What a Nice Surprise


Wow! What a nice surprise! My Director of Nursing’s world-famous muffins appeared on my desk again after a challenging week. After finishing the budget, a Starbucks gift card showed up in my monthly report. How sweet, a hand-made thank you note telling me that a donation has been made to my favorite charity to celebrate my 1st anniversary with the company.

Surprise!  The element of the unexpected!  Your secret way to a happier, healthier workplace.

Think back to the last time you were surprised in a positive way. Made you smile, didn’t it? Deepened your relationship with the surpriser, I trust. A little unexpected, thoughtful gesture goes a long way in building connections.

Add a little surprise to company celebrations and staff will look forward to the next. Stick to a stale script year after year, and celebration is sure to fail.

“For fifty years it’s been the same old turkey served cold with a long, boring awards program. Can you please just mail me my award along with the money you saved on the turkey?” Do your organization’s celebrations need a little makeover?

Take advantage of the “Got Talent” craze and host a little talent show at your next Awards Banquet.  What could be better than watching your Administrator try to hit the high notes of an Ed Sheeran hit? Okay, maybe lots of things, but still memorable and engaging.  Attendance is guaranteed to rise.

The National Speaker Association of Colorado transformed their stale President’s Awards Banquet by trading it in for “Margaritas in the Mountains” at the home of an admired member who has a cool house with a view.  The “Pretty Please come to the President’s Dinner” calling committee could finally be dissolved… for everyone wanted to come.

To make the biggest impact when celebrating individual accomplishments or milestones surprise them with what’s high on their joy list. Personalize the surprise! Do a little detective work! Check with family, friends, and coworkers to make sure you’re on target. Make it special by involving a son or daughter, add their favorite foods, including music they love.

Surprise with movie tickets to the latest comedy if you know funny movies are their favorite.  Workplace anxiety will be replaced by glee when they find the hidden Butterfinger, their all-time favorite candy bar, in their computer bag.

A favorite surprise I use often is the personalized photo mug. I captured a beautiful photo from a friend’s daughter’s wedding off of Facebook, uploaded it to Shutterfly (during a 50% off sale) for mugging. I waited for just the right meeting at a condo in the mountains where I would be serving the coffee. It took my friend Debra twenty minutes to realize that she was drinking from a mug with that wedding photo on it.  At that point she let out a little scream, “this photo is from Sarah’s wedding!” “The nerve of the wedding photographer to use this photo for promotional purposes without asking permission.” Surprise, maybe it didn’t happen that way.

Along with mugs, put photos on t-shirts, bags, and other assorted items to remember special occasions. Then think of ways to cleverly surprise your honorees. I have lured many waiters and waitresses into my coffee mug surprise plots over the years.

Post-It Parties

Post-its are an easy, fast, positive way to surprise.

Start early. When u wake up earlier than your partner, stick a post-it on the mirror.   “Good Morning, Gorgeous!”  Who knows what good things that could lead to!

Hide post-its in a lunch box, a purse or briefcase with a fun saying, “thinking of you” or “how about dinner, gorgeous?”

Post in their workspace, locker, or on their car. Use post-its to recognize work anniversaries, the completion of a big project, birthdays or to show a little staff appreciation.  One good way to execute is when the honoree goes to lunch.  At that time, the post-it commander says, “here’s your post-it pad and a colorful pen, you have 3 minutes to write as many NICE things as you possibly can and start posting.

Thanks for being always being so positive, Post! Thanks for laughing at my jokes, Post! Thanks for covering your mouth when u sneeze. Post! Thanks for not sharing your political views in the office, Post! For making me feel smarter than I really am. Post! For bailing me out of jail. Post, post, post, post.   

The honoree comes back to the office to find their workspace covered in post-its! Warm feelings abound! I’m sure the post-its will be moved to a feel-good file to be read again on a stormy day.

It’s cheap, it’s easy and it doesn’t take a lot of time… and it’s sure to leave a lasting impression.

More Ideas

Surprise and Delight with a magician, masseuse, or an ice cream truck.

Break-up meeting madness with a quick round of Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, or the Hokey pokey. Sounds ridiculous and yet it could be the creative shift that the meeting so desperately needs. Lighten up any meeting with kid-snacks or suckers. Surprise on occasion with the healthy treat of the week.

Thoughtful surprises make recognition so much more fun and engaging.  It’s a wonderful way to show you care and just may help you retain your top talent.

So catch people doing something right, refresh your meetings and celebrations, surprise and delight with a positive dose of the unexpected, and your reward will be a happier, healthier more engaged workplace. What a nice surprise!

Written by:

Scott Friedman

Scott Friedman, CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) and former President of the National Speakers Association (NSA), is an internationally sought after professional speaker and author. As a motivational humorist, Scott inspires and entertains with engaging, interactive, and content-rich programs. Scott’s main areas of expertise are employee innovation & engagement, customer experience, and creating a happier, more connected workplace and life.

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