Recognition Experts Smashup: Surviving COVID with Recognition, Perspective and Gratitude

Anytime I speak with Appreciation Expert Chris Littlefield of Beyond Thank-You, we have to turn on the video and start sharing the juicy ideas we’ve been learning from our clients. We couldn’t not talk about the innovative ways people are appreciating our unsung heroes, healthcare professionals, and colleagues working virtually. 

Want the full experience? Check out the video here.

Okay, here’s some of the recognition trends we’re seeing right now that are making a huge difference:

1. Valuing Calm and Routine

More than ever before, people are appreciating the calm of routine and ritual that many of us have been forced to find. Routine is controllable (at an out of control time), can help to build stronger relationships, and provides an anchor to ground yourself every day. Daily huddles with your colleagues can be built into your routine, as can things like calling your elderly parents at the same time every day, exercising first thing, and having a family dinner together every day (even if it needs to be virtual!)

What Municipality HR Team is Doing:

On the very first day of everyone working from home, the HR team established a 20-minute morning huddle. This was a way of increasing communication and connection among all HR leaders and business partners so the physical distancing would not make people feel disconnected, out of the loop or work at cross purposes. Many of the HR leaders start their team meetings with:

  • What is working?
  • What department could we appreciate?
  • Who on the team helped you yesterday?

On Fridays, the Director collects names of all the people and departments that helped HR with different initiatives so that Friday nights, the Director’s last task of the day is to send notes of appreciation to those involved and copy their managers.

PS – Chris has put together some great resources for those of you working from home you can find here.

2. Appreciating People’s Humanity

Of course, it’s no surprise that two recognition experts profess the importance of valuing and appreciating people now more than ever. Specifically, acknowledging the risk people are taking, the sacrifices they’re making, the fact they’re still coming to work despite all of the worry and fear. Or, acknowledging that people have had to make adjustments to working from home, juggling productivity with kids’ demands, of living alone being devoid of face-to-face contact and physical touch. Now is the time to recognize the humanity in all of us. And stories help us all appreciate this as it’s the best window into our shared humanity.

What Roche is doing:

Kate Munro of the Global Products Strategy department brings out people’s stories and shares these a few times a week. She started with one interview focused on how to lean into creative leadership during the pandemic, and then she added a second, sharing the perspectives of colleagues with very different work from home situations. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. 

3. Get To Know Each Other (For Real This Time)

We like to think that we know our colleagues, however, before you had to start seeing them and all of the people in their homes through the web conferencing, did you know the names of their kids and their cats and their spouses? Did you know that Laura from accounting loves original art, Bill from procurement has a collection of African masks from his travels and that Jenna your cubicle mate, has a recipe book collection that would rival your local library? As Chris points out, “Before, it wouldn’t be possible to bring everyone’s family to work, but now, we’re being invited into people’s homes.” 

What Unicef India is Doing:

Using WhatsApp, the physically distanced workers with Unicef India have a colouring contest where each week, their kids submit their artwork. When they’re all back together again, an art show is planned!

4. Be Vulnerable to be Human

Sharing your own vulnerability and humanity gives others an invitation to do the same. So much is out of control right now. It’s a time of reaching out, asking for help and offering support. With that, think about what you recognize; often we get focused on outcomes when now more than ever we need to recognize progress, effort, potential, and possibilities. When you can do this, it communicates: “I see you.” And this, like Carl Rogers, one of the founders of Humanistic Psychology said, is essential for us to grow.

What the Niagara 2021 Canada Summer Games team is doing:

In their monthly lunch-and-learns, a different person in the organization shares a skill or area of expertise. It provides a valuable regular touchpoint for staff, fosters connection across the physical divide, and enables them to get to know each other in a whole new way. Given that some of the staff have travelled from different areas across Canada to work for the Games, this also offers an opportunity to feel less isolated as they may not have their loved ones nearby. They also connect virtually through weekly socials and monthly Town Halls.

5. Celebrate (and Keep Celebrating) the Unsung Heroes

Whether it’s a smile for the grocer unpacking eggs for the fifth time that day, or cheering from the balcony at 8:30 at night for healthcare providers, or posting signs on the front lawn thanking truck drivers and transit workers, we are seeing so many examples of everyday people being recognized by fellow other everyday people. We are seeing some people in our society for the first time as the unsung heroes they are. Chris recommends writing a letter to open post-COVID about:

  • Who have you been most grateful for during this time? 
  • Why do they matter? 
  • What essential role are they playing? 

The idea is that when this pandemic is over, open it up and remember to go back out to those folks you mentioned to appreciate them. They will need it on the other side of this as much then as they do now. (In fact, you may recall a call to action I gave you a few weeks ago to share this on social media thanking our healthcare heroes so they don’t think we’ve forgotten about them when all this is over.)

What professional speakers are doing:

The speaking Community has been hit hard. It makes sense. If you can’t be in the same room with people, how can you have a conference? So, if our job is to motivate, we need to find a new way to do that! We have been posting videos with the hashtag #thankhealthheroes and #millionsinspire and others have been joining in, sharing the own words of gratitude and appreciation.

6. Find Your Way to Contribute

If you are not on the frontline of this crisis, especially if you have been laid off, put on furlough, or had to temporarily close your business, you may be feeling a loss of identity, agency and contribution. Take, for example, Chris’ nanny. For the first time in her adult life, she isn’t working and misses seeing his daughter.  This pandemic is so big, we all have a role to play; finding that can create a new sense of mission and purpose.

What Niagara is doing:

CareMondering-Niagara is a Facebook Group of over 4000 people that didn’t exist two months ago. Whether it’s organizing groups of people to help or making masks or dropping off groceries to at-risk individuals or sharing online resources, if you live in the region and are willing to help, there is a role for you. I bet your community has something like it.

I hope you can see that recognition, gratitude and perspective are essential to everyone during uncertain times. What was your most important tip from this post? And who needs to read this right now? Please share it. Prepare for them to say, “you have no idea how much I needed to hear this today.”

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

– Mother Teresa

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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