Written by Alumni Board Member Greg Currey who served in San Jose ’09-’11
I love the leadership compass. If I tell fellow City Year alum “I’m a southeast” they’ll know exactly what I mean. City Year has changed the way I talk about leadership. A good leader can lead with actions, with ideas, with details, or with feelings. But I’ve also learned from City Year that a great organization leads with praise.
We all enjoy praise. There’s something great about having someone tell you that you did well at the end of a difficult day. But as an organization, City Year uses praise not just to boost morale and recognize achievement, but also to encourage hard work and innovation.
City Year’s very public, frequent, and multi-directional system of recognition gives its corps and staff a very clear message: “this is what your peers, supervisors, and organization values.” By praising people publicly and always giving reasons for the praise, ambitious corps members learn what they can do to get noticed. When we see our peers being recognized, we feel glad for them, but we also feel an urge to earn what they have just been given.
This process encourages corps members to go above and beyond, thinking of new ideas they can earn a note in their appreciation bag, or be celebrated during a Community Day. Of course, institutional praise is not the only thing that makes City Year members serve with all their heart: they also carry a passion for their work, and a desire to provide excellent service for the sake of their students and those they serve. But frequent praise is part of the process that encourages staff and corps to take on even more than their daily tasks, and really do something great. Leading with praise changed my life, and it is something that I, as a City Year alumni, will take with me wherever I go.