Not another recognition programme!

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The more I get out there speaking to companies and actually spending time out in their businesses on the front line, the more it ignites an even deeper passion in me for what we do. The impact, the culture, and the special moments we help create.

At OC Tanner, we have cutting edge technology and tools, we have an extensive award and voucher catalogue, we provide reporting and all the stuff that you need in shiny packaging, we have research, case studies and evidence to prove the ROI…

However, when it boils down to it, does any of this really matter if your managers don’t see the value in it? If their mindset means that they don’t understand the important role that appreciation has to play in driving the performance outcomes in your organization?

Companies need to invest in the training. Exec teams need to be challenged to think about appreciation as a vital part of their business strategy. Managers need guidance as to how to recognise their teams in a genuine, fair and effective way to role model what good looks like. Appreciation and its role needs to form part of an employee’s journey: from induction, to receiving a promotion, to evaluating performance.

It also needs to be owned by the business not just HR. We need to help you find your champions all over the business. We need to engage your leadership team, L&D, Talent, Communications, Reward, GM’s , Store Managers – basically as many people as we can physically get to!

It is my job to show you that recognition should never be seen as just a programme. It is my job to convince you that to do this right, you need to invest where it matters. It is my job to help you as much as I can, by spending time out in the business to dig out the champions, to drive the sustainability of this for the long-term and bring appreciation to life to make it business as usual.

This appreciation stuff is really important, it makes a difference to everyone at every level…let’s make sure we do it properly.

It’s not just and never should be ‘just another recognition programme’!

Quote and image shared from http://www.quotessays.com/appreciation.html

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 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!!!

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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You are nothing without your people – how do you let them know?

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My job is to try and connect with people. To create relationships. To find commonalities. To share insights and to help move things forward for the better. This is what motivates me. People. I work for a recognition company. We love saying thank you as individuals and as a company. We believe in it. We work here because we fit within the culture and we live and breathe it every day. Recognition and appreciation for us is easy to quantify and when you get it, it’s obvious.

How do you know that you are the right fit for your company? 86% of people leave in their first year or become actively disengaged. Why? Is this because of false expectations in the interview process? Is it because you started work and realized that it wasn’t what you thought it was? How do you know that you are on track? How do you know you are valued? How do you know that you make a difference? What is great work in your organization and how do you know when you’ve done it? How does your company celebrate success? What opportunities do you have to develop and grow? What does good look like?

The simple act of recognizing people for what they bring to the table can change a person’s day, week, month, year. It says to them – we noticed, we value you and we want to celebrate all that you are. It’s knowing your team well enough to recognize when they’re struggling and being compassionate and caring enough to say ‘go and spend the day with your family’. It’s being clear about what ‘living the values’ really means and taking the time to explain this to people at all levels of your organization. It’s training managers to be consistent and fair in how they give the recognition, supporting them when they need it and giving them the tools to make this is as simple, quick and easy as possible. Recognition shifts the balance of the conversations you are having every day to the positive. We need to do more of it…every day! Simply thanks!

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‘Here I am’ said Smedley the shy chameleon…

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I’m half way through Brene Brown’s ‘The Gift of Imperfection’ which is an amazing if not emotional read which looks at how we can work towards allowing ourselves to have more courage, more compassion and more connection in our lives. It’s about having the courage to accept ourselves for who we are (warts and all!), being strong enough to admit when we’re struggling and we need help, to be brave enough to stop worrying about what other people think. This is not easy stuff to change when pretty much we are bombarded to be the perfect this and that by the media and in the most part by the high expectations we put on ourselves.

Brene then goes on to talk about our need for belonging being different from fitting in. We often change who we are to ‘fit in’ and we only get a true sense of belonging if we allow our authentic, imperfect selves to show. If I think about this from my own perspective, I do try and be myself most of the time but when my own self-doubt seeps and sometimes floods through the cracks, I know for a fact that I start going into myself and have to put on a face to carry on (sticking tongue out!).

I then got to thinking about a book that I read to my 5 year old recently which was frankly brilliant and it had ‘Smedley’ in the title too…random to say the least! In a way, it’s like a self-help book for 5 year olds and approaching 40 year old mothers who worry too much!!!

Smedley the shy chameleon blends in so well that nobody notices him. But bold Sally Skinky sees Smedley’s true talent for standing out.

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Sally Skinky sees something in the little chameleon and encourages him to make small changes to step out of his comfort zone (she’s supporting him all the way) so that eventually he says ‘der der’, big drum roll, this is wholehearted, courageous and wonderful me!! The book is full of ‘woohoo’s’ and every small step is noticed, celebrated and appreciated along the way (see the tenuous link to recognition here!!!).

If grown-up books sometimes overwhelm us, sometimes its good to keep things simple, go back to basics and look at how simple messages can make a difference. Recognising the little things can make a huge difference to how courageous you choose to be, how creative you let yourself be and how much happier you can feel when you set yourself free to be the imperfect and wonderful you!

PS Both books are equally good no matter what age you are…although a 5 year old may struggle with Brene Brown!!!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Here-Said-Smedley-Blue-Bananas/dp/140520135

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gifts-Imperfection-Think-Supposed-Embrace-ebook/dp/B00BS03LL6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1391097680&sr=1-1&keywords=brene+brown+%27the+gifts+of+imperfection5