Creating Recognition – Are You Missing Out On Greatness?

group of wooden people with one green oneWe love to talk about “going above and beyond.” Many of us have this award in our team and organization. Warning: if your recognition awards stop there, I guarantee you that you are missing an abundance of greatness all around you by formally recognizing only a select few.

where's waldo book coverKind of like one of those “Where’s Waldo?” books. You buy the book for the act of finding Waldo, yet consider what is finding that Waldo character all about? The fun part, the bonding part with your kids, the motivating part to turn the page and start looking for the next Waldo is all the good stuff all over the page that happens when you cannot find Waldo.  Why does Waldo get the glory when there is so much deliciousness all around him? (Actually, is Waldo a ‘him’? I’m going to check myself as that is an assumption.)

My kids and I used to love most exploring what the non-Waldos were getting up to. And sure, Waldo has a cool hat and is boss about hiding and had mad skills in time travelling and seems to avoid the wacky stuff happening all around him. AND what if there were many more Waldo-esque people that get none of the credit?

Imagine if those folks walked right off the page because they weren’t as valued as Waldo? That would be a pretty boring book, right?

Creating recognition for your whole team will pay off in ways you never imagined.


video snippet from Sarah McVanel of a video titled creating recognitionLet’s make a shared commitment to value every single person on your team as much as the obvious top performer. If you haven’t already done so, consider if “Employee of the Month” type programs are actually demotivating others? (And frankly, most of those snaps of employees seem like could double as a mug shot.)

Unless you can safely ride on the coattails of just one or two top performers, it’s time to dial down the “top performers” focus and dial up the “together we perform” focus.  

Disagree? Have another factor to consider? Want to talk more about how this applies to your workplace? Comment below or reach out at

For more ideas about creating recognition for everyone, take a look at these other resources:


“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Deb Rakonjac

Organizational Development, Purolator Inc.

"Sarah nailed it!  She worked with the planning group to learn about the organization, the audience, the desired key messages and integrated it seamlessly into her keynote. Her energy was contagious! We received rave reviews of this portion of our event and Sarah was able to speak to all members of our organization in a way that motivated them to recognize others everyday. Our executives were extraordinarily pleased and integrated FROGging into their recent board meeting. Purolator is grateful to Sarah for dropping the pebble and we continue to see the ripples from this session across the organization. Working with Tami was phenomenal and the supports were easy to integrate to ensure the session went well. Thanks to you both!!"
Douglas D Swift

President & CEO, Swiftco Inc.

"I have had the Sarah experience in numerous settings: As a keynote, around a table with several other business owners, one on one over coffee, chatting with others at a conference reception, dining with a small group of colleagues. No matter the setting you always get the same Sarah: engaging, attentive, interested, inspiring, motivational, genuine. And always with an infectious smile. Do yourself, your company, your association a favour. Get the Greatness Magnified (Sarah) experience. The payback is priceless."
Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

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