olympic memories: appreciation in the air

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2002 Olympic Games

The ten-year anniversary of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City is being celebrated today. I have many great memories of the 2002 Winter Olympics. I lived in Salt Lake at the time of the Olympics and enjoyed the excitement, energy and camaraderie the games brought to the city. Because of my work, I was fortunate enough to meet a few athletes, attend some of the sporting events, and even see victory medals presented to winning athletes at the downtown Medals Plaza.

Interestingly, one of my most memorable Olympic experiences didn’t begin in Salt Lake City. I had just wrapped up a business trip and after boarding my flight at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, bound for my then-hometown of Salt Lake City, UT, I started searching for my seat. The plane was not very crowded so the flight attendant told me I could sit anywhere I wanted. Since I’m 6’4”, I moved back in the plane, hoping to find a spot with some extra leg room near an emergency exit.

When I got to the emergency exit row, I took the aisle seat next to a man seated by the window. I didn’t get a good look at the man when I sat down because he was wearing a baseball cap. He said hello as I sat and he looked familiar, but I couldn’t put a name with the face. After an hour or so in the air, I finally realized who was sitting next to me.  I turned to him and asked, “Aren’t you Mitt Romney?”

He answered affirmatively and I asked him what he had been doing in Chicago. He told me he had been talking to some companies about sponsorship opportunities for the 2002 Winter Olympics. At that time Mitt had recently taken the reins as President of the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee (SLOC). I told him my name and that I worked for the O.C. Tanner Recognition Company in Salt Lake City. Our company had just agreed to create and donate the gold, silver, and bronze medals for the 2002 Winter Olympics. I remember Mitt saying how grateful he was that the O.C. Tanner Company had chosen to support the Olympics. O.C. Tanner has continued to support the U.S. Olympic Athletes each Games and it’s been a continuing source of pride to be involved in these momentous occasions.

During the rest of the flight we talked about the upcoming Olympics and our families. We were both surprised to learn that we each had five sons. I told Mitt that my oldest son and I had started collecting Olympics pins. As the plane landed, Mitt asked me for my business card. Two weeks later I received a small package in the mail which included a handwritten note and two Olympic pins. The package was from Mitt Romney. In the note he thanked me for the conversation on the plane and gifted me two special “SLOC President” Olympic pins for our pin collection.

The experience came full cirle for me last month when one media outlet asked the Republican presidential candidates their 2012 resolutions. As a past president of Recognition Professionals International (RPI) and a consultant in the recognition industry, my ears perked up when I heard the New Year’s resolution of Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney.

He said, “This coming year I will endeavor to say thank you more often. Appreciation is an underappreciated quality and too often I think I get a lot of help from folks and I nod my head or move on without stopping and saying thank you, so I want to be more appreciative.”

For the past 18 years, I’ve been working with organizations to help them create employee recognition programs to appreciate those who do great work. I’ve encouraged managers to say thanks and do it a way that is meaningful. I agree with Mitt’s statement that, “Appreciation is an underappreciated quality.”

Thanks Mitt, for the pins, and for the great Olympic games. And I really hope you keep that “Appreciation” resolution. I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t appreciate a little appreciation. In the spirit of resolutions, I’d challenge all of us to look for opportunities to show more appreciation this year!  I think Dale Carnegie said it best: “In our interpersonal relations we should never forget that all our associates are human beings and hunger for appreciation.  It is the legal tender that all souls enjoy.”

Do you have any memories of the 2002 Olympic Games? What are your appreciation resolutions?

By greg boswell
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