Recent blog posts - All things Apple Awards

All things Apple Awards

Who is Apple Awards, what do we do and how can we help you honor and recognize achievement and loyalty to your organization and the people closest to you?

Helping Those at Risk

Helping Those at Risk

Another school year is soon to end. With 83% of our high school students completing their studies, according to statistics from government websites, chances are you know someone who is celebrating graduation. Graduation is a time to honor those who have put in the hard work of learning, the hard work of teaching and the hard work of mentoring. Without those elements the picture becomes altogether different.

 For some, the hard work of learning is harder than for others. Some young people come to school having not slept well the night before. Some have had little or nothing to eat in the morning. Some have been caring for siblings and doing housework instead of their homework. Some do not have clean clothes to wear. All of these conditions stand in the way of learning.

 There are children whose schools are overcrowded, whose teachers are stressed and overworked. They may not have adequate funds to supply their classroom. And sometimes they have lost their passion for the job and just aren’t good teachers. They may have been put in positions for which they were not prepared.

 These students may not have a parent or a friend they can rely on to encourage and support them in learning. The people in their lives may be abusive, struggling with addictions, and at risk themselves. Their peers become their mentors, and the pull may very well be away from school, not toward it. For these “would be” students graduation is not a celebration but a painful reminder of missing the mark.

 Picking up the pieces are much needed continuation schools, “at risk” schools and alternative education programs. Short on government funding, they are sometimes funded and organized by community and business interests that care about that 17% of students who otherwise would have no chance to complete an education. Do you see yourself fitting anywhere in that picture? Is there a student that you could encourage or mentor? Do you know the graduation rate of your state? (Click HERE for that information.) How about your local school?

   Black Rock Continuation High School  is a model school in the Mojave desert of California.   This school was featured in an award winning documentary film and was aired on PBS in several episodes of “The Bad Kids”. Check out what these dedicated professionals do for their “at risk” kids.

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Hi, Mom!

Hi, Mom!

On Tuesday, May 9th, we all had an opportunity to think about the teachers that inspired us, motivated us and prepared us to become who we are today. How wonderfully natural it is for that to be followed this weekend by Mother’s Day. Motherhood, whether a function of biology or adoption, is the mandate to become a “first teacher” for another person. What an awesome responsibility to be “the first”!

 Becoming prepared for that responsibility is a function of learning. In thinking on this subject, I started to write that how a person “mothers” is not an automatic process. For many, motherhood happens before they have thought much about what it entails. Our society/culture doesn’t put much time into formally educating young people to be parents. But the truth is, before anyone is formally taught, we all learn a lot from experience.  Most of us learn our most indelible lessons on mothering from our own mothers. For good or not, that learning is quite automatic. 

Knowing this can lead to the interesting exercise of examining. By asking the questions “What valuable things did I learn from my mother?” and “What valuable things do I want to pass on to the next generation of mothers?” we might make better parenting decisions, we might teach a better family culture, we might strengthen our society in ways we don’t realize.

Is all this examination worth it? Yes. Yes. Every small thing that leads us to think and consider is worth doing – like celebrating Mother’s Day. What a great time to encourage a mother who is tired, insecure in her skills, struggling in one of the many ways mothers struggle. Recognizing women who love well, ensures that they will be able to pass that skill on to others. Who will you encourage and affirm this Mother’s Day?

 

And can you tell us HOW you encouraged a mother? We all need ideas…

 

 

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It's National Volunteer Week!

It's National Volunteer Week!

A volunteer is one who serves or offers services of his/her own free will, often without any expectation of payment or reward. Although much is accomplished in the world through gainful employment, there is a great need for volunteerism to see and fill in some important gaps. The hard truth is that financial gain is not attached to every needed job. Fortunately, it’s also true that all rewards for service are not financial.

 April 23 – 29, 2017 is National Volunteer Week celebrating the power of volunteerism to strengthen communities. How does volunteering strengthen a community? This year’s theme, Service Unites,  suggests that it does it by uniting people (and what a great year to focus on anything that unites!)

Points of Light is the largest organization in the world devoted to volunteer service. It’s not always easy to determine the value of volunteer services but since 1974 when Points of Light was instituted there have been statistics available that tell about the scope and magnitude of volunteerism, statistics such as these for last year:

  • 64 million volunteers
  • 300,000 projects
  • In 30 countries
  • 30 million hours of service logged
  • $635 million annual worth of volunteer hours

Why not join an army of volunteers this week to strengthen your own community? There are many opportunities, something to fit anyone’s skill set, if you know where to look for them. The website www.allforgood.org lists volunteer projects in many major cities. If you want to get a visual of this volunteer army and see the reasons that inspire them to serve, check out this link, Points of Light. You can even download the small form and write your own reason for service, take a picture and add yourself to the army!

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Learning Through Sports

Learning Through Sports

The recent addition of Sports Plaques to the Apple Awards family and all the wonderful sports memories contributed by readers on Facebook leads us to think about the valuable role of life lessons learned through sports.

