Are you in need of a life-changing, uplifting activity to utilize with your team? Are you ready for a team-building exercise that will have you all asking, “How has no one ever done this before?” At Field Verified, we believe we have what you are looking for, and we call it “The Field Verified Self-Portrait.” What is this self-portrait? In short, it is a motivational tool we use to measure our progress, growth, or new confidence as a company. It is also an opportunity to recognize talent, growth, and effort as well as give praise to individual team members.
How did we develop this exercise? The journey towards its development really began a decade ago when I was at a point in my life where I was seeing a need for growing financial resources to support the needs of my growing family. I had felt this looming over me for a couple of years and had been working diligently to be more productive and efficient at my job. I wanted to be so valuable to my employer that when I asked for a raise, it wouldn’t be a question as to whether or not I was getting a raise, but rather a question of how much of a raise I would be getting. Surely it was being noticed that I was working longer hours, taking on the assignments that no one else would, traveling more, and implementing efficiencies in our work product—right? I silently assumed that it was and that the raise would be coming my way, while simultaneously rarely, if ever, receiving any external praise or affirmation for my efforts.
The reality of my situation was that my steady growth and increased effort was not being acknowledged by my employers or supervisors. When I reached the point of asking for the raise that I was sure I deserved, I was crushed by the harsh truth that my contributions and improvements were not being measured at all.
Have you ever been in the place that I was just a few years ago? If we are being honest with ourselves, we have all been there at some time in our lives because this malady of unrecognized growth has plagued us since we were children. The age-old tradition of marking a child’s height against a wall is the perfect case study of our professional growth. When we mark the child’s growth on the wall, two things happen:
- The adult marking the height is surprised at how much growth has occurred since the last time they measured growth.
- The child seeing the growth is immediately proud of the distance between the new mark and the previous ones.
While these two results are inevitable and easily recognizable, there is usually one more effect that the new mark has on the adult who placed it there, and that effect is this: regret. It is regret for how long it has been since they last measured the growth of the child. It is regret that they did not notice the growth until they were measuring it again. It is regret that they had even warned the child that growth probably hadn’t occurred. The parallels between this case study and the recognition of growth in the corporate world are undeniable.
Why Do We Wait So Long to Measure Growth?
At Field Verified, we weren’t measuring growth at all. When, really if, we did, it happened incidentally when random praise was doled out for someone’s growth in their skills, their professionalism, or their personal life. Recognition wasn’t consistent or intentional—there was no schedule or purpose. We read and believed the books that taught the value of truly knowing and intentionally recognizing our co-workers as individuals. Yet in all of this, we found no instruction manual or how-to guide for what we knew we needed to accomplish. So with our builder spirit, we decided to make our own, and out of that was born this self-portrait exercise to help show the value of a person to themselves and to recognize growth in all aspects of that person’s life. It immediately led to happier work days and a more fulfilling work life!
The picture below is my self-portrait, hung by my desk at home. I’m so proud of the effort that others recognized, the progress they valued, and even the funny but loving reminders, like the one note that reads, “Takes criticism (better).”
Here’s How it Works
Every six months, we each put up a blank sheet with our little construction worker on it. The “subject” of the self-portrait is also the “artist.” The others in attendance are peers and leaders. Here’s how it works:
- The artist starts by drawing their face, name, and any other details they want to include on the poster.
- A leader then explains that understanding our own value and growth increases our level of happiness, but progress can be so hard to recognize when we work with the same people in the same environment every day. (Just like when we are shocked to see our child’s growth when we mark their height on the wall.)
- The peers and leaders, including the artist, reflect on the artist’s growth as an individual, new skills, new confidence, as well as their accomplishments at home and at work.
- Take 5-7 minutes to write all of these on individual post-it notes. (You’ll want to play some music during this time, trust me.)
- Everyone takes turns (except the artist, who goes last) putting a post-it on the wall and saying what they wrote out loud. There is no need to explain unless there is more praise to give than the space on a post-it allows.
- The artist goes last and puts all of their own post-its up.
CAUTION! There are usually some tears welling up for someone at this point. Don’t be afraid of the vulnerability of tears of joy and gratitude at unexpectedly feeling valued and seen.
As a company, we have seen our trust in each other increase through this exercise. It has become more natural and easier to give praise, take advice, and even set goals. We are not longer waiting until an annual performance review to talk about our future or suffering from anonymity or lack of appreciation.
I challenge you to try this with your team. There is no bad outcome. If you’re concerned about buy-in, share this post and our other Linkedin posts that give insight into the value of being all-in for the Field Verified Self-Portrait.
Bringing It Home
Having seen the effects of this exercise at work, I did this exercise at home with my wife and four children. We actually did it at my wife’s request. I don’t know whether she was more interested in the affirmation we would each receive or in the chance to give praise to and love on our children, both of which are hard to come by with our busy schedules. Either way, she saw the importance of being intentional about this with our children.
It is no different at work. In fact, it is even busier, and praise and recognition are even more needed! Here is your first post-it to put on your self-portrait: Stepping up to be a real leader and lift those around me.
We will only get better at this exercise by doing it more, so dive in!
Video Introduction to the Self-Portrait Process