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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My blogaversary – a short blog to discourage the ‘what if’! Just do it…

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Today is my blogaversary! A blogaversary you might say…what random word has Dawn made up now to go with her random job title? Well a year ago today I posted my very first blog on WordPress entitled ‘A Smile Is the Best Curve on Your Body’. I vividly remember being on the verge of panic as I contemplated clicking ‘Publish’ as my newly formed thoughts hit cyberspace through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I was a nervous wreck. Hot flushes, trembling hands, proper anxiety in my chest…what was I doing? What if people didn’t like what I had to say? What if I got horrible comments? What if? What if? What if?

But there was a part of me, a bigger part that really liked what I’d written…it came from the heart and those words needed to get out there and this overrode everything else…I’m so glad I got over myself and did it!!!

Blogging and social media have opened my eyes to a whole new world that didn’t exist for me before and I have met the loveliest people along the way. I have met strangers in bars who I had only currently ever tweeted with (sounds dodgy I know!), I have been educated, I have been invited to speak at an event (eeek @EmmaBrowes), I have reached out and sought advice (thank you @HR_Gem), I have been coached and inspired (@KingfisherCoach), I have used blogs as a means of introducing people to me so they get a sense of who I am before we’ve even met, I have grown into a network where I can help other people connect too which I love (@Projectlibero @fuschia_blue)…it’s been nothing short of amazing!

So to those amazing people who have been part of my blogging and social media journey, who have supported and shared my blogs and for those of you who have read and enjoyed them…THANK YOU!

“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!!!!)

Don’t be a know it all – involve, include, innovate!

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I hit a brick wall last week with a challenge. I still haven’t been in my new role for a year yet but I still put pressure on myself to know all the answers! I got frustrated for a while then bit the bullet and asked for help from my boss. His solution – go and talk to the people who do this day in and day out…spend the day with them. Amazing – not rocket science but it demonstrated two things to me:

1. It was OK to not know everything

2. Other people love helping if you give them the chance

Ironically my last blog touched on vulnerability and I’m seeing this word used a lot at the moment in many different contexts. For me, it’s about letting people in. Letting people see the real you and this is where the magic happens.

Letting people in and exposing your vulnerability removes all barriers and this is where great work and innovation happens. In this place, idea generation has no limits. Natural enthusiasm flows. Creativity blossoms. Everyone becomes equal with a common goal of doing some great work.

I sat in a room with people from across the business and it was energising, fun, inclusive and people commented on how much they enjoyed it afterwards. Everyone likes to be involved and feel like they are making a difference.

Ask for help today and see how people rise to the challenge and do some #greatwork

‘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.

Here I am

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

2014 is all about celebrating what makes us human!

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Wordle: What makes us human

I’ve had a bit of a blogging block over recent weeks so as I wrote my ‘to do’ list today, I put a blog post on there as I am definitely one of those people who gets a lot of satisfaction from ticking things off my list!

To try and inspire myself, I googled ‘inspiring quotes to start 2014’ and never letting me down, there were LOTS out there! We all tend to get a bit philosophical as we come to the end of the year and see the New Year as a way to start afresh, to change things we’re not happy with and to be the positive people we know we (mostly!) are!!!

A quote for 2014

The following quote really got me thinking about a fascinating show that Jeremy Vine has been hosting on Radio 2 over the last few months about ‘what makes us human?’

 “To dream anything that you want to dream. That’s the beauty of the human mind. To do anything that you want to do. That is the strength of the human will. To trust yourself to test your limits. That is the courage to succeed.” – Bernard Edmonds

What makes us human?

Jeremy basically asked a selection of artists, thinkers and academics to consider what makes us human and they all came up with their own stories. I just wanted to share some of this with you today…

  • Esther Rantzen believes altruism and caring for people we don’t know is what makes us human.
  • General Richard Dannatt, Britain’s leading soldier, believes our humanity is in our selfless commitment to others.
  • Columnist and former Conservative MP Matthew Parris reflects on his life and why ‘playfulness’ makes us human.
  • To love, to be loved, to be accepted and respected: Disabled artist and campaigner Alison Lapper thinks these qualities make us ‘human’.
  • Robert Peston – the BBC’s Business Editor – talks about his late wife Sian Busby and how his love for her is what makes him human
  • Eminent philosopher, writer and huntsman, Roger Scruton believes asking questions is what make us human.
  • Leading economist Lord Robert Skidelsky says it’s the opposite of economics that makes us human: following our hearts and intuitions, rather than our heads.
  • Former Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson talks about why she thinks ‘self-awareness’ is part of our humanity.
  • Brian May – rock star, astrophysicist and animal rights campaigner discusses how kindness and cruelty is the key to what makes us human.
  • Libertarian commentator Brendan O’Neill believes that humanity is all about change.

