A while ago I was creeping around on Pinterest and came across a staff motivation Pin by Emily Hansen over at Hanselor the Counselor. She had the brilliant idea of creating a “Wow Book” for staff to praise and motivate each other, then pass along.
I recreated her idea, and tried it out one summer with my camp team. It was a hit!
And a few years ago I published this post, it’s been a huge hit at not only my camp but a bunch of others who have tried it so I thought it was worth revisiting.
Here’s how it went and what I found out along the way:
I bought an inexpensive spiral notebook and wrote “WOW!” on the front.
I wrote the instructions on the inside cover.
Then at a meeting I mentioned that the book might come around, told them where they could find the instructions and asked them to make sure they read them before using the book.
“Dear staff member,
When you receive this notebook read the wonderful message that someone wrote for you. Then write a note to another staff member to encourage, give a boost, or just to say how much they are appreciated.
It can be as short or as long as you like.
Remember: At the bottom of the note write, “Don’t forget to pass it on…”
Let’s celebrate the small victories because sometimes they’re the most important ones.
<3 Patti ”
I wrote the first entry, not only writing some nice words to an amazing staff member who deserved to be recognized, but also ensuring that the book would be passed on because it was someone I knew I could rely on to keep it going.
After that it was all them. Every now and then during cabin inspection Donna, the ACD and I would catch a glimpse of the book in one of the counsellor rooms so we knew is was being passed around. A few times we flipped through it and skimmed the notes, there were some really lovely, encouraging words, and it was obvious that the staff were really putting some thought into what they were writing.
And, because they’re camp staff there were of course some little doodles and drawings, colourful entries (in terms of actual colour, not language! ha!) and lots of creativity.
Some things I noticed and tips I learned that will come in handy next time.
- The staff did a fantastic job of “self-regulating” and making sure that everyone got a note.
I didn’t indicate whether they should sign their name or not, I left that to their discretion. Most of them signed their note, and what is really interesting is that when I flip back through the book, it seems like my wonderful counsellors made a concerted effort to write nice messages to people who were outside of their “friend groups”, people they didn’t get to work with that often, people they just didn’t spend a lot of time with during down time. Cool, eh?
- Almost everyone remembered to write “pass it on” at the end of their message, only one person didn’t – and interestingly enough, the book stopped once their person received it. (Now, I should note that I wasn’t totally shocked that the book stopped with this individual, they usually had to be hunted down to pass in paperwork too… but I can’t help but wonder if there had been a little reminder to “pass it on” at the end of their note would that have made a difference?)
- Lesson learned: Next time I’ll give a gentle reminder every few weeks that if someone has the book they should pass it on, or that they should return it to me and I’ll get it back in circulation. (writing notes isn’t everyone’s cup-o-tea)
- The last thing I noticed was that there weren’t as many Warm Fuzzies written that first summer.
Now there could have been a lot of things that contributed to this (one of them being that I was off my Warm Fuzzy game that summer, so I wasn’t role modelling it) but another explanation could be that between the Wow Book and the Shout Out Wall the team may have felt like they were encouraging each other enough – and they were!!
The second year I used it I had less success.
I decided to use the same book since there was still so much space left and I thought it would be cool to have this notebook filled with kind messages from years gone by. Which worked out great… at first.
Then Donna and I noticed that we hadn’t seen the book in a while, mentioned it at a meeting – no one knew where it was. So we sort of retraced its steps until we figured out which of the staff had it last, asked her about it but she wasn’t sure where it was, she figured it might have been mixed in with her stuff (which was fairly disorganized). As we were leaving on a session break, I popped by to ask her about it (at this point it was more about a lesson on accountability than the book) and she dug through her piles of stuff then determined that she *thought* she *might have* brought it home with her on the last session break to write something in it and forgot to bring it back.
The book was never to be seen again.
Which was a bummer because it had all the notes from the previous year in it too.
So while I like the idea of keeping the same book year after year, it comes with the risk that you might lose it all.
I think it will be important to add some ground rules that it doesn’t leave site (my fault, I assumed that was understood) and maybe even have some sort of board where staff can put a number or check mark next to the name of the person they’re giving it to. Although that complicates something that should be a simple act of kindness.
I don’t have all the answers, but all in all, I’d call the Wow Book a great success!
When it works, it’s awesome. People are flattered and it boosts staff moral, it’s totally worth giving it a shot.
I really like giving the staff quick/ easy/ thoughtful ways of supporting and encouraging each other, I believe it makes them better counsellors and support staff and it creates a really nice environment where they’re modelling kindness for their campers too.
AND I really like that people can flip though the book and read the nice notes people are reading to each other – maybe they’ll start to notice some positive things about a colleague they’ve been struggling to get along with. Where the Shout Out Wall is just a quick… well, shout out, and Warm Fuzzies are private (ahem, if done properly they are!! ) the wow book allows people to take an extra minute and go into a little bit of detail about why they are so “wowed” by someone. Then everyone else gets to be wowed by them too!! Win, win, win, win, win!!
Big thanks to Emily at Hanselor the Counselor for her awesome idea. She’s an elementary school counselor but a lot of her ideas and resources can be translated to work for camp too. Make sure you check out her blog, it has polka dots! FUN!!
So what sort of things do you to do express gratitude and encourage your staff?
Have you done something like a Wow Book at your camp? How did it go?
I’m always looking for new ways to keep spirits up, so tell me your all about your brilliant staff motivation ideas in the comment section, and don’t for get to follow me on FB, Twitter, and Instagram.