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Beyond Thank You – A conversation and video series that removes the hidden barriers to expressing gratitude.

What if transforming a simple blind spot in our relationship to recognition gave access to free and open expression of gratitude at work?

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Imagine we have been tasked with launching a rocket but you had no awareness or understanding of Gravity. With every attempt, the rocket would lift inches off the ground only to be pulled back down by a force we did not understand.

With an abundance of research spanning over 2 decades, proving the personal, professional, and organizational benefits of expressing appreciation and gratitude, why is it many well intentioned efforts never get far off the ground?

  • Why don’t managers recognize employees even when they know they should?
  • Why is it that we tend to keep focusing on what we don’t have, instead of celebrating and being grateful for what we do?

In 2008, I watched the most toxic, seemingly irresolvable conflict with my business partner transform in minutes through a simple fifteen minute recognition activity.  Moved by the experience, I set out to understand the why  “If Recognition is free, and proven to increase the productivity and profits of our organizations, then why do managers often still fail to use it?” I started my research while living in Boston, Massachusetts.  I took on the challenge of interviewing one stranger a day on the subway about the role recognition played in their life at work and home. In this unique laboratory, I spoke with parking lot attendants, Harvard professors, Delta ground crew members, and more. I found that the number one thing people associated with recognition (88%) is an experience of feeling valued, but also found that nearly 70% of people associate an experience of embarrassment and discomfort with the process. The stories of the over 400 people I interviewed exposed a hidden world of unconscious misconceptions and conflicting associations with the recognition process. When unaware, these associates often left people hesitant to express appreciation, jealous of others’ success, and reluctant to let in praise. Digging deeper into my studies, I identified common everyday misuses of recognition that perpetuated these misconceptions, broke down relationships, and sabotaged engagement efforts. 

What I unintentionally stumbled upon was a powerful unconscious force that counters our efforts to recognize others, authentically express gratitude, and let in the good.  As a result I developed a highly interactive experiential training program that guides people to expose, explore, and transform their relationship to giving and receiving acknowledgment, freeing them to express gratitude and appreciation to those around them and transform their organizational cultures.

The program looks at answering the questions…

  • If recognition is supposed to be positive, why do we often get embarrassed or self-conscious when being praised by others?
  • Why, when being recognized, do we often questions others’ intentions (What do they really want from me?)
  • Why is it when people praise us we often tend to focus on the things we didn’t do, leaving us feeling like what we do is never enough?

Through the answering of these questions, we surface and identify a world of hidden associations with the recognition process. 


No matter if I was working with postal workers in Lebanon, oil workers in Oman, United Nations Staff in Chile, social workers in Los Angles, or Salesforce IT managers in San Francisco, the same associations arise.  Once people are exposed to these associations, the behaviors that keep them in place, and how to avoid them, there is a new freedom of expression among coworkers.  They have an opportunity to learn concrete techniques that help them understand what each of the people around them wants and needs to feel valued.  They also learn how to transform a simple misconception around performance that constantly drives them to burn out and how to change that on the spot.

My goal in this challenge is to share what I believe to be a life changing conversation with more people. I want to help remove this unconscious block that sabotages our most well intentioned efforts to connect with the people around us.   I plan to do this by developing a Train the Trainer program so more people around the world can facilitate this simple process in their organization and communities. I also plan to increase the public dialogue around this subject by producing a short 5-7 episode, publicly available video series called “Beyond Thank You” where people can be exposed to this information online.   My goal is to transform the global conversation around expressing and accepting appreciation and gratitude.

Idea Title

Beyond Thank You – Removing the hidden barriers to expressing gratitude.

How the Idea will inspire the experience and expression of gratitude within an organization.

After a program of medical staff, the hospital chaplain said “This is the first time we have had a conversation about real feelings at work.” The program is designed to make people comfortable with being uncomfortable by exposing a hidden experience shared by everyone. By training people to facilitate this program in their organizations, it will provide coworkers with a new ability to build authentic relationships with their colleagues, family members and themselves. It will give them tools to more easily express appreciation and gratitude without the concerns or misconceptions of the past holding them back.

