Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Barack Sent Me An E-mail!!!

Yes, it’s true!

Barack wrote to me on the night he was elected… just before he went to Grant Park in Chicago and gave his victory speech. It’s an e-mail I’ll keep for the rest of my life!

True, he probably sent the same e-mail to a couple of other million people but it felt like he was writing only to ME!

Great communicators can do that and it doesn’t matter whether they are Democrats or Republicans… Ronald Reagan had the same gift. They didn’t call him the “Great Communicator” for nothing.

Great communicators are not limited to America. Winston Churchill was able to lift a nation with his words... Ghandi led millions with his words and writings.

Another common trait of great communicators is to master the mediums at hand and these are constantly evolving.

In the 1800s politicians could only reach out with their writings and speeches. In the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt used the new medium of radio to take his case for a New Deal directly into the homes of millions of Americans. In 1960, John F. Kennedy used television to win the White House.

The internet has been around for a while but Barack Obama is the first politician to really master its power. Millions have signed up to follow his Twitters and Facebook page. President Obama has raised the bar... and in the future no politician will ever win a major office without understanding and mastering this new communications medium.

Modern business leaders and recognition managers can learn a lot about communications from the new President.

First, make it personal… so the recipient feels like I did when Barack sent me his e-mail. Make sure you master all the powerful new electronic mediums out there. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc… They will help you deliver your message quickly in a medium that resonates with your audience. The same thing applies to recognition professionals. Use all the tools the internet has to offer in your recognition programs.

I believe business leaders and recognition professionals who can’t communicate effectively or use these new tools are in fact leading their companies into oblivion!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Doing More with Less? Motivate Your Talent with Self-funding Incentives

This week, my friend and colleague Gord Green led a webcast sponsored by the Human Capital Institute about the role of recognition during an economic downturn. During these difficult economic times, retaining talent and increasing engagement and productivity is crucial yet can feel near impossible to attain when morale is being threatened at every corner. Gord sheds some light on these obstacles and arms you with some great tools to surmount them.

If you missed it, you can still view it at any time for free at the Human Capital Institute.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Recognition That Changed My Life

I started painting as a hobby almost twenty years ago. It is one of the great passions in my life.

You can see some of my paintings at Art by Hart. Or take a look at the slideshow in the right side bar.

One of the reasons I like painting so much is it’s something I can do all by myself. Painting has a beginning and an end… something that doesn't always happen at Rideau which is a never ending "work in progress"!

I probably would have given up after my first very feeble attempts if it had not been for three people: my wife Francine Bellomo who encouraged me to paint and set up a studio in our home, the late Dick Kalaidjian who sold me my first art supplies and taught me about the different mediums, and finally Edgardo Vega who has framed all my work for the last twenty years. No matter how bad, he always managed to make my paintings look much better than they really were!

I was very lucky to have Francine, Dick and Edgardo… their recognition and words of encouragement taught me that creativity doesn't reside solely in artists. It can reside in anybody and happen anywhere, anytime! You don't have to be an artist to be creative. You can be a floor cleaner, a dishwasher, an accountant, a teacher or whatever and still be creative. I think a creative person is someone who pushes themselves beyond their own comfort zone to try new things, take risks and to accept the possibility of failure. Someone who looks at new ways of doing things and challenges convention. Someone who tries to make the impossible - POSSIBLE!

I might never be able to quit my day job, but Francine, Dick and Edgardo made me “feel” like an artist and helped change my life for the better.

This story is just an example of how a little encouragement can do a lot for motivation. This lesson applies to the office as well: with a bit of recognition, managers can drive employee engagement and productivity.

Do you have any recognition stories at the office or outside of work where an act of recognition made a difference in your life?

Monday, January 19, 2009

All in the Family

In 1968 Phyllis and Ed Hart, my Mom and Dad purchased Rideau. They took out a second mortgage on our home and had $1,000 of working capital. With four young children at home, my parents risked everything and laid the foundations for the company we have today. Read about the Rideau history here.

