Byron's Babbles

COW Awards

2015-11-02 19.38.58Imagine a room full of teachers “mooing” for their colleagues. That’s just what you get at Hoosier Academies Network of Schools, whether it is a face to face assembly or an online meeting. I have to admit I stole the idea from Zappos. They created COW (Creator of Wow) Awards for their employees. As an old ag teacher and farmer, I thought the idea was genius and instantly saw the possibilities. Now, I can’t attach the huge monetary value that Zappos has on their COW awards, but ours has become a just as coveted award. Think about it, wouldn’t you want to be considered a COW – Creator of Wow? Who wouldn’t?51cHkuSOUeL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Here’s how it works. This is an anonymous, peer nominated award. There is no limit to how many can receive the award each month and there is no limit as to how many times you can receive the award. The only qualification is that the nominator must write a justification for why the recipient should receive the award. Then each month we ceremoniously give out the awards by reading the COW nomination. What does the COW get? A COW medallion for their first COW, a trophy for the second COW, a bigger trophy for the third, and so on. This is becoming an important part of our culture. Our staff looks forward to the ceremony each month (sometimes we do it twice during the month because of the way the meetings fall) and, literally, there is “mooing” when the names and nomination justifications are read. It doesn’t get any better than that!

The COW Awards really do what John Manning (2015) suggests in Lesson #38 of The Disciplined Leader:

“Practice making your praise specific for your staff members. Give details about what was done right.” ~ John Manning (Kindle Locations 1997-1998)

Praise from COW Awards is very specific and comes from peers. The justifications have evolved into very specific descriptions of what the teacher has done to create wow. Let me share two examples of COW Award nominations (I have changed the names of the recipients):

I would like to recognize Angela for a COW Award for her FLA project.  I have really enjoyed collaborating with other schools and teachers on best practices to increase attendance at class connects during our first session and on data (usage, collection, implementation) during our second session.  It is so nice to collaborate not only within our school but across other K12 schools to continue to improve.  We were able to share some of our ideas that they found helpful and they shared some great ideas with us as well.  We now have a shared folder in google drive to continue that collaboration in between sessions and I look forward to our next meeting!

As you can see, it is a quick description of what was done. The best part, again, is that it comes from a peer. Also, I believe it is important for it to be anonymous. There should not be the feeling of obligation to thank or reciprocate the award from the recipient. Here is another example (again, I have changed the name of the recipient):

I would like to nominate Betty for a Cow Award. She initiated the African-American History event this month. Last night we held an online event to look at African-American history. The presentation she created was wonderful! It included a virtual Museum that was interactive, detailed, and very educational. The students were engaged and interacting the entire hour and a half. Today the students are invited to attend an event at Crispus Attucks to continue learning about the history. This was a huge event for Hoosier Academies Network of Schools to recognize African-American History month and due to her initiative, I’m sure it will become an annual favorite. I was proud to be a part of Hoosier last night. Thank you, Betty!

Manning (2015) reminds us that recognition is a strategy. While this is not our only recognition strategy it has become an important part of our culture of excellence. What are the best practices of your recognition strategy?


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