Who are you innovating for?

My overall mission is to transform the global conversation around giving and receiving recognition. Over the last three years alone, I have trained over 4000 people on every continent except Antarctica. I have worked with IT Managers at Salesforce, US Airforce Reservists and their families, Oil Workers in Oman, Social Workers in Los Angeles, and UNICEF Staff in Fiji. I am innovating for all of my past and future clients and to further share my findings on a larger, more public scale.

What type of workplaces are you innovating for?

The conversation I have with people is about being Human, and over the last five years I have found that this message applies in every work and personal context. I have worked with organizations of 10 to organizations of 40k+. I am innovating for my current clients, future clients and for any individual interested in transforming people’s experience of expressing gratitude and appreciation in the workplace or home.

How you envision the Idea being introduced to your selected organization?

Train the Trainer: I would first organize a Train the Trainer program via the online platform Zoom for 6 past clients from around the world to attend. I will then support each to train 50 plus people in their respective organizations within a 3 month period. I will have each measure impact through a series of pulse check surveys and structured qualitative interviews. I will have each trainer choose a control group team and target team to compare organization and emotional impact of the initiative and thus measure results. Beyond Thank You Video Series:My plan would be to draft and present a concept note for the “Beyond Thank You” Video Series to Soulpancake (Link) or Discovery channel.

What obstacles, if any, do you foresee in implementing this Idea, and how would they be overcome?

I don’t see any major obstacles for the Train the Trainer program, as I would be using existing clients that already have a relationship with my work and a commitment to improving the lives of people in their organization. As for the “Beyond Thank You” Video series, the biggest obstacle would be enrolling a large platform such as Soulpancake or Discovery to produce and develop and share the videos. As a backup I will reach out to a a documentary filmmaker friend to produce the video.

How will you test and prototype your solution?

I have been running my program for several years and have a tested methodology to help people comfortably explore their hidden relationships to recognition and expressing gratitude. I will prototype the Train the Trainer with a 6 person group of trainers. I will teach them to facilitate the program, coach them through their first live trainings, and help them facilitate follow up to insure adoption. For the Beyond Thank You” Video Series I will film a mock version to share with my network.

What immediate next steps will you take if you receive an implementation grant.

1. Complete Train the Trainer program: I will organize a Train the Trainer program for 6 past clients. I will then support each to train 50 plus people in their respective organizations. I will have each measure impact through a series of pulse check surveys. Produce “Beyond Thank You” Video Series: I will draft a concept note and reach out to my network. At the same time, I would develop a script and film a mock version that I could share as a demo to enroll larger platforms in the concept.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Full-scale roll-out: You have developed a pilot, tested, and analyzed the impact of that pilot as it pertains to the problem scope. You are ready to expand the pilot significantly and begin to scale.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

In 2008 took on the challenge of interviewing one stranger a day(400 total) on the subway about the role recognition played in their life at work and home. I found that the number one thing people associated with recognition (88%) is feeling valued, but also found that nearly 70% of people associate an experience of embarrassment and discomfort with the process. The stories exposed a hidden world of unconscious misconceptions and conflicting associations with the recognition process.

Tell us about yourself

My name is Christopher Littlefield. I am from Maine but have lived internationally for the last seven years. I currently live in Santiago, Chile, and before spent four years in Beirut, Lebanon. I am the founder of AcknowledgmentWorks and have committed my life to transforming the way people work together!

Where are you / your team located?

I am located in Santiago, Chile

Company / Organization Name

AcknowledgmentWorks

Website

Acknowledgmentworks.com

Tell us about your experience

I have worked in international conflict resolution for 15 years and as an organizational consultant for the last ten. For the last three years, I have been exclusively training people in the art of acknowledgment and engagement through my company AcknowlgmentWorks. Over the last three years alone, I have worked with more than 4000 managers and employees from around the world to rethink their relationship to giving and receiving recognition.

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