Our society puts a lot of emphasis on sports.  Just look at March Madness and how many places it pops up in our world – everyplace from work to worship (yes, it was mentioned at church and the focus of a fun event). There may be a reader or two (and yes, I was one of them) who don’t know much about March Madness. It is one of the highlights of the year for spectators and players alike, when college basketball teams compete for the NCAA championship.

While we at Apple Awards want to acknowledge that sports are not the focus of life for most people, they are important because they mirror other aspects of our lives – our work and our families. It is in sports programs that physical skills are honed, but more importantly, skills of leadership and cooperation are also taught and recognized.  What do we learn?

We learn that morale starts with leadership. Team sports like basketball, football, soccer and others show us that coaches and team captains set the tone and players respond. Even in the face of difficulties, leadership can change the direction of a team, a company, or a family by focusing on true priorities and reminding of basic values learned. 

We learn that attitude is EVERYTHING, well, almost. Skill plus positive attitude is an unbeatable force when it comes to success. Sports experiences can teach that the ups and downs of life are better weathered if attitudes remain positive. Positive attitude is a contagious condition and will spread to those around you so cultivate it and share it!

We learn that skills need development. Nobody is born knowing how to play basketball and nobody is born knowing how to complete business tasks or participate in family life. Time, patience and repetition go into learning many skills, enabling us to complete our tasks. We learn that we feel valued when others take time to help us develop our abilities. We are informed of our talents and encouraged!

Sports teach us that we must assess our progress. We must evaluate and make changes in our strategies and approaches from time to time.

Probably of greatest importance, we can learn from our sports experiences that we each have something to contribute, that we can be responsible and reliable, and that we can appreciate and respect others for their contributions. Pretty basic stuff, right?

I hope you enjoyed March Madness, no matter which team won!  

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Recognition: Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Recognition: Inquiring Minds Want to Know

“Did you see on the company bulletin board? Jim is on the committee for setting up the recognition program. I want to talk to him about the kind of awards that would really help me.”

 “Yes, I saw that. Megan should get the first recognition. She stayed two hours last night helping me put together a presentation. I wonder how I can nominate her?”

 “I’ve heard some other companies are offering flex scheduling and work from home opportunities. How I could get on that committee and help get that for us?”

 “Are we going to get more information on this at the staff meeting tomorrow? It sounds really interesting.”

 

These are questions that could be floating around after the implementation of a recognition program in your business or institution. The success of your program will depend on getting your workforce on board and informed.  There has to be communication, a steady flow of input to your newly formed committee and a regular flow of information out to employees.  In the last post we read about your committee, that carefully chosen group, your working foundation of people who: 

     -Communicate well with all levels of the company

     -Represent different levels of supervision, as well as management

     -Come from as wide a variety of workers as possible

     -Are excited and on board with recognition efforts

     -Know the goals and vision of the company

 

One of their first jobs will be to inform, inform, inform.  The more information people have, and the more often they hear about the program, the more enthusiasm will build. Make use of emails, bulletin boards, flyers and announcement time in team meetings. To start, employees will need to know:            

     -Who is on the committee

     -How the committee was chosen, and how often it will be changed

     -What the committee will be asking of them

     -How to communicate with committee members – the process

     -What recognition or incentives will be given

     -How they can qualify for recognition

 

Employees who know what to expect and how to participate are, well…  they are going to have FUN and be enthusiastic. They will know what the company values and how they can add to the culture in a meaningful way.  That is exactly how you want your recognition program to function.  Put it out there. Talk it up. Spread the word. Inform, inform, inform. 

 Although being paid well for work done might come first, many people put being recognized and valued as their second priority when it comes to job satisfaction.  Companies that meet this need are where people want to work, so make use of the drawing effect of a good recognition program.

 

 

 

 

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Need to Start a Recognition Program?

Need to Start a Recognition Program?

Celebrate Your Employees!

 National Employee Appreciation Day is Friday, March 3rd! What better way to tell employees that they are appreciated than to have a recognition program in place for your business. Are you thinking your business is too small? Are you thinking it’s too big? Not true. There are a few basic things to keep in mind whether you are setting up a program to serve 20 or 1,020.

 Get your motives in line!   Recognition is becoming an important factor in retaining a productive and satisfied workforce, but employees like to know that there is a genuine interest in their safety, their general welfare and their happiness at their job – it’s not just about the bottom line profit.  Fortunately, a good recognition program will benefit everyone. A recent Gallup research poll showed that as employee satisfaction increases so does employee engagement and productivity, employee turnover decreases, customer satisfaction increases, and even data concerning job safety shows improvement. These are all good reasons for a carefully crafted program that matches the needs of your business.

 Grab some helpers!  Your program will need a lot of input from everyone, managers and employees at all levels. Form a committee that will help you with start-up and continuation of your program.  Having representation from different areas will provide good communication and fairness in your recognition efforts.

 Gather relevant information!  Put your committee to work. Guidelines for recognition need to be spelled out clearly so all employees understand what behaviors and achievements the company values. You and your committee also need to determine what rewards are meaningful to employees and how and when recognition will be practiced.  Why not start with a fun survey?

 You’ve gotten your program underway with the above steps. Check in on our next post to get some tips on implementation of your program.  

