me:

Deep, satisfying relationships require attention, focus, interest — and most of all — our actual physical presence. Whether it is with your clients, your coworkers, your partner, your children or your friends, you must be physically and mentally present. If you want to build true connections, you must take the time and make the effort to actually be with the people to whom you wish to connect. It sounds so obvious, but it is so frequently missed.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karen-van-bergen/where-should-we-meet-sustaining-real-connection-in-a-hyper-connected-world_b_4221484.html

At OC Tanner, we talk a lot about creating human-to-human connections within companies through recognition moments. For larger companies, technology needs to be the enabler to facilitate these moments but that’s not enough. The technology has to prompt and give people the opportunity to bond with their teams. It has to get people thinking about how powerful it can be to physically get a small group of people together and talk about the great work that is going on. How far-reaching it can be to actually listen to someone receiving recognition in a genuine and sincere way so much so that they go away and think about how they can ‘get me some of that’! Our nature as human beings is to feel connected, truly connected to others and be in the same room.

Do something different today…

So do one thing today (and yes you can use technology as the enabler to do this!!) – arrange to meet a friend, set-up a meeting with someone you haven’t seen for ages, turn your devices off for the evening and knock on a neighbours door…my first blog talked about ‘A smile being the best curve on your body’ – go out today and share that smile with someone else!

Over and out!

Thanks to thingsweforget.blogspot.com for the image!

“Vision gives pain a purpose” – inspiring words from Kelly Clark and the power of an emotional connection!

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I normally come back from our Salt Lake City office inspired by something and funnily enough this time was no different! My inspiration this time was from the Team USA snow-boarding champion Kelly Clark. What an amazing lady – amazing because of what she’s achieved but more than anything because of who she is, what she stands for and the integrity and gratitude that she showed when telling her story. I also felt truly proud to work for OC Tanner. You might not know this but we create the Team USA rings for the Olympics and even created the medals for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002. Here’s a link to read some really inspiring stories.

Kelly represented the US for her fourth consecutive Winter Olympics in Sochi and over her career has brought back one gold and two bronze medals. The year she didn’t make the podium was one of the most challenging things she’s ever had to overcome. What she learnt from this though was a great perspective as to the value of what things cost. If you think about it, at the Olympics, everyone who competes works so incredibly hard to get there, most people will have their own story to tell but only three people have something to show for it in each sport.

“Vision gives pain a purpose”

Kelly knew that she wasn’t ready to give up and she decided that the ring that OC Tanner had given her way back when she was 18 years old was the key to staying focused on that dream of getting on that podium again. She said to herself,

“What if I wear this ring every day? Why? Well when I wake up in the morning and want to sleep in, I reach down and feel that ring on my finger and remember why I need to get up and get out. When I’m out on the slopes practicing all day every day, I can feel the ring under my gloves and look and remember all that I’ve done and all that I can do. When I’m having a bad day, it reminds me what I’m capable of. It’s something that’s with me every day to inspire me to carry on, to drive me forward and to keep me focused on the end goal of being on that podium again.”

What gives something value? It’s the cost to you, not in a monetary sense but in a way that’s personal to you. It’s a symbolic reminder of your personal journey to reach your goals.

For me it really reinforced in me this immense sense of pride in the exact same experiences we are trying to create in organisations all over the world every day. If we bring it back to the point I made earlier about the Olympics and the fact that everyone works so hard but only the people on the podium get a medal, do we do that in our organisations? How many people get touched by recognition in your organization? And if we look at how hard most people work, is it right that only a select few should get recognized?

Surely we should be inspiring the people that work for us to do more great things as often as we can by recognizing the little things (that lead to the big things) along the way. We should be encouraging them to set goals, believe in the company’s vision and mission and recognize them for their on-going effort.

Our people bring an immense amount of value to our businesses every day and often there is some degree of personal cost to them in terms of time, energy and commitment, surely we can take the time to say thank you, you did great, we value you, you make a difference! I know the cynics out there will say, well that’s what we pay you for. My argument to that would be, times are changing. People want to feel part of something and feel valued for their contributions. We are more educated and socially-aware than we’ve ever been and we also have visibility to everything else that is going on in the world through the internet and social media. Companies that genuinely value and look after their people will lead out.

We all need a purpose, something we believe in and often work ticks that box for a lot of us. Use that to your advantage, create a culture you feel proud to be a part of, reinforce that pride through recognition. Don’t give vouchers when someone does something great – what lasting value does this really have and how does this really make someone feel?

Our founder Obert Tanner once said: “One could say we sell two values: the value of beauty and the value of kindness. The kindness is a company’s willingness to recognize, with dignity, an individual for what he or she has given to that company. After all, giving the productive years of one’s life, the daylight hours of each working day – this is the ultimate that an individual may give to any company.”

The beauty for Kelly was in the ring – the symbol of her journey, her tireless commitment to her vision of becoming a true Olympian. What would inspire you to get out of bed every day? To go to work? To make a difference? We create emotional connections with things we can touch and feel. We remember the moment it was given to us and why. We share stories with colleagues, friends and family. It becomes part of our legacy. Think about the journey your employees go on in your organization and how you can make that journey special and meaningful with amazing memories of human connection along the way.

Thank you Kelly for inspiring us with your story and for reminding me why I work for a great company! (and apologies if I got any of the story wrong!!!!)