Activity: The Writing's on the Wall
To help student leaders:
- understand what meaningful recognition looks like
- identify ways they can implement meaningful recognition within their groups and in other organizations
Ideal for a group of 6–10 (no more than 15) high school or college students in the classroom or campus clubs and associations. May also be used in professional work settings, e.g., executive boards or leadership teams that work together regularly.
Materials and Equipment
- Sticky flipchart paper (or tape and regular paper)
Enough tables to seat 3–4 participants each in small groups. Ample space for participants to spread out with markers and paper to draw on. Also, enough space to navigate around the room and for everyone to have access to the wall.
Explain the specifics of the Practice Encourage the Heart and facilitate a brief discussion about the importance of recognizing contributions, celebrating the values and victories, and why it's important that recognition is delivered in a personalized way.
- Hand out a list that contains the core values of the organization or team and have each student pick his or her favorite one. This activity can also be done by selecting key words/phrases from the organization’s or team’s mission statement.
- Distribute one sheet of paper to each student. Using markers, ask everyone to write their name at the top, and beneath their name write their favorite core value. Then, ask them to draw a large empty image of a heart.
Note: These may be as creative as you like. Facilitators should create their own heart image before the activity begins to show as an example.
- When students have completed this task, have them grab their paper, a marker (or other writing instrument), and affix their sheet of paper to a blank space on the wall. Ask them to remain standing in front of their sheet until everyone in the group is ready to move on to the next step.
- Instruct students to move one position to the right. Based on the core value their fellow classmate or group member identified on the sheet in from of them, give the group 2–3 minutes to write one affirmation or piece of recognition inside the heart.
Note: As the facilitator, challenge each student to make a connection between the core value/theme listed and the affirmation they write by asking themselves this question: “What have I seen this person do to advance the core value they wrote on their sheet?”
- Continue to rotate students one space over (either clockwise or counterclockwise) at 2–3 minute intervals until they have eventually written on everyone’s sheet and are again in front of their own.
- Have students remove their sheets and go back to their seats. After giving them a few minutes to read what others wrote on their paper, follow with this series of processing questions for large-group discussion:
Reflection and Connection to the Model
- What was most difficult/easy about this task? How did you feel writing these affirmations?
- When you reviewed your own sheet, how did it feel to read the affirmations others wrote about you?
- In what way did seeing each of the core values on the sheets shape or inform the affirmations you wrote for them?
- Was there something that someone wrote on your paper that really captured some of your values? If so, how did it feel reading that? What was it?
- Were there affirmations others wrote to you that surprised or fascinated you?
- Sometimes we are inclined to be extremely self-critical or judge ourselves more harshly than others do. What if others' perceptions of us, on the whole, were a lot more positive than our perception of ourselves?
- What links do you see between the activity and the work we must do to Encourage the Heart?
- This activity connects to the Practice Encourage the Heart and specifically to Commitment 9, Recognize Contributions. Leaders must be clear about the organization's values and the values held by others in order to provide specific, meaningful examples of how members contribute to the team.
- It also connects to Commitment 10, Celebrate Values and the Victories, as participants are asked to reflect upon their personal values and the values of the organization in celebrating the contributions of team members.
- In addition, this activity provides an opportunity to emphasize the importance of personalizing recognition:
- Remind students that leaders must know and understand what's most important to individuals in order to provide recognition they will truly appreciate and that will resonate with them in a positive way. Perhaps follow up with a personal story or anecdote about recognition. Ask others to share their experiences.
- Encourage students to think about the ways they like to be recognized and brainstorm ways they can be intentional about finding out how others like to be recognized.
Rashad L. Givhan, a Certified Facilitator of The Student Leadership Challenge, serves as Assistant Director for the Community Engagement & Leadership Center at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. In his role, he is responsible for leadership education and service programs, including Emerging Leaders, a leadership development program for first-year students. A graduate of Missouri Western State University (BA) and the University of Missouri-Kansas City (MA), Rashad encourages college students to look within, embrace their truths, and to use their leadership skills to create positive social change. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category: Quick Tips and Activities