Traci Pesch - Author Archive

The Gift of Saying “Thank You”

by Traci Pesch

Give wrapped globe

Recognize This! – The gift of giving thanks is as powerful as receiving it.

Last week my colleague wrote about the holiday gift every employee wants to receive – the gift of thanks. While true, a video making the Facebook rounds reminded me that same gift is what employees want to give, too. There is just as much power in the giving of thanks as in the receiving.

Here’s the video with my comments after the jump. (Email subscribers, click through.)

The students wanted to celebrate someone who means a lot to them. Officer Mitch clearly cares about each individual student. He shows them respect, guides them through tough personal situations, and acknowledges them as the important human beings they are. And that certainly deserves thanks.

The kids had help to create this powerful experience of recognition for Officer Mitch and to produce this moving video. And the flash mob, basketball tickets and signed jersey are certainly nice. But it’s the quiet messages of thanks, the somber stories of how Officer Mitch impacted each teen’s life – those are what made me tear up at my computer as I watched the video.

Remember, your employees are humans, too. They likely want to say “thank you” as much as they want to hear it. Make it easy for them to share those deeply personal and meaningful messages of thanks and share it through social recognition.

And to my son’s school resource officer – Jackie Ketterer, Security Manager – thank you for keeping my son safe and for caring about him as a person as well as about his well-being as a student. We all appreciate you!

Who will send a personal, meaningful message of thanks to this holiday season?

Who Inspires You to Get Out of Bed in the Morning?

Woman in a bedby Traci Pesch

Recognize This! – Simply expressing to others they are appreciated and important powerfully and positively impacts both the giver and receiver of the praise.

How do you change someone’s perspective of themselves? How do you change your own perspective of yourself and your mission? One step – recognize someone. Celebrate the good in them. Tell them how they are special, how what they do matters.

It really is that simple. The act of recognition – both giving and receiving – fulfills a basic human need, the need to be noticed. The need to be seen. The need to be of value to others and to be valued by others.

Take a 6-minute positivity break and watch this video of teachers telling students they are important and appreciated.

Wow. Powerful. I admit it – I welled up a bit watching that. Why? It’s the faces and the reaction of the students who are the recipients of the messages of praise and appreciation. You can see their faces and entire demeanor change in an instant from cautious “What did I do wrong?” to blushing “Really? I didn’t know I had that impact on you.”

And it’s precisely that nuance of the message of appreciation that’s so important. Every message was not just “Thank you. You do good work.” Every message included the important specific element of, “You are the reason I come in every day to do my job. You inspire me. You make my work have value and meaning.”

That’s a critical lesson for us in our jobs, too. Yes, praise and thanks are important. Even more so are the personal, sincere and specific messages of how someone made a difference and how they and their efforts had a lasting impact.

This positivity project worked by focusing on the human experience. Jamie McSparin, the teacher behind the project said in an interview, “It started that dialogue between teachers and students, which humanizes the whole experience. It’s not, ‘Here, I’m teaching you.’ It’s ‘Let’s build a relationship and make this an experience.’”

We all need that reminder. We’re not working with robots, but with humans. What fuels humans? Interaction. Relationships with others. A sense of greater meaning and purpose. Experiencing work and life together. (That’s a large factor of the research resulting in the new IBM/Globoforce Employee Experience Index announced at HRTech – a positive employee experience requires trust, relationships, meaningful work, recognition, empowerment and balance. Read the report.)

Who would you recognize in your workplace? Who inspires you to get out of bed in the morning? What is it about them and their work that makes a difference? Most importantly, when are you going to tell them?

Doing Gymnastics at Work

by Traci Pesch

US Women's 2016 Olympics ChampionsRecognize This! – The sport of gymnastics offers several lessons we can apply to make work more human.

My daughter did gymnastics for 6 years. It’s an intense sport for which, unless you’re deeply in it, it is hard to understand the level of commitment necessary. To be a top-level gymnast requires dedication of your entire mind and body, relentless practice of 30-40 hours a week, and mental discipline to engage in 6+ hour meets where you must focus completely for less than 2 minutes of competition on one element and then wait an hour or more for another less than 2 minutes of complete focus on another element.

Gymnastics is a unique sport, but some elements are the same for all sports that offer us lessons for the workplace, too.

“Superstar” is relative.

