Appreciations Suggestion Box

GL ASAE presentation 061413photo (4)

A few weeks ago, I led a presentation on behalf of International Institute for Learning on Grateful Leadership at the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Executive Leadership Forum in Quebec, Canada. Since the event was on my birthday, I had the honor of both being celebrated (birthday cake and song sung by all of the ASAE leaders) and of celebrating the wonderful people I met. One of them, Arlene A. Pietranton, PhD, CAE and Chief Executive Officer of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) as well as Chairman-Elect, ASAE/Chairman, ASAE Foundation, told me about a practice at her association which I asked her to write up after the event.

She wrote: “For nearly two decades now, ASHA has had a written Desired Organizational Culture. Aspects of our desired culture include constructive, ongoing feedback and work being viewed as important and fun … so we encourage folks to acknowledge one another’s good efforts and successes. Often that’s done verbally – private or public comments, a handwritten note, a team highlight during an all staff meeting. Sometimes it’s through something more tangible – flowers, balloons, a gift card or a small present. In order to know what would be meaningful to the person being recognized and thanked, about six or seven years ago, our Human Resources unit started encouraging each staff member to fill out an index card with his or her “likes.” The box of index cards is kept in an area of HR that’s readily accessible to everyone on staff.

Some people list their interests and hobbies (photography, exercising, movies, cooking, etc.). Others list a preferred source (music, stores, restaurants). Still others may take a “wish list” approach (e.g., car detailing, an evening of babysitting, outing with family, etc.). The idea is that when there’s an opportunity for a special thank you or recognition, what is meaningful to that particular person.”

I love this idea! I think first of all, it “organizationalizes” acknowledgment and appreciation — making it clear that they are part of the ASHA culture. Secondly, it’s great to receive what we truly want from another as a way of being shown that appreciation. Of course we can never forget to deliver those spontaneous, heartfelt, in-the-moment outbursts of gratitude and acknowledgment as we are feeling them, but this is a wonderful addition to the tools we have as leaders. So go set up your Appreciations Suggestion Box today!

And my great appreciation and gratitude to Anne Blouin, CAE, Chief Learning Officer of ASAE, for bringing me in to speak at this wonderful gathering, and for remembering from when she had booked me months earlier, that I told her that it would be my birthday when I spoke about Grateful Leadership. I don’t think I have ever had a better birthday celebration!