The challenge companies have…

If I think about the articles I’ve read across all forms of media recently, companies all over the world are attempting to address all these things and more that make us human. It’s not an easy job…although we are all human! We are all unique individuals with our own values and our own interpretations of the world. We all have a unique set of circumstances, a unique set of experiences and our own unique way of dealing with them. I know my lovely husband constantly battles with my unique way of thinking!!!!

What we can all do though is celebrate all the things that make us uniquely human and focus on the positive things and the great work that people bring to our companies every day. Every positive has a negative and every negative has a positive. If we try in 2014 to tip the balance so that the majority of conversations we have in 2014 are positive then surely all the great things that make us human will triumph: commitment, self-awareness, to be accepted, to be respected, to create emotional connections, kindness, playfulness, giving something back, the ability to handle change and build trust!

Appreciation changes everything!

Every blog I write talks about the difference appreciation can make and that’s genuinely because I believe it to be true based on not just my beliefs but for most people I come into contact with. Recognition done right in a timely, genuine and sincere way helps us tip that balance towards the positive – how can that be a bad thing! 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.”

May 2014 be the year for us to celebrate and recognize everything that makes us uniquely human!

Wishing you all a very happy 2014!

Here’s a link to the Radio 2 website where you can listen to the ‘What Makes Us Human’ series!

Scoring Big with Recognition – an event looking at real companies, real challenges and real people!

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We held a really great event last week at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester around the theme ‘Scoring big with recognition’. I loved it! I loved it because it was everything we had wanted it to be when we first started planning the event. We wanted it to be about real companies, real challenges and real people. The room to me seemed to be brimming with all of these things and that made and continues to make me smile!

Keep it Simple

I think it is very easy for all of us to get caught up with the buzz words, the best strategies for this, that and the other and feel as if we are forever striving for the next best thing. What really resonated for me with both Ryan Cheyne from Pets at Home and Sonia Belfield at Muller is that the best thing you can do is ‘keep things simple’. Ryan made the very true comment…’we never stop feeling proud when we get a medal or get recognized for something we’ve done but something happens once we become grown-ups and we don’t do this anymore’. Why? I think this is a critical question. We all want to feel part of something and we all need to know that we’re doing the right things and we’re on track. We’re quite simple creatures really (I definitely am!) Recognition allows you to say to people…

‘You’re doing ok’, in fact ‘you’re doing better than ok’, ‘keep doing what you’re doing’, ‘we value your contribution’, ‘you make a difference to this team’ and on and on and on! Here’s a footballing quote from David Beckham (he did make an appearance at the event in one of Ryan’s famous quizzes not in person unfortunately!)…    

David Beckham            

This analogy made a lot of sense to me! When a footballer scores a goal or does something great on the pitch, they get recognized for it and the contribution they have made to the success of the team and the club. ‘It’s about the badge on the front’ – they feel proud to represent their clubs just as our people feel proud to work for our companies. When we recognize an individual’s contribution to the success of the company and help them realize that their role is a critical component, then we instill even more pride and increase the engagement and great work that people do every day for our organisations. 

“People may take a job for more money, but they often leave it for more recognition” Bob Nelson

Sonia used this quote in her presentation about recognition within Muller and never a truer word has been spoken. People go to work for more than just money – we all want to feel part of something bigger and to feel that we make a difference in our own unique way. It is an organization’s responsibility to create a culture that inspires and empowers people to do this – every day. Both Muller and Pets at Home talk about their journeys. This stuff doesn’t happen overnight and it takes time, effort, lots of convincing and fun along the way! This is what the event was all about – people listening, people learning, people communicating, people trusting and people trying!

Engagement = Great Work = Business Results

Our final presentation at the event was from David Sturt at OC Tanner  talking about ‘Great Work’ and again this really reinforced the ‘people’ message even further. Whereas most research about success in the workplace studies personality traits, this book takes a completely different approach. It studied Great Work itself—under what conditions it happens, and what people are doing when they produce it. We found that virtually anyone, in any position, can innovate in the job they have. You don’t need to wait for the perfect job or the perfect project to come along. You can begin today. There are great work ideas only you will think of. And differences only you can make. David’s whole presentation was brought to life through an array of stories looking at real people in real organisations making a real difference every day! And there are things that we can all do and try today to start our own difference-making journey! Hugely powerful stuff and I loved watching everyone listen to David in the room; I can categorically say everyone was ‘leaning in’!