Yesterday’s superstar is today’s team player. Look at Gabby Douglas. In the 2012 Olympics, she won the gold medal in the individual all-around competition. By 2016, she missed competing for the all-around final despite having the third-highest score. (Two of her teammates took the top spots, and only two competitors from each country are permitted to compete.)

Is Gabby any less of a superstar? Certainly not! Her talent and skill still place her in the highest ranks in the world. And yet the rulebook lessens her. For those still clinging to a forced ranking model of performance valuation, think  about your superstars who are being labeled as less than stellar for no other reason than strict rules on how many “5s” you’re allowed to have.

False valuation models can break the spirit of even your best employees. Working more human requires us to consider how we can equip and encourage all of our people to do the best work of their lives.

Failure is inevitable.

Simone Biles, by every measure, was the standout hit of the Olympics. The strength, power and grace she packs into her tiny frame is astounding. She set a new American record for the most gold medals in women’s gymnastics in a single Olympics (4 medals) and joined an elite global group with a total of 5 medals in a single games. And yet, she wasn’t perfect. In the balance beam final, she wobbled badly enough she had to grab the beam. On this world stage, that’s failure. She missed the mark.

But she still took the bronze. How? Why was her wobbly performance better than other wobbly performances that didn’t medal? First, she incorporated harder elements in her routine. She intentionally set a higher bar. And when she did wobble, she put it behind her quickly and went on to finish strong.

Failure itself is not bad and can often be a sign of trying to shoot high. But we will never know what we can achieve if we don’t try. How much more innovative would our teams be if we lifted the fear of failure, gave them the room to try, support them as the make the attempt, then help them recover quickly, learn and move forward?

The team is only as good as the team.

I get annoyed by the phrase, “A team is only as good as the individuals on it.” It implies that the individual is solely responsible for themselves. Gymnastics teaches something different. The team is only as good as the team performance overall. Gymnasts must find ways to improve their own skills, yes, while also helping their teammates continually improve too.

How can we all train like gymnasts to support each other and make each other better? How can we build more human teams at work designed to elevate the team to success while simultaneously improving the individual?

With the 2016 Paralympics beginning, new inspiration is all around us. What lessons from the Olympics do you see that can be applied as well strive to make work more human?

WorkHuman by Leaving Work – Why Vacations Matter

by Traci Pesch

beach sceneRecognize This! – We cannot create more human work cultures if we don’t honor the human need to rest, reflect, and breathe.

I’m just back from vacation – enjoying family and friends immersed in sun, sand, and ocean. The ability to step back, relax, and rest my mind certainly made it possible to bring a rejuvenated spirit to my work. And this experience reminded me of recent podcast from NPR’s Shankar Vedantam and Dan Pink (author of Drive): “What Science Says about Taking a Great Vacation.”

In the podcast, Shankar and Dan discuss research that shows three interesting findings:

  1. Relationships (or at least relatability matters), even while on vacation.
  2. Shorter but more frequent vacations may be the ticket to keeping the positive impact of vacation going.
  3. Experiencing awe may be the best vacation memento because it can “increase ethical decision making and generosity.”

From a WorkHuman perspective, we need to honor the very human need to rejuvenate the soul, the spirit and the mind. As Lin-Manuel Miranda (creator of Broadway sensation Hamilton) said on Twitter, “No accident that the best idea I ever had in my life (Maybe the best one I’ll ever have) happened on vacation. With a second to breathe.”

Sadly, it seems workers hesitate on taking vacation. This survey found the top 5 reasons workers skip vacation:

  1. Fear of returning to a mountain of work(40%)
  2. The belief that nobody else can do the job (35%)
  3. Inability to afford taking time off (33%)
  4. Fear of being seen as replaceable (22%)
  5. To show greater dedication to the company and the job (28%)

And Americans seem to be worst about this. This article describe us as “a nation of vacation-deprived, work-obsessed, business casual-attired zombies.”

If our best ideas possible come when we give our brain a chance to officially switch off, and if our companies ostensibly support the idea of vacation, then how can we as leaders encourage the behavior of actually taking a real break? Because we must. Our people deserve it. Our humans need it.

Do you use all of your vacation days? If not, why not?

I Dare You to Make Work More Human

by Traci Pesch

Text Quote from AliRecognize This! – Regardless of role or level, we are all responsible for making work more human for ourselves and our colleagues.

“We make work more human.”

