Friday, April 22, 2011

Do We Need Recognition?

Today at graduation, one of my ethics students gave the student address. Stunningly, he chose to spend a good portion of his (excellent!) talk telling about his experience in my class, and about what I've taught him about finding his calling in life. It made me squirm a bit on the stand, but it also was a huge payday. Hearing someone share with others what I taught him... that's about as good as it gets in my line of work!

I'm really grateful to receive that kind of recognition, but I also thought, "would it make a difference if I never got public attention? Would I still do what I do?" I believe the answer is yes. My calling is not dependent on pats on the back, welcome as they may be.

In fact, it strikes me that the vast majority of people who share their unique gifts at work get precious little recognition. When was the last time I wrote a thank-you to the lady at the DMV who used her uncanny sense of humor to give me a big smile on my driver's license? When did I last pull aside and thank the fastidious custodian who makes my workplace immaculate? When did I last contact the manager of my favorite restaurant to tell him that my server made us feel like the most important people in the house that night?

If you look around, you will see nobility at work in the most surprising places. Try it! And then give that well-deserved pat on the back. You'll discover that identifying others' excellences make YOU better at what you do. It's pretty cool how that works.


  1. You have been a much more remarkable influence than the pats on the back likely show. In our cohort, I could say with absolutely certainty that you were quite possibly the only professor to receive unanimous appreciation. You are a jewel in Marriott's crown. If I were to hypothesize why, I would say that it is your unique combination of useful knowledge, wit, approachable humility, genuine care for individuals, and constructive feedback.

    I was transfixed as I watched Pres. Monson's address in October 2010 on gratitude. The genuine, truthful expression of gratitude is transformative. I couldn't agree with your last paragraph more.

  2. Dr. Thompson,
    I'm enjoying your blog & appreciate you sharing. I'm working on recognition program for employees at Hewlett-Packard right now and I LOVE your end to this blog post: "identifying others' excellences make YOU better at what you do" Imagine how different all of our workplaces could be, if we got in the habit of more often recognizing others excellences? What a virtuous cycle that would be! Such a great principle that I hope to put into practice!
    A fellow student & fan :)
    Katie Forrest