So as you can tell, I thought it was a fab event and I’m hoping that all who attended thought so too and as an aside, the Etihad Stadium is an amazing events venue especially the ‘Legends Lounge’ so reach out if you want to find out more!

I leave you with this parting message and bringing it back to the event and one very simple reminder that it’s all about…

People – it’s bringing it back to the fact that everything we do affects people and keeping things simple is the best way to engage and inspire the hearts and minds of people the world over!

Bloom where you are planted…be a difference maker!

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This phrase really resonated with me this week!

We are always thinking about the next big thing, wondering what we can strive for next to make our lives ‘perfect’ at work and at home (I speak from experience here!) and never really living in the moment to realize the potential we all have…right here, right now!

This week O.C. Tanner launched our latest book ‘Great Work: How to make a difference people love’ and this is a book for everyone, everywhere to realize that we can all make a difference whoever and wherever we are. What an amazingly uplifting and positive view of the world…because it’s true! If every day we embrace the day knowing that we can make it brighter in some way through the conversations we have, the interactions that we share and the good intentions that we uphold then surely our days will be brighter, good things will automatically come our way and we really will have made a positive difference.

Something that really puts a smile on my face is the ‘The art of being greeted by an elephant in your cruise cabin’ video clip (I love that I’ve just included that sentence in my blog!). Take a peek (you’ll need to scroll down on the page) and I promise you will be grabbing a couple of towels and having a go yourself. The point of the clip though is to demonstrate that the origins of this concept came from someone somewhere wanting to put a smile on the face of the person walking into that room…simple but the perfect demonstration of making a difference people love.

My challenge to you today is to put a smile on your face and go and see what great work you can do to make a difference people love…you can bloom where you are planted, right here, right now!

If you don’t ask you don’t get! Understand your team and start appreciating their great work…

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If you read my last blog then you’ll know that my dad is a big inspiration to me! One of the things he taught me very early on was ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’…if you think about it, this phrase can be very significant in most situations. In my role, I have to overcome my own insecurities and put myself out there all the time – sending emails, picking up the phone, attending meetings…often with absolutely no idea where the conversation is going to go and if I’m going to be well received or not. Scary! However, the other important message that my dad taught me in order to bring balance was that ‘everyone is human’. It doesn’t matter if you are the CEO of an organisation or a cleaner, every one of us has feelings, needs, strengths and weaknesses…that’s what makes us human in the first place.

At O.C. Tanner, we talk about ‘appreciation changing everything’. And it does, doesn’t it? Someone somewhere once said to me, ‘Dawn your enthusiasm is infectious. You have a great ability to connect with people quickly on an emotional level and people trust you because you wear your heart on your sleeve’. (See how I’ve remembered that too!!!) That for me made me realise that I could make a difference…as long as I believe in something, then I’m in a good place. Look at athletes, musicians, writers, teachers, managers and leaders across the globe…at some point someone has picked up on their strengths, encouraged them, supported them and most importantly given them the faith to go out and do whatever it is they want to do. That is recognition and appreciation in its purest form.

So just imagine as a manager if you combine all of the above and ask your team what motivates them? What their interests are? What they value most in life and what their goals are? (If you don’t ask, you don’t get!). Then remember that ‘everyone is human’..are they a working parent juggling a million things? Have they got insecurities about their own abilities? Are their basic needs being met because only then can they reach their full potential and what are their basic needs?

And then finally throw in ‘appreciation’, of course doing it in a way that is appropriate for that person because you’ll know having asked if they prefer public or one-to-one feedback! Make it sincere, make it specific and make it timely…think about what they’ve done and what difference it made. Did it link to the values of the company? Did it exhibit behaviours you want other people in your team to mirror? Let’s be honest, whoever we are and however we prefer to receive it, we all need a bit of recognition every now and again (actually the research states at least once a week!). Combine these three simple concepts and surely we’re on to a winner!

People who do great work in whatever guise have definitely been appreciated for doing what they do along the way and been encouraged to do more of it…get out there tomorrow, use these simple concepts to change your interactions and find out if ‘appreciation really does change everything’!