 

 

 

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Warm Chair Attrition?

Warm Chair Attrition?

It’s a world of computers and internet access, at home and at work. The temptation is there to take that quick Facebook break, maybe even during work hours?

Lately it doesn’t seem to matter if you reduce effort a little, like your coworkers gossiping in the coffee room. You need some coffee, right?

There were several people missing in the last project meeting. It was kind of hard to get anything done. You wonder if it’s worth going to the next one…

Have you had experience with any of these situations? If so, you are in danger of coming down with warm chair attrition. You and your workplace need some recognition therapy.

Recognition therapy starts with paying attention to what is happening around you. What are the behaviors that make your job, your business, your workplace, successful and a great place to work? How might those behaviors be encouraged? Research shows that behavior that is noticed and positively reinforced is likely to be repeated. Employers, this is why having a recognition program in the workplace is becoming an effective motivator and a way to communicate appreciation. Employees, a recognition program can help you focus on specific tasks and behaviors that make being on the job happier and more productive.

Need help developing a recognition program for your workplace? Check our next blog post for some timely ideas.

 

 

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Personal, Public, Permanent

Personal, Public, Permanent

I’m talking to you, the person reading this. You are a great reader! You have sought out something new to learn and are exercising your mind. You have already risen above the average by taking time out of your day to read, an activity most people DON’T DO. I’m going to recognize you and your unusual dedication to intellectual growth by presenting you with a beautiful award, a lasting reminder of this time,  naming you and your accomplishment, and we’re going to do it in public where others will see that I value your effort!

 No, sorry, I’m not really going to do that, but wasn’t it starting to feel good? It’s true that a lot of people don’t read, and you do. I noticed and told you so. Research bears out that the power of recognition will accomplish several things. It will increase the likelihood of you reading again. It will show others that this kind of activity is valued. It will increase the likelihood of others reading and following your example.  

 Now, apply the same principles to any group of professionals whose performance matters greatly to you – those teachers trusted with the education of your children, those medical specialists taking care of your health, those employees working in your business. Notice what they do, name what you value, make it personal, public and permanent. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s good business!

 Coming  up next time: have you hear the term “warm chair attrition”? If it sounds like a new disease to watch out for, you are right!

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A Powerful Moment

A Powerful Moment

We all witnessed it last week. As Vice-President Joe Biden had the Presidential Medal of Freedom hung around his neck, he was overcome with emotion. It was a stunningly satisfying moment for our country when we saw a humble, deserving servant receive a physical symbol of appreciation. As Joe Biden put it “it came from his heart” (the President) and that gave it great meaning to him.  A physical symbol has great power to express what words alone may not always convey.

 Given its power to influence, what should we keep in mind about recognition? Foremost is the fact that recognition defines behavior that we appreciate and want to see repeated. In the workplace, it is a motivator high on the list, along with salary and job security. Recognition bolsters self-esteem and job satisfaction because it is tangible proof that work has been noticed and appreciated. Just as valuable in other areas of life, personal recognition given to family and friends goes a long way in building relationships and encouraging people who are important to us. 

Similar to the detailed and finely crafted Presidential Medal of Freedom, the awards produced at Apple Awards are of quality materials, made to last, and can be specifically personalized to convey those messages of appreciation. Whether in the business world or other professional arena, the power of recognition is available to all and has well documented positive results. How will you use that power, maybe even today, in your company, your workplace, your family?

 

 

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Make It New!

Make It New!

There’s not a big difference between December 31st of any given year and the January 1st that follows and yet there is something in us that wants to recognize a chance to make things new. New is exciting! We want to be reminded that we can re-organize, we can commit again to that exercise program, we can promise to read more and watch TV less, we can aspire to be a better person in some way. And what about work, that part of our life that gets a major portion of our time? In 2017, what newness is waiting for you in the work world?

In considering this question, it doesn’t matter whether you are president, CEO, manager, team member or a self-employed company of one. It doesn’t matter if you are a new hire or a multi-year veteran. Everyone can do something toward a fresh start. Examining your ability to bring new ideas and attitudes to the workplace can make all the difference in job satisfaction for yourself and others. In the posts this month I want to suggest some thoughts for the new year.

#1 Review your reasons for working.

Is a paycheck coming at regular intervals your reason for clocking in every day? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to love work, making it worth your time in more existential ways?  Even the most routine or seemingly unimportant work can be done in a way that communicates important values like integrity, patience, timeliness, loyalty or even FUN. Here is a challenge for you from writer and workplace trainer Catherine M. Mattice. If you had to make a 20 second video about how you live out the values of your workplace, could you do it? Could you name those values? Being able to identify workplace values is the first step in applying those values to each daily task.  That conscious application can give new perspective to routine activities. For example, if great customer service means a lot to your company, the routine filing of customer records, instead of boring you, can be viewed as a challenge because it is very important the next time that record is needed. 

 #2 Review your growth goals.

