These two conversations made me want to continue my plans with the Mr. Hatch Award. Even though the company knew nothing about the program, I believed they would support it. If I can give an employee a $5,000 on-the-spot award for customer excellence, $40 is not going to break the bank. The pilot even taught me a few lessons:
1. Run the program on my own and forget about formal corporate support.
2. Keep the anonymity of the program intact.
3. Ditch the corporate florist.
The next Monday I moved into full implementation. I chose two more workers, but I didn’t go to the swanky florist. I walked a few blocks north into the combat zone of downtown Brooklyn and found an all-purpose store. The proprietor sells a lot of things, including flowers. I said to him, “Here’s my offer. Every week I want you to deliver two floral arrangements to my headquarters. I also want a thank you balloon attached along with a note that I’ll give you. You put the note in an envelope and deliver it all. I’ll pay cash. You don’t contact me; I only contact you. I’ll show up every Monday with the names, notes, and money.”
“OK with me” he said. Unlike the corporate florist, he had no problem with this arrangement. Apparently, he does a lot of his business this way.
“One final question,” I said. “What kind of flowers do I get for my $40?”
“Give me a minute,” he said and then he disappeared. What he brought back was a massive array of floral specimens: birds of paradise, tulips, roses, and babies’ breath. I think I got half of his storefront display.
“Looks fine to me. Do a good job and I’ll keep coming back every week,” I promised.
It’s a year later, and I’m still sending flowers, anonymous notes, and ballons. My company still knows nothing about it. So, have I changed our corporate culture? No. Was I able to get everyone together, tell them the business plan, and demand that they believe and implement the Mr. Hatch Award? Hell, no. But here’s what has happened:
1. I actually look forward to coming to work on Monday mornings.
2. A small number of employees go home Monday night with a smile or quizzical look on their faces.
3. Co-workers are having a blast trying to figure out who’s sending flowers to their friends and why. I suspect a few even dream of receiving flowers and a balloon for themselves.
4. One aging executive is making retirement preparations by meeting individually with employees. Although this is the least verifiable part of the program, I trust that the SVP is making the effort. (Did I actually say that I trust someone in authority? Who knows, maybe Mr. Hatch is getting to me, too.)
5. I’ve got a proprietor in downtown Brooklyn who smiles when he sees me coming and warmly shakes my hand. I also have the feeling that the storefront area is a bit more revitalized than it was a year ago.
That’s the present state of progress with the Mr. Hatch Award. I’ll probably keep it up until I read another kid’s book that leaves me feeling hopeful and alive. Then I’ll experiment with another idea. Maybe something based on The Velveteen Rabbit or Ira Sleeps Over.
I’m sure some well-meaning executive will read this article and try to formulate a corporate Mr. Hatch Award. Fuggedaboudit! Not everything needs to be imitated and mandated into business policy. Some things work just fine when they’re small, personal, and unique. There’s organizational strength in fermenting a mixture of the institutional along with the idiosyncratic. Executives would be better served by encouraging staff to hatch their own ways of nurturing the corporate common good.
Oh…one more thing. While I was finishing this article, I passed the woman who received the first Mr. Hatch Award when it was a pilot. She had fresh flowers on her desk.
“Is it your birthday?” I asked, “No,” she said. “Somebody still sending you anonymous flowers?” I whispered.
“Nope, not this time. They’re from my boss,” she said. “I got promoted, and she sent them as a present.”
“Sounds like you have a long list of admirers,” I said, and I walked away feeling a little renewed.
Who knows? Maybe Mr. Hatch will start a trend in corporate America! I can hear Tom Peters talking about it now.
Reprinted with kind permission of the man himself – Kenny Moore – President of Kenny Moore Consulting, LLC. He’s a well-regarded Keynote speaker, executive coach and business consultant for Leadership Development, Change Management and Employee Engagement. He can be reached at kennythemonk at yahoo.com or (973) 956-8210.