What’s your reaction to that statement? Do you cheer along in belief we can and are doing just that? Or do you scoff, saying to yourself, “This is business. We’re here to make money, not happy employees.”?

My position is simple. Not only can we make work more human, we must make work more human. In honor of the life that was legend, Muhammad Ali, I support his statement, “Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare.”

To those who say human workplaces are an impossibility, I say, “I take that dare.” Even better, in the words of my son, “I double-dog dare you to make work more human.” Because we all own the responsibility of working human. Regardless of the level or role we play in a workplace, each of us can make the choice to be kinder instead of impatient, to be more appreciative instead of more demanding, to lend a hand instead of demanding help, to pass the praise instead of passing the buck.

That’s the goal of the WorkHuman movement. To collaborate to ferret out the incivility and inhumanity that’s become common in work today and replace it with an acknowledgment that we are all human. We are not cogs in a machine. We all have more of our human selves we could offer if only our entire humanity was welcome at work.

How do we start? Leaders certainly bear significant responsibility. In fact, research shows that when employees believe their leaders care about creating a more human workplace, they are more motivated to work hard for the organization and colleagues and they are able to find a solution for any challenge. Managers of people are responsible for ensuring their employees feel as though work-life balance isn’t something to be achieved, but a natural blending. (Of course going to your child’s soccer game is important!) Individual contributors are responsible for caring for the humanity of their peers and colleagues, for looking out for each other, encouraging each other, helping each other. Everyone is responsible for recognizing and rewarding the work achievements of those around them. Let’s do it the Muhammad Ali way: “Don’t count the days, make the days count.”

How can you make your work more human? What can you try today?

WorkHuman Takeaway: Teach Our Children Well

by Traci Pesch

Amy CuddyRecognize This! – Much of our own human behavior was learned as children. Let’s think carefully about how we are teaching our children to be human.

WorkHuman 2016 in Orlando was a powerful, exciting experience for many reasons, not least of which was the opportunity to be with, learn from and share the experience with other amazing humans. I have too many lessons learned from WorkHuman to fit into one post, so I will focus on a key takeaway that impacts two of the humans I care about most in this world – my son and daughter.

Keynote speaker Amy Cuddy, author of Presence and popular TEDx speaker on the “power pose,” shared with us how we are hard-wired to express our emotions through our entire bodies. For example, around the world in all cultures, it is a natural physical response to throw our hands over our heads in the traditional victory pose (pictured above). We don’t think about it; we just do it.

Man taking up exceptional space and crowding womanOther key body positions that express our emotions are taught, however. Amy explained how, over time, boys learn to spread out in body positions that take up physical space, which shows dominance and power. Girls, on the other hand, absorb lessons on closing in our body positions, crossing our arms, and taking up less physical space. We are unconsciously teaching our girls they have less right to space in the world. This one picture (at right) illustrates both. See how the woman on the right is crowding herself in to take up as little space as possible compared to the man next to her.

Sarah Rose Cavanaugh, my fellow breakout session speaker and Assumption College Psychology professor, shared interesting research on surface acting at work. An element of her presentation that affected me deeply, however, was a video she shared of a little boy, no more than 6 or 7 years old, watching the scene from the movie The Lion King where Simba’s father dies. We watched this young boy as he struggled mightily to not cry during this very sad scene. At such a young age, that boy had clearly absorbed the lesson that boys should not cry or express emotion.

I want something different for my children. I want my daughter, Anna, to take her place on the world stage and proudly take up however much space she needs to achieve her dreams. I want my son, Cameron, to be his full human self in all of our (sometimes messy) emotions without fear that his tears aren’t “manly.”

I want everyone’s children, regardless of gender, to be proud, powerful, victorious, successful, emotional, sad, happy, joyful and every other emotion on the human spectrum. I want us all to celebrate the humanity in the people around us every day.

See human. Be human. Work human.

Will you join me?

Recognition, from Culture to Practice!

By Traci Pesch

Photographic light spiralRecognize This! – A sustainable culture of recognition starts with “why” to inform positive spirals between culture and practices.

Why does employee recognition matter? What elements make social recognition a success? How do we even define “success?” What types of significant results are achievable through social recognition?

These are a few of the most common questions I hear about social recognition. Beyond the obvious, “Yes, it’s important to say ‘thank you’ – to notice, acknowledge, and appreciate the efforts of those around you,” social recognition does have significant impact on how our people experience work. (So why not make it a more WorkHuman environment?)