Never stop growing – of course I’m talking about wisdom, intellect, and skills, not pant size. Growing is the process of bringing in the new. Learn something new by reading a book related to your job description or searching online for free articles on a relevant subject. Ask coworkers for ideas that have interested them. If time permits, volunteer to work in a completely different environment doing something you’ve never done before. Perhaps there are opportunities at your workplace to “shadow” or work with a mentor in a related department. I’m helping my daughter with a new diet and am learning a wealth of information to write and talk about. In addition to helping me as a writer and a health educator, it’s given me a different direction in my own eating lifestyle. I’m growing and it gives me a mental boost that is empowering.

 #3 Review your relationships.

Especially at work, relationships can make or break our happiness and desire to contribute. It takes time and effort to build good relationships with coworkers. Are there coworkers that you would like to know better, or how about the one that annoys you? Make a list and arrange to have a work break or lunch with them and talk. Being approachable, appreciative, and aware of opportunities for interaction can add to your own sense of satisfaction with the workplace as well as encouraging others to do the same. People who like each other, or at least understand each other, work better together, give appropriate feedback to each other and accomplish more.  Having a team spirit at work makes it less likely that bullying and aggressively competitive behavior will occur.  

 At Apple Awards, we hope that the year ahead has something new for you, whether it be a new job, or a new and fresh attitude toward the job you already have. Enjoy 2017 at your work!

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Making the Friendly Skies Friendlier

Making the Friendly Skies Friendlier

Let’s face it. When we travel for the holidays in higher numbers than ever, there are going to be challenges.

AAA projects that 103 million people are in motion this year-end holiday season. Most of them drive, 93.6 million , but 6 million fly. Having just made a journey that took about 12 hours and traversed three airports I am familiar with some of those challenges – cancelled flights, delayed flights, crowded flights, all three on one trip. How easy it is to become impatient and critical and fail to consider the near miraculous travel we experience in this country. Even though this was a difficult trip, the major airline I used has a record of 86% of its flights being on time, the best in the industry.

 A few things to consider:

- What happens to your own schedule when you are too ill to meet obligations? Cancellations have to occur. But, you say, airlines have multiple people to call on. However, the logistics of having those people in the right place at the right time are pretty complex.  I don’t know why my fully booked flight was cancelled but I’m sure the airline considered the effect on that many people and weighted their decision accordingly.

 - What happens when equipment suddenly does not work or is unsafe? AAA recorded 320 million rescues in 2015 for motorists with dead batteries, empty fuel tanks and other happenings. That number has gone up this year. For an airline, it’s always a challenge to handle an unexpected repair, or an extra fuel stop, but aren’t we glad that they do? A plane and crew that had just flown from Paris, France and experienced that extra fuel stop making them 2 hours behind schedule, took me to Seattle last night. I heard a lot of complaints, but knowing the back story really gave me compassion for those giving service under an adverse situation.

 -What happens when a weather event suddenly creates a crisis situation in your travel plan? I think of motorists stranded on highways for extended periods of time, of accidents caused by slippery roads or low visibility. When there is no one who is responsible or to blame for these scenarios, all we are left with is the ability to control our own reactions and to help others if we can. 

 If you find yourself traveling this holiday, whether on the highway, in the air, or on the rail you will probably have an opportunity to exercise compassion and practice gratitude. In this day of common rudeness, “road rage” and other extreme and dangerous behaviors, isn’t it a relief to be treated with kindness and grace when traveling? Apple Awards stands behind the culture of kindness this season, encouraging us all to be thankful and gracious to those who travel with us and those who serve us in the travel industries.

 Statistics from www.newsroom.aaa.com/category/travel and www.forbes.com/sites/grantmartin/2016/11/14/the-best-and-worst-airlines-for-holiday-travel-2016/#475cab982c9d

 

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Christmas Wisdom

Christmas Wisdom

December has a holiday that is celebrated around the world – Christmas. Christmas is all about recognition. Maybe you have a box full of cards and letters that were received at Christmas the year before so that you can remember to recognize the thoughtfulness of people who greeted you. Maybe you have a list of people who you intend to recognize with a gift. These customs are so common that many are tempted to think that Christmas is a marketing scheme to sell everything from cards, trees, decorations, candy, and jewelry to… well, everything. It’s all about putting businesses “in the black” (Black Friday) and sometimes ends up putting people in debt and depression.

 Want to put some love and kindness, along with recognition into your Christmas customs?  Let’s go back to the origin of this giving and see if the Christmas spirit has anything to do with marketing…

 The story is found in the Bible, the book written by Matthew and it goes like this…

 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory – this was during Herod’s kingship – a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, “Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We’re on a pilgrimage to worship him.”

 When word of their inquiry got to Herod, he was terrified – and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well. Herod lost no time. He gathered all the high priests and religious scholars in the city together and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

 They told him, “Bethlehem, Judah territory. The prophet Micah wrote it plainly:

                ‘It’s you, Bethlehem, in Judah’s land, no longer bringing up the rear.

                From you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule my people, my Israel.’ “

 Herod then arranged a secret meeting with the scholars from the East. Pretending to be as devout as they were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birth-announcement star appeared. Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem, and said, “Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned. As soon as you find him, send word and I’ll join you at once in your worship.”

 Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!

 They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they knelt and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.

