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Drawing Out the Reclusive Leader

Submitted by Matthew Andersen, USGS

In November 2010 I had recently received a new assignment for USGS. My boss, J, was gracious enough to throw a going-away party for my wife and me at his home. The week before the party I attended some USGS training where I received yet another USGS leadership coin, so that I was now stockpiling three of these coins in my office. Work was always so hectic; when did I have the time to think about leadership coin presentations? On the plane ride home from the training, my guilt started to get the best of me, and I knew I had to use the party the next night as the opportunity to pass on all of my stockpiled leadership coins. When I had just one or two I had struggled with who they should be given to. Suddenly, with three coins, there was no question in my mind who should receive them: my boss J, and two of my staff members, T and B. I knew that J and T would be happy to receive the coins. I was a little afraid that B might be embarrassed and/or apathetic about receiving the recognition in front of a group of people, but I knew that she was very deserving and that the right thing to do was to publicly recognize the many times she had stepped up to provide leadership for our program.

The night of the party arrived. Following dinner and dessert, J asked for everyone's attention and he and another supervisor thanked me for my service. Then it was my turn to take the floor. I thanked the many people who had worked so hard with me during the years I spent at the station, then broke out the leadership coins. I first asked B to come up and read aloud the entry I had written in the little tracking book that accompanies the coin. The smile on her face just about made her ears fall off. She was clearly pleased to be recognized. I also gave away the coins to T and J and they were also very appreciative.

For the rest of the evening B did not let go of the coin in its travel box and the tracking booklet. Every time I spoke with her or saw her from across the room she still had the coin and booklet in her hand. I was pleased that she had been able to accept the public recognition, and surprised that she didn't seem embarrassed at all.

When I returned to my office on Monday to start wrapping everything up there was an email message from B, thanking me for the leadership coin. She said receiving it had given her a lot to think about. The recognition seems to have helped her look at her own work in a different light. I was so happy that my little act of recognition was stimulating B to positive self-reflection. I don't think she always knows how valuable a colleague she is, so it was great to have a tool to use in a public setting to encourage her self-worth.

Matthew Andersen
November 2010
USGS, Phoenix, Arizona


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