So, why is recognition important?  More importantly why is creating a culture or recognition vs just implementing another program so important?  A culture of recognition contributes to success by creating a positive spiral effective, encouraging greater alignment with core values, and reinforcing key behaviors that drive businesses forward.

In turn, connections between employees are strengthened, leading to greater engagement and satisfaction, as well as improved trust and collaboration.  Employees who are recognized for their contributions are more likely to bring their whole self to work, resulting in a range of outcomes and results.  Essentially, recognition done right, drives top priorities and business results.

Illustration of culture spiral text

We’ve thought about this a lot. It’s our passion. We’ve been refining this with our customers for years, codified in our book The Power of Thanks.

Recognition BlueprintThis blueprint for social recognition success involves the elements illustrated here, starting with securing executive sponsorship and defining your goals and metrics for success, then continuing though creation of a strong program designed to reach all employees for that engaging recognition experience, and then offering a great choice of rewards in order to ensure every recognition moment has the longest emotional tail possible.

These are the elements from which our best practices and benchmarks are derived.  These best practices and this approach, is proven with large, global companies across many verticals.

With these elements in mind, have a look at your employee recognition program and the current state against each key element of success.  Our vision for all of our clients is to truly build a culture of recognition and appreciation that lives, grows and is sustainable.  As a matter of fact, this year we’re celebrating 10 years of partnership with several clients, who transformed their thinking from “let’s have a recognition program” to “let’s build a sustainable culture of appreciation and recognition and have quantifiable results to back up the WHY.”

What are some of your company’s ambitions for establishing a culture of recognition?

Top 3 Drivers of Employee Satisfaction (and Salary Isn’t One of Them)

by Traci Pesch

Rabbit on a benchRecognize This! – Company culture, career opportunities and trust in senior leaders drive employee satisfaction far more than salary.

Have you ever gone down rabbit holes on the web, where you start reading one article, then click an embedded link that seems intriguing, and then do it again in the next article? The next thing you realize, three hours have passed, you missed a phone call with a colleague, and worst, you missed your regular infusion of Diet Coke (okay, maybe that last part is just me).

I have Glassdoor to thank for my latest trip down the rabbit hole through the innocent entry point of their list of the 25 highest paying companies in America. Unsurprisingly, all 25 spots are held by consulting and high-tech firms. Far more interesting to me was this paragraph at the end of the article:

“While the companies on this list pay handsomely and a Glassdoor survey shows salary and compensation are among peoples’ top considerations before accepting a job, Glassdoor research also shows that salary is not among the leading factors tied to long-term employee satisfaction. In contrast, culture and values, career opportunities, and trust in senior leadership are the biggest drivers of long-term employee satisfaction.”

It’s that second link that proved my undoing. As a passionate believer in the importance of core-values-driven cultures, especially those reinforced through recognition, I had to click. It took me to this report from June 2015, which included several thought provoking statements: (largely quoting below, emphasis mine):

“A 10% increase in employee pay is associated with a 1 point increase in overall company satisfaction on a 0-100 scale, controlling for all other factors. In other words, if an employee making $40,000 per year were given a raise to $44,000 per year, his or her overall employee satisfaction would increase from 77 percent to 78 percent. And it’s important to note that there is a diminishing return to happiness for every extra $1,000 in earnings.”

Glassdoor then dug further into the findings to find out, if money isn’t the main driver of employee satisfaction, then what is? They went back to their employer review survey (another link!) to add controls for employee ratings on business outlook, career opportunities, culture and values, compensation and benefits, senior leadership and work-life balance. The results:

“In this regression, all of these control variables were statistically significant predictors of workplace satisfaction. And the model predicts overall satisfaction pretty well, explaining about 76% of variation in employee satisfaction. From this model, we find an employee’s culture and values rating for the company has the biggest impact on job satisfaction. And not surprising given the findings above, we find an employee’s compensation and benefits rating has the second smallest effect on overall satisfaction, ahead of business outlook rating.”

[Tweet “Employee perception of company culture and core values has highest impact on #EmployeeEngagement” @WorkHuman]

Company Culture ImportanceWondering why the culture and values rating is so influential, Glassdoor determined, “An employee’s culture and values rating probably represents a combination of factors that contribute to overall well-being such as company morale, employee recognition, and transparency within the organization.”

