How do you make sure you recognize and make visible those people who perhaps feel invisible?
Let’s face it, in our organizations, whether you’re volunteering or this is a for-profit organization, there are lots of people who do incredibly important work behind the scenes and often don’t get the appreciation or the accolade. And yet if it weren’t for them doing what they do, we wouldn’t be able to keep performing the way we do.
This was brought home to me after a speech I did where I chose to use an example of one of these departments. A department that literally was feeling like they were being undervalued and underappreciated. By simply giving them as an example, it helped to spotlight how important they are in the organization. How can you do this at the frontline, particularly if that team is your team, that you’re a peer or you lead a team that often feels like they’re behind the scenes and don’t get the support?
The benefit of doing this is that you’re going to have much better productivity focus and people who aren’t just showing up and getting the job done. If they feel appreciated, there’s a greater likelihood that folks will bring their best version of themselves, continuous improvement of ideas, and energy that they wouldn’t otherwise bring if they felt unappreciated.
So how do you make people feel that appreciation?
- Show up and appreciate people who are in another department.
Get to know what folks are doing. There’s nothing that speaks more to, “you are important in this organization,” when you’re from another department and you choose to come and walk a mile in their shoes.
- Write a card.
Write an acknowledgment. Write an email and copy it to the whole team or to the supervisor of the department. Something that made your life better. A gesture, a call, some help. Whether it’s part of their day-to-day work or it’s somebody going above and beyond, find a way of expressing that appreciation.
- Let the whole team know.
Say exactly what it is you know that they do every day to make your job better and easier. If you speak on behalf of the whole team, maybe you have them write down specifically who it is you’re representing so they know it’s not just Genevieve being nice; that this is on behalf of the entire team.
- Celebrate milestones.
Almost every professional group or alliance has a week or a day in the calendar year that is their day. If you’re celebrating nurses, Nurse’s Week is in May. If you’re celebrating administrative assistants, they’re in April. Make it up and have fun with it. If there’s a “Talk Like a Pirate Day”, there’s gotta be a week that celebrates this particular group. There’s National Humour Day, decide that you’re dedicating National Humour Day to them. Find a way to celebrate an important milestone. A milestone can also be something very unique to them. It could be a milestone date of when they started a new project, or when they came together as a team. What can you do to make sure that it’s really specific to them? They’ll be surprised because they probably didn’t expect that you would be paying attention to that milestone.
- Invite others to your celebrations.
Bring other departments or professionals into your world. If you’re the nurse and it’s Nurse’s Week and others in your organization are not nurses, have them come to your nursing week celebration. Just recently, I was working in an organization. They were launching this massive transformational project and decided to invite their vendors. Those vendors, are not used to being invited to clients’ celebration events because the underlying message is “you get rewarded by getting paid.” But think how much harder they’ll work when they feel like a valued part of the team? When I spoke to those folks ahead of time, they told me this is what it’s like working with this team consistently. They have heart, they care about working collaboratively, they really treat us as equals. Demonstrate that by inviting the people that you want to celebrate into your celebrations.
- Tell a story about why they matter.
Submit it to your organizational newsletter. Again, for one of those milestone weeks, you can choose to submit it to their association. Why do they matter to you? Tell a very specific story. Whether it’s about the whole department or just one rock star in it, people will see and feel that sense of connection with you because you’ve taken the time.
Of course, very simply, you could smile at someone. How many times do you notice at an event the service staff like wait staff are ignored until something is needed from them or someone has an issue with their meal? If nothing else, smile. Say thanks. Someone delivers extra value, such as Edmundo at my recent speaker’s convention who brought me my own large pot of tea when he overheard I was very tired. I FROGed him (telling him why I needed to “forever recognize others’ greatness”) and he couldn’t do enough for me! That’s not why I treated him well, but it goes to show how small gestures mean a lot. Find ways to connect with people on a human level. It’s so small, but yet we often don’t do it.
I hope that these are some examples that help you to not only get motivated to celebrate those people that matter most that are often invisible, but also give you some really concrete tools of what’s going to work in your work or volunteer context. Start a movement to recognize those who have important invisible roles by sharing on and issuing a challenge to your followers and friends!