Publicly recognize the people who do the work

“Tim paused ever so slightly, and what seemed unscripted (at least I hope it was unscripted) he asked all Apple employees present in the auditorium to rise up from their seats.
With a round of applause initiated by Tim, he thanked everyone for their hard work, their creativity and their commitment to the launch and everything leading up to the day.”
—Dan Pontefract, Apple CEO Tim Cook and his moment of open culture

At the end of Apple’s September 2014 blockbuster product launch of the iPhone 6, Apple Watch, and Apple Pay Tim Cook did a simple thing. He publicly acknowledged the work and commitment of Apple employees in making these new products and services possible.

Is there any reason why we can’t offer appreciations at every event to the people who made it possible? Even if your event is so large, like Tim Cook’s, that you can’t share individual appreciations, you can at least do what Tim did. It took, perhaps, a minute.

I’m assuming that you —at least—privately recognize the work of your team and volunteers. Taking a minute or more to publicly recognize the people who made your event possible is an easy thing to do: a small but significant gift to the workers, and an opportunity for participants to show their appreciation. It’s the right thing to do—yet sadly missing from many events.

Let’s change that.

Image attribution: linked from Huffington Post

Tip: Simple inexpensive effective appreciation of your volunteers

HHMI appreciation posterHere’s a great low-cost way to provide powerful personal feedback in permanent form to meeting volunteers and staff that complements giving them public appreciations during the event. Event planning committee members and I were the delighted recipients during a recent national peer conference for medical research lab managers.

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Lessons From Improv: Giving Appreciations at Conferences

Thoughts triggered while rereading Patricia Ryan Madson’s delightful, straightforward, and yet profound improv wisdom.

“…once we become aware of the level of support involved to sustain our lives we quickly realize how our debt grows daily in spite of our efforts to repay it.”
—Greg Krech, Director of the ToDo Institute

Patricia Madson’s ninth maxim is “Wake Up to the Gifts.” Gifts? What gifts? Well, although this post is about giving appreciations at conferences, first we need a little context.

The Japanese practice of Naikan, an art of self-reflection, uses three questions to examine our relationships with others:

  • What have I received from (person x)?
  • What have I given to (person x)?
  • What troubles and difficulties have I caused to (person x)?

When I meditate on the answers to these questions for a significant person in my life, I usually quickly discover that my list of what I have received is far longer than what I have given. When you extend these questions to the things that surround and support us in our daily lives this imbalance immediately becomes apparent. I owe an incalculable debt of gratitude to the countless people who grew and prepared the food I eat, who designed, manufactured, and delivered the computer I’m writing this on, who made it possible for me to live in and enjoy this world in so many ways.

It’s hopeless for us to be able to “pay off” these debts. But one thing we can do is to acknowledge them. And that’s why I include time for appreciations at every conference.

Japan present 4169964011_b8564eacfcAppreciations are more than thanks. Imagine that Susan is standing before the gathered attendees, publicly thanking people, including you, Bob, for your work organizing a conference. Here are some examples of what she might say. After you read each one, take a moment to notice how you feel.

[Susan faces audience]
“The organizers contributed a lot of hard work putting on this conference.”

[Susan faces audience]
“Bob worked hard to get out the face book.”

[Susan faces audience]
“Thank you, Bob, you worked hard to get out the face book.”

[Susan points to you and then faces the audience]
“I appreciate Bob, who worked hard to get out the face book.”

[Susan asks you to come out from the audience, faces you, makes eye contact, and speaks directly to you]
“Bob, I appreciate you for working hard to create the draft face book in time for our conference roundtable, and for rapidly producing an accurate and attractive final version. This helped all of us get to know each other quickly, and gave us a valuable reference for keeping in touch after the conference ends.”

Did you find that you felt appreciated more by each successive version, and that the final version had much more power than the others? If so, you’re not alone. In the final version, Susan:

  • Invited Bob out in front of the room;
  • Spoke to Bob directly, making eye contact;
  • Used an “I” message—“Bob, I appreciate you…”; and
  • Described specifically to Bob what she appreciated and why.

Each of these four actions strengthened the power of Susan’s message.

There’s more about giving appreciations in my book. They offer a simple, effective, and powerful way to significantly increase bonding and connection in your conference community. And, regrettably, good appreciations are so rare in our everyday life that, when people receive one, they are likely to remember it for a long time.

So, wake up to the many gifts you are receiving every day! And actively, openly, appreciate the givers when you can. You will be giving a great gift yourself when you do.

Image attribution: http://www.flickr.com/photos/min_photos/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0