 In a dream they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country.  (from the Message Bible)

Tradition has added details to this story that may or may not be accurate. We don’t know if these visitors were kings or even if there were three of them. They arrived after the birth of Jesus and came from a distance so they didn’t find him in a stable. But they found him and they recognized him as a king with gifts that were valuable and designed for royalty.  For more of the legends surrounding these scholars visit www.whychristmas.com/story/wisemen.shtml  A good explanation of the spiritual side of the story can be found here www.bible.org/seriespage/3-visit-wise-men-matthew-21-12

 These travelers went to a great deal of trouble to recognize Jesus as a king. Time, effort and cost were evidenced in their travel and the gifts they gave, and we can use their example to recognize others in meaningful ways.

 Give with the right motive, not out of seasonal obligation.

Give with intent and thoughtfulness, as evidence that you value the recipient.

Give the best you can give. 

Give the gift of time, and presence – not only material things.

Give with excitement and enjoyment.

 Following these suggestions might result in doing less shopping but you might find that you have a more peaceful holiday that way. Maybe that’s why those original visitors were called “wise men”. What do you think?

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Caregiving: Caring Enough to Give

Caregiving: Caring Enough to Give

“A 2015 study by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and the American Association of Retired Persons revealed an estimated 39.8 million adults in the United States have provided unpaid care to an adult or child.” (from Healthy Living, November/December 2016 p.6)

 Does this strike a chord for you? Have you been a caregiver or a recipient of care? If so you are part of a growing sector of the population getting a lot of attention, but needing even more. It is estimated that 90% of long term care is provided by unpaid caregivers, amounting to $375 billion in value. Most of this care is provided by a family member.

 Who is this typical caregiver? Statistically, she is a woman, although about 40% are male. She has some college experience and is probably still working a job in addition to caregiving. She spends over 20 hours per week helping her Mom.  She is not a medical professional but may have been trained to do complex tasks like injections, colostomy care, and tube feedings. She commonly helps with activities of daily living, meal preparation, housework, shopping and errands. She coordinates medical appointments. 

Caregiving is a job with high demands physically, emotionally and financially.  Physically, 67% of caregivers say they put off going to the doctor themselves, putting their families’ needs ahead of their own. Fifty one percent feel they do not have time to take care of themselves and forty nine percent are too tired. Emotionally, 47 – 70% have clinically significant signs of depression. Financially, 47% of working caregivers say they have used up all or most of their savings, 41% work fewer hours than they would ordinarily, 30% take leave to give care and 11% quit their jobs. Half of those who quit say that their employers were not flexible enough to allow them to give the needed care.

A 2004 report estimated that 21% of households in the U.S. were affected by the need for caregiving, although that number has increased heavily with an aging population. I have had short term experience giving care to my mother but have watched other families deal with much more. My cousin helped care for her mother who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. A few years later she cared for her youngest daughter as she underwent major surgery and treatment for breast cancer. Several years later she cared for her older daughter who also had cancer and died during treatment. Now my cousin is caring for her sister who has cancer.  She has carried a heavier load than the typical caregiver. She and her family are definitely examples of those who care enough to give.

 November is National Family Caregivers month. About half of caregivers receive some help from another family member but a third of them get no help at all. Chances are you know one of these people. This is a great time to reach out to support and encourage someone you know, in your family or community, who is giving of their time and energy.  Let them know they are appreciated.

 For more information on this topic visit:

www.nextavenue.org/who-americas-caregivers-are-and-why-it matters/

www.cdc.gov/aging/caregiving/facts.htm

www.caregiveraction.org/resources/caregiver-statistics

 

 

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Our First Year as a Birkie Sponsor!

Our First Year as a Birkie Sponsor!

Apple Awards, powered with solar energy,  is humming with the activity of printers, engraving machines, copiers, and computers. The lights are on in Dennis Smith’s office as he recalls early memories of the "Birkie" as he affectionately refers to it. Both Dennis (soon to be 55) and his wife Mary Pat (won’t tell) were born and raised in Hayward. Mary Pat’s home was on Lake Hayward where one end of the Birkie Trail empties into the small tourist town.

 As a teen back in the 70’s, Dennis volunteered to help with the skier’s bags. “We would get up early race morning, my high school buddies and I, and meet the Williamson Distributing trucks at History Land. The skiers would hand us their bags filled with coats and post-race necessities before they lined up for the start of the race. Then it was off to the finish line up at Telemark, a hand full of us riding in the back of the big trucks, packed in amongst the bags.”

 Although Dennis skied very little in those days, mostly breaking his own trail on Round Lake, he eventually joined the ranks of “those crazy skiers” on the Birkie. As he puts it, “You can imagine it was very different navigating the steep downhills and climbs of the Birkie trail. In all I have skied 5 Birkies and 2 Kortes and often volunteered at various food stations over the years. This year I will be skiing the Korte with my daughter Claire who is 16”.

 Dennis has carried his love of the outdoors and specifically the American Birkebeiner into his business, Apple Awards. For nearly 20 years they have provided some form of engraving services for the races. This year they have become a proud sponsor, as well as providing many of the awards for the races, helping with phase one of the donor recognition wall at the new start line and providing new trail markers for the entire trail. “Every one of our eight-member staff have either grown up here in Hayward and have volunteered or skied the Birkie, so we are very proud of our involvement in the race.”

