Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Recognizing Each Other

This post was coming together in my head last week as I was thinking about life at the College, but it became more significant with the sudden and unexpected passing of MVCC's beloved Sam Drogo. I've heard countless stories from Professor Drogo's colleagues and friends about his contributions to the College, commitment to students, unwavering professionalism, incredible work ethic, and mentorship of so many individuals. Anytime I hear about or experience the sudden loss of someone close I often wonder if they knew what friends and family really felt about them. I am reminded of the Garth Brooks song, “…because I’ve lost loved ones in my life who never knew how much I loved them. Now I live with the regret that my true feelings for them never were revealed; so I made a promise to myself to say each day how much (they) mean to me. And avoid that circumstance where there’s no second chance to tell (them) how I feel.”

Last year we implemented a comprehensive employee recognition that's primarily based on colleagues sharing how they feel about each another. Like most colleges, MVCC has had a number of awards in place for years. However, many of them have been based on self-nomination or self-promotion. And our "years of service recognition" was a standard certificate like one might expect. Based on recommendations from our Employee Recognition Design Team a number of important changes were made to these processes, to create a more personal approach to recognizing the best work at the College. All awards were changed to a peer-nominated process that makes the success of our system work when each of us recognizes and nominates others excellent service and work beyond what might be expected. This is not an easy thing to do – it requires paying attention to the work of others and making the effort to speak up and speak out when we see work that inspires us.

Similarly, the years of service recognition went from an agenda item at a year-end luncheon to individual ceremonies that recognize the contributions every single one of us make when we come to work at MVCC each day. Years of service now involves colleagues, supervisors, and other senior administrators joining me in presenting a framed certificate (along with a "thank you" cookie and balloon) to individuals achieving 10 to 40 or more years of service (in 5-year increments). The new process adds an important dimension – rather than just reading a name and presenting a certificate, these individual ceremonies allow anyone present (friends, colleagues, coworkers, supervisors, etc.) to express a few words of appreciation, tell a favorite memory, or simply say, “thank you for all that you do” in the presence of others.

While we've already experienced times when we've shared a lot of laughs and heard some wonderful things about those being recognized, we’ve attended others when it appeared as though those present seemed hesitant to say how they really felt – holding back on letting the person know how much they are appreciated. Recently, when I privately expressed my surprise at the reluctance I'd perceived, someone said “the culture just needs time on this…we just need to find our collective voice for appreciation so that it becomes the norm and not the exception.” I thought that was a very insightful comment, but it’s going to take intentional effort on the part of all of us who care to build up this vibrant organizational culture we're seeking. We need to work together so that MVCC can increasingly become that place where every person knows how much they’re valued by their colleagues. We must move away from that circumstance where we need a second chance to tell that friend, co-worker, colleague how much they inspire us and help to make MVCC the very special place that it is. If you have any thoughts on this post, please contact me directly at presblog@mvcc.edu.