Why did this fascinate me so greatly? Culture matters. And every employee in your organization owns, influences and benefits from the culture – whether it’s the culture you want or the one allowed to “just happen.” And let’s not ignore the statement in the original quotation above about the importance of trust in senior leaders. Don’t forget the findings from the latest WorkHuman Research Institute employee survey showing the dramatic impact of recognition on trust for leaders.

Recognition Impact on Trust

What most drives your satisfaction and engagement in your work?

Don’t Forget This Important Component in the Manager Toolkit

by Traci Pesch

Casual gathering of business colleaguesRecognize This! – Peer recognition serves a critical role, but managers must not abdicate their responsibility to notice and praise employees, too.

In my role as a consultant, one of my favorite job duties is traveling to client locations to lead and facilitate strategy sessions. Other than missing an occasional volleyball game or school event for my kids, it’s usually fairly easy to handle logistically – unless my road warrior husband also happens to be traveling at the same time. That’s when we bring in the support team – the grandparents.

We are blessed to have both sets of grandparents close by and ever willing to step in and help out when we travel for work. They do a great job and the kids love them. But, no matter how fun or how good their snickerdoodle cookies, grandparents aren’t Mom and Dad. Inevitably when we return, the kids race to us with big grins on their faces and saying, “You’re home! We missed you! Let me tell you about everything that happened when you were gone.”

What’s the connection to social recognition? Recognition and appreciation from peers and colleagues is undeniably important. Peers see and celebrate with us the great work we do every day. Our friends and colleagues at work are like our grandparents. They celebrate our accomplishments, cheer us on, and offer regular encouragement and celebration.

Parents – well, they’re more like managers. We parents have a responsibility to celebrate the good as well as lay down the law. It’s a balance that is profound and never easy. Similarly, managers have a responsibility to both praise employees and offer constructive criticism and redirection when necessary. That’s why the recognition lever is a powerful component of the manager’s toolkit. Recognition from managers is very different than recognition from peers. Recognition from managers signals acknowledgement of excellent work, growth, accomplishment. Recognition from managers carries weight with employees.

Peer recognition is and will always be an important way to add “eyes” to catch someone doing something good and recognize those we work with every day. But that doesn’t lessen the responsibility for managers to also pay attention and recognize, too.

From whom do you most often receive recognition – managers or peers? Which do you feel carries more impact?

Giving Thanks with Friends, Family and the Great Outdoors

by Traci Pesch

Black Friday Shoppers

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Recognize This! – Experiencing a spirit of gratefulness with family and friends is one of the greatest gifts of Thanksgiving.

I love Black Friday. Every year, my cousins, close friends and I plan our attack with a precision that could rival Santa’s global delivery schedule. We identify the stores we will hit and the responsibilities we each have for specific items in each store. It’s tremendous fun for all of us, and a bonding experience we cherish far beyond the shopping or the deals.

But as much as I love Black Friday, I love Thanksgiving more. A day spent with my family, sharing together and celebrating all that we have to be grateful for, most especially each other – there is no gift I can buy on Black Friday more precious than that.

That’s why after last year’s seeming trend for stores to extend Black Friday by opening on Thanksgiving, I was thrilled that so many major retailers are making a point of staying closed on a day intended for relationships, gratitude and togetherness. Some have even incorporated the message into their advertisements, like this one from the TJX Companies – TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Home Goods. (Email subscribers, click through for the video.)

And then there’s REI, an outdoor retailer that describes itself on its website as:

“REI is a national outdoor retail co-op dedicated to inspiring, educating and outfitting its members and the community for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.”

Living up to that statement of purpose, REI has been in the news recently for the decision to only remain closed on Thanksgiving, but to also close on Black Friday while still paying its employees to “be outside.” With such a clear demonstration of living out its values as a company, it’s no wonder REI often appears on the Fortune Top 100 Companies to Work For list.

What a wonderful demonstration of acknowledging employees as humans. If you work for REI, it’s likely a fair assumption that you enjoy the great outdoors. So to pay people to extend their Thanksgiving holiday with the opportunity to engage in a personal passion, with pay – that’s the essence of what we mean by WorkHuman.

What do you enjoy most about the Thanksgiving holiday? Whether or not Thanksgiving is part of your cultural tradition, what are you grateful for this year?