 And what about the solar aspect? It’s hard to grow up in the beautiful north woods and not feel a respect for the environment. The same spirit that puts them among Birkie supporters has led Apple Awards to embrace this environmentally friendly energy source. Dennis puts it this way, “For years I have had the desire to lessen our carbon footprint and go solar. We believe sustainability is the key to success, whether in business or in life.” This fall the conditions were right for Dennis and Mary Pat to make the decision to go solar, both in their business and their home. Not long after, Next Energy Solutions from Shell Lake, Wisconsin was on the scene preparing to install solar panels on the roof of his storage buildings next to the business and nearby on the property where sun exposure would be maximum. The installation is the largest system in the Hayward area and the 58 panels are designed to deliver 16 kw of energy, enough to completely power Apple Awards.

 Since being operational on September 29, the system has been delivering on its promise, keeping the lights on at Apple Awards.  The first month’s energy demand was met with a small surplus that was sold back to the local provider Xcel Energy. Dennis is pleased with the result and is hoping for a winter with plenty of sunshine during the day and snow at night, with one restriction. “We will be hoping for sunshine, unless of course it is prematurely melting the snow on the Birkie trail!”

 

 

 

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Serving in Time of Need

Serving in Time of Need

 How do you feel about 24/7 on call work? (sounds tiring…)

How does crisis intervention and personal drama strike you? (no, no, none of that…)

Like being involved in conflict? (easy one, no.)

How about regular public speaking? (nightmare material that one…)

 If you thought the above job characteristics sounded great, you can have them all by joining the ranks of the clergy. If ever a group of people needed encouragement and appreciation, it would be this one. Fortunately, the month of October is Clergy Appreciation Month for those who intersect with pastors, ministers, priests, chaplains, missionaries and other religious workers. Ideally, these workers should be celebrated and encouraged all the time, not just at one designated time. But we do have Hallmark to thank for reminding us.

 A relatively recent celebration, Clergy Appreciation Day (second Sunday in October) and Clergy Appreciation Month was initiated by Hallmark Cards in 1992. It is of interest to the 77% of Americans who identify as Christians and are served by approximately 44,000 members of the clergy (Gallup poll 2012).

 In the article "What Pastors Wish Church Members Knew" researcher Denise George presents some of the worries and wishes that pastors gave in response to her questions. We often forget that in choosing to help people with their spiritual needs, those in the clergy do not cease to be human themselves. The problems they encounter are ones we should all recognize.

 The first is physical exhaustion due to long hours, and many interruptions. The average pastor has a 55-hour work week but is also on call 24/7.  This is hard on them but also on their spouses and children who are often called on to be second in line for attention. Pastors care about their parishioners, considering them “family” in many cases, and when they have even a small group under their care they are subject to “caretaker fatigue”.

 Another worry is spiritual dryness, when they are supposed to be an endless well of spiritual comfort and wisdom. Long hours and physical exhaustion make it pretty hard to recharge their own personal spiritual batteries. This quote from Lance Witt in “Confessions of a Driven Pastor” sums up the reality for many of the clergy;

“I know what it is to feed others while neglecting to feed myself. It is no longer safe to assume that people in ministry have healthy souls…”

 The last concern brought out in the research was that of stress and deep discouragement. It is usually in times of distress that people call on the clergy for spiritual help. It’s when a loved one dies, or is seriously injured or sick, it’s when finances fail and fear strikes, it’s when people are challenged or in danger that they share these emotional loads and those in ministry who respond with compassion share the stress. Pastors also receive more than their share of criticism and almost daily are involved with conflict of some kind which can be very discouraging. 

 At Apple Awards we care about and appreciate those groups of people who serve our society and work to make it strong. Do you have a pastor, priest or ministry worker who comes to mind as you read this? Now, in October and every chance you get, thank them and offer your encouragement and support.

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When there's a storm...

When there's a storm...

Does it seem to you that our news reports these days consist of one tragedy or crisis after another? For every disaster you see portrayed there is a special group of people who are intimately and personally involved. They are called first responders. A great definition of a first responder, from a police officer, is “they’re the people you seeing running in when everyone else is running out”. (click her to read the whole article) First responders, for the most part, tolerate high stress, life endangerment, low financial reward and little recognition for their service. They do their jobs because they have a personal commitment to serving others.

The subject of first responders is on my mind because of our recent natural disaster, Hurricane Matthew. I sat in the path of the storm in Jacksonville, Florida and watched as people were evacuated, rescued from flood waters, and transported to shelters. One of my family members remarked that the hurricane had a positive effect on people. They began to unite around the issues of greatest importance, preserving life and serving each other.  As part of the Apple Award family I naturally began to wonder how we are recognizing these efforts of service, especially from first responders.