In 1978, my sister Rosanne, brothers Stephen, Robby, best friend Cam Ferguson and I purchased Rideau from my Mom and Dad.

At the time, most of our spouses worked in the business and we were told we needed a partnership agreement.

So the five of us went off to see our lawyer who worked for a large legal firm. He told us in no uncertain terms that our partnership would be lucky to last six months! In his opinion, we had too much family in the business!

Needless to say, his firm is long gone and when we have family gatherings we always have a chuckle at his expense!

Today, only my brother Stephen and I remain in the business. Robby who was a silent partner sold his shares in 2001 (his wife Laura is still active in the business). My sister Rosanne retired in 2003 and our best friend Cam retired last year… right now he is en route to New Zealand for four months!

The point of this post is twofold…

First, I know the economy is bleak and the outlook is dim. However, when I think back to what my folks did, they inspire me to believe that courage, creativity and hard work will see us all through better times.

Secondly, if I'm proud of one thing, it is that in good times and bad, we always put relationships first. Not only amongst our family, but with our employees, suppliers and clients. This is the essence of recognition.

I think this is why Rideau has been so successful… we preach what we have always practiced for so many years!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Start Small ~ Reach Far!

When my Mom and Dad bought the company in July of 1968 their sales for the month were $6,173! How things have grown!!!

Now, for the second time in six months Rideau has been recognized as the #1 HRO Recognition Provider in the world in a buyer opinion survey.

The Black Book of Outsourcing ranked Rideau as #1 based on a survey that was sent to the nearly 30,000 outsourcing decision makers. Click here for the details.

Needless to say, I’m very proud of this latest achievement which was made possible by all my friends and colleagues at Rideau and the Recognition Management Institute. They are the real reason we have earned such a great reputation with our clients and within the larger HRO marketplace.

When I think how far we’ve come since then, it really brings our slogan to life…

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

For my French friends...

Bonnes nouvelles… Grâce au département de traduction de Rideau mon blogue est maintenant disponible en français pour tous mes amis et collègues francophones. Vous trouverez mon blogue en français à l’adresse

Monday, January 12, 2009

Recognition Directly Impacts Reward Value

Many companies spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get better “reward value.”

I find it sad that so many companies don’t realize how recognition directly impacts the value of their reward programs.

Say you have a $100 reward and the recognition experience surrounding it is poor. Chances are the recipient will put little or no value on the reward regardless of the price the company paid for it. Simply put, the reward value has been almost immediately depreciated!

On the other hand, a great recognition experience can “appreciate” a reward far beyond its cost price.

Remember, the easiest way of getting “better reward value” is to improve the recognition experience.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Thanks But No Thanks!

We’re lucky to have some great talent here at Rideau, particularly one of our graphic designers, Richard Lytwynuk, who is also our very own cartoonist! He helps us bring a little humour to recognition, spoofing the terrible things some managers are capable of. (So he’s heard, working at Rideau shields him from the world’s bad managers.)

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Great Engagement Tool!

Earlier this year I read a great book called “The Dream Manager” by Matthew Kelly.

The book explains how companies can achieve extraordinary results by helping their employees fulfill their dreams; this concept is a great engagement tool.

First, it helps managers better understand the hopes and aspirations of their employees. Secondly, in many cases, there’re things the company can do to realize these dreams. Third, it can build the manager-employee relationship.

After I read the book, I asked Isabelle Lavigne, Rideau’s VP of People & Culture to interview each and every one of our 250 or so employees. We call them career development interviews. The interview is about the employee and what they want… not about Rideau.

The response has been fantastic!

We found out we had people who wanted to be marketers, account managers and in certain instances, we were able to achieve their goals. We found out one person in our call center was studying finance at night… that person now works in accounting.

We’re now going to hold career development interviews annually.

Of course you can’t satisfy everyone… one person wanted to be a chef and we’re still a bit away from an executive dining room, although we’re working hard on that!

One really cool thing that came out of the interviews… we found out that many people wanted to improve their language skills or learn a second language. So we offered lessons. Guess what? Over 70 Rideau employees are taking language lessons after work!

That’s engagement…