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Seeing the Full Spectrum of Recognition

By Derek Irvine

Several cards for saying "thanks"Recognize This! — There are people at work whose contributions we might miss. A culture of recognition helps to make sure we don’t.

I came across a recent New York Times Corner Office article with Walt Bettinger. He is the CEO of the Charles Schwab Corporation and shared a powerful lesson he learned as an undergraduate student.

He was enrolled in a business course in his senior year and was laser-focused on maintaining a perfect grade point average. It all came down to the final exam, for which he spent a great deal of time studying and memorizing. When the day of the exam came, everyone was handed a single sheet of paper. Here’s how Bettinger recounts what happened next:

“Both sides were blank. And the professor said, ‘I’ve taught you everything I can teach you about business in the last 10 weeks, but the most important message, the most important question, is this: What’s the name of the lady who cleans this building?’ And that had a powerful impact. It was the only test I ever failed, and I got the B I deserved. Her name was Dottie, and I didn’t know Dottie. I’d seen her, but I’d never taken the time to ask her name.”

Chances are that many of us have stories similar to this one, times where we “see” people but don’t often stop to recognize the important work they do.

I was sharing this story with a colleague whose wife is in the middle of interviewing for a clinical teaching position. These interviews are complex, with many different moving parts and doctors’ schedules to coordinate, all in a short timeframe. She shared with him an observation that I will share with you. Her experience as a candidate was as much shaped by the top-level leaders that she interviewed with, as it was by the hard work of the program and administrative coordinators that made the experience as seamless and polished as possible. You can be sure she took the time to personally thank everyone involved.

Together, these stories help us to see the impact and contribution of individuals that may not receive traditional recognition. They are not the star performers, winning contests and bonuses. But they are core to the success of the organization, from providing a clean workspace to the ability to attract top candidates and everything in between.

These examples help us to see the many different ways we can say Thank You, for the contributions and value we see in other people. By themselves, these small moments of recognition can be powerful; when they are scaled to the level of an entire culture of social recognition, the impact can be immense.

After all, taking the time to ask a name, appreciating the hard work behind the scenes- it’s about finding a way to WorkHuman and ultimately connect with and appreciate the people around us.

How does your organization help you recognize the impact that all your coworkers can have?

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