Ten years ago (2006) a National First Responders Appreciation Day was proposed but still has not become official, mostly because of the political process needed to establish it. More recently the movement was given new life when Andrew Collier, brother of the police officer killed in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, started a petition calling for the day to be established. Although it is said that 94% of the population believe first responders deserve more recognition for their work, only 32% have actually done something to support that belief. Most people do not know what they can do to lend support. Well, here is one way of acting – sign the petition.

 I don’t know how we came to have Administrative Assistant Day, National Boss Appreciation Day and others, but I certainly question why we do not have a National First Responders Appreciation Day. We all have friends or family members in professions such as firefighting, police work, EMT/paramedic work, disaster agencies, and the military who deserve recognition. Some states have passed bills, Colorado being the first, followed by Oregon, Wisconsin and Illinois that designate September 27 as the official day of recognition. The petition for a national day instituted by Congress and the President needs 100,000 signatures and support is mounting thanks to the website www.firstrespondersday.org. The most recent number I could find was 67,297 more signatures needed. Those who wish to sign can add their names there. I added mine. There are also several Facebook pages where stories can be told and gratitude expressed.

At Apple Awards we believe in supporting and recognizing our committed first responders. We want to encourage others to do the same. How will you show your appreciation to a first responder this week? Feel free to comment on your experience of sharing with us. Be a part of the recognition culture.   

 

 

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Behavioral Science and Kindness

Behavioral Science and Kindness

You’re kidding, right? There is science behind something as changeable and un-definable as human emotions and motives? Well, yes and no.

 Any time something can be observed and quantified, science can help us learn about it. Anytime behaviors can be connected repeatedly with consequences, conclusions can be drawn that help us choose our behavior. Observations and conclusions are science. They are also called common sense. Let’s look at kindness and see one way in which it has been studied.

This particular study was done in 1990 and was a follow-up of earlier research into the characteristics that create long lasting relationships. As couples were observed interacting they fell into two groups, those displaying kindness and generosity (they called them masters), and those displaying criticism, contempt and hostility (disasters). More details on this interesting study can be found in this original article.

Have you ever excitedly called for someone to come and see something you found interesting or important? You were asking for attention in hopes that someone would respond, respect your request and give some feedback. Watching these “bids for attention” between couples, researchers noted that those that were successful and happy in their long term relationships responded to bids 87% of the time. Those in uncomfortable, unhappy, or failing relationships responded 33% of the time. And while this may seem self-explanatory, they observed further that

 “there’s a habit of mind that the masters have, which is this; they are scanning the social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully.”

 It turns out, there are two ways to view this trait of kindness. Is it a genetic aspect of personality that some are born with and others aren’t? This may be part of the answer. It could also be that the practice of kindness is like a muscle which “can be exercised and developed”.  What happens when we don’t feel like responding to other people’s bids for attention? This is where generosity comes in – being generous enables us to be kind and to respect other’s requests, to give our time and attention.

We often think of benefits of kindness as belonging only to the receiver, but science comes in again and shows there are many benefits for the giver of kindness as well. The research is there! These benefits include increase in positive mood, more relationship satisfaction, reduced social avoidance behaviors, improved physical health, and reduced stress. In addition to performing acts of kindness, research shows that witnessing acts of kindness done by others, and remembering past acts of kindness also affect us positively. A great place to read about this research and to find stories of kindness is the Random Acts of Kindness website. You can even join them and become a RAKtivist (Random Act of Kindness activist).

Apple Awards is a business that exists to encourage the expression of appreciation and kindness and we have been busy thinking of ways of doing that, and people who deserve to be recognized. The next time an attack of gratitude hits you, we’d like to hear how we could help you express it. Let us partner with you in the culture of appreciation.

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Autumn Is Apple Time

Autumn Is Apple Time

It’s autumn. It’s the season for one of our favorite fall foods and if you’re thinking pumpkin latte, give it another thought. It’s the apple. As you might guess, here at Apple Awards we are fans of the apple in all its various forms and this is the time of year when apples provide not only enjoyable eating experiences but also enjoyable family outings. It might be time for your family to take a trip to an Apple Festival, or maybe even to an orchard to do a little picking.

Because the tree requires a cool, dormant period, apples are naturally a more northern fruit, but since they grow well in zones 3-8, they grow within traveling distance of most of our country. There are also many varieties of apples that ripen at different times so from early September until late October harvests will be occurring and Apple Festivals, parades and cooking contests abound. Many venues have apples to pick, activities for children and adults, food to sample, and interesting crafts and vendors. And absolutely nothing beats the flavor and fun of biting into that apple that you’ve just pulled off the tree yourself.

Finding that special apple venue is as easy as clicking on this address www.pickyourown.org/applefestivals.php. Close to Apple Awards in the mid-west, for instance, is the Bayfield Apple Festival in Bayfield, Wisconsin. It’s been called one of the 10 Best Harvest Festivals in the nation in 2015 by USA TODAY. This year it’s a three-day event, October 7, 8, and 9 from 10 am to 5 pm. The tempering influence of Lake Superior creates a climate perfect for certain varieties of apples and the picturesque farms, rolling hills with colorful trees and views of the lake are beautiful and calming. There are opportunities to sample everything apple including pies, cobblers, cakes, ciders, butters and even bratwurst and mustard! Fifteen local orchards are participating with apples for sale and orchard tours.

Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala, MacIntosh, Rome, Black Gilliflower, Honeycrisp, Thompkins King, Sweet Tango, Pink Lady – some you’ve heard of and probably some you haven’t… go to an apple festival this fall for an educational, memorable and fun family activity. And don't forget, for other purposes, Apple Awards has a variety of stunning apples ready for picking too. C'mon, apple up!

 

 

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Ready for School?

Ready for School?

 In August most schools start the new educational year. Students move from one institution, the family, to another, their school and a new class experience. Some are moving from home to middle school for the first time, or to high school, or perhaps as an exchange student, to school in an entirely different country. Some students are encountering a new freedom and set of responsibilities as they start college or university. In what ways do they become prepared for meeting new challenges head on?

 The place of preparation for most is called The Family. Surprised? You should not be. The family is an institution designed for the support and nurture of humanity. When it’s working well, it produces creative, responsible adults with passion for life and a sense of purpose. But, like other institutions, it needs to be working well or it becomes toxic.

 Type “recognition culture” into your search bar and you will get countless ideas about employee engagement and ROI (return on investment).  Would it be beneficial to apply some of these concepts to the family? Aren’t our families where we invest a great deal of time, money, “blood, sweat and tears”? What about a return on that investment? Perhaps the family should be the very first place we apply “engagement” principles. Some great information on how engagement looks in practice can be found in the post " Ten Ways to Create an Employee Engagement Culture ". Let’s look at a few of those principles and see if they don’t have great bearing on healthy families as well as healthy businesses.

 The first point of engagement is that of having a vision. Just like businesses, strong families usually have a vision that, if they think it through, can be stated. It might be a faith statement. It might be a focus on social welfare or on service to the community or of survival under adverse circumstances. A strong family vision that all family members can attach to creates commitment and loyalty. Does your family have a commitment to education and respect for what goes on at school?

 Another principle is that of consistent communication. Time spent being together and communicating is another characteristic of a healthy family. The dinner table (conference table), the kitchen (boardroom), the “one on one” times (in the boss’s office) are where vital information about the family is shared. Plans and goals that the family is making and progress on those plans should be shared in an age appropriate way.  We feel valued when family members share information with us. Are your children encouraged to share what goes on at school? Do you and your child’s teacher communicate well, and do you know who their influential peers are?

A third point of engagement is that of supervisor interaction.

 “There is a lot of research that shows that employees leave organizations because of their direct supervisors. The engagement of employees is tied to the leadership of their direct supervisor. This includes how information is shared, how employees perceive equity amongst each other, and how well a supervisor demonstrates care for employees as individuals”.

In the quote above, substitute children for employees and parent for supervisor – clearly applicable to the family. How a child views their parent can carry over into the classroom. Teachers will vouch for the fact that a troubled family creates a troubled child and troubled at school.

 A final point stresses the importance of reward and recognition.

“Rewards and recognition should be integrated into the way employees are managed on a day to day basis.”

Family rewards don’t have to be trophies, or medals. They are as simple as an approving look, a smile and a hug, a sincere thank you. And what parent has not at one time or another used reward as a motivation for desired behavior? Performance and achieving good grades at school does not have to be the primary goal. Every child does something good at school every day. Find that something and recognize it.

 Here at Apple Awards we stand behind the “culture of recognition” both in business and in family.  We encourage families to work toward engagement, and the back-to-school season is a great time to evaluate how that work will be done during the coming school year.

For further information on this subject click the name of the article mentioned above or type this address in your browser.

www.youearnedit.com/blog/10-ways-to-create-an-employee-engagement-culture/

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Apples Grow Better with Sunshine and So Do We!

Apples Grow Better with Sunshine and So Do We!

  

In this era of watching one’s carbon footprint, and caring for our natural resources Apple Awards is not going to be left behind. It is an exciting time as we watch solar panels being installed that will soon be providing 100% of the electrical needs of our office.

Photovoltaics have improved tremendously in recent years and, depending on the area of the country and the electric service provider, some creative incentives are making solar a reasonable alternative. Xcel Energy, the local provider for Apple Awards, has partnered with us and our solar panels went up today! The remaining work will be completed in the next couple of weeks and our office will be powered up by the sun.

 Did you know that businesses can become certified as a “green business”?  The organization Green America, in existence since the 1980’s, lists the qualifications on its website. The requirements fall into these main parameters: 

  1. Green businesses are socially and environmentally responsible.
  2. Green businesses care for their workers.
  3. Green businesses protect their customers and clients.
  4. Green businesses improve their communities.

 

Whether certified “green” or not, businesses that adopt practices in harmony with these guidelines are to be applauded and encouraged.  It’s simply a matter of caring for the planet and the people inhabiting it.  Do you have a business that could be certified? Do you re-use or re-cycle at home? Find out more at www.greenbusinessnetwork.org .

 Meanwhile, join us as we watch the solar installation unfold and become a reality. Apple Awards is a fan of going “green”. (And by the way… check out our green crystal or aluminum apples for another good way to go green).

 

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