Green and white Winners’ Circle cards can be found wallpapered to walls across The Connor Group. They’re hung up in our leasing offices, maintenance shops and even stacked neatly in our Central Support Offices. This reward and recognition staple is a vital part of Connor Group culture.
While our associates are familiar with filling out cards and recognizing their fellow peers for going above and beyond, we wanted to share the deeper history behind them. Recently, managing partner Larry Connor shared the origin of the company’s Winners’ Circle card tradition.
Where did the Winners’ Circle card idea start?
In the 1980s, in Lincoln, Nebraska, partner Roger Lipson and I attended a leadership summit held by Selection Research, Inc., founded by Don Clifton. Their fundamental belief was that the right people, with the right personality traits who were philosophically aligned, were the key to success. They believed how people were managed and motivated mattered.
While we were at the summit, we noticed people within this company had these “lemon drops.” People could send a lemon drop to anyone within the organization to reward and recognize individuals for doing a great job. At the time, I was running a computer company and I had no money. So I thought this idea was brilliant. It cost next to nothing (which was great because I had no budget), and it was personalized to the individual.
Where did the “Winners’ Circle” name come from?
Most people want to be a winner. So I came up with the “We believe you are a winner because…” and put it right on the card. What’s also great about the cards is anyone can send a Winners’ Circle card to anyone. This reward and recognition is from the bottom-up, top-down and across. I’ve received cards from associates in sales, service, accounting, recruiting – you name it. And I try to do the same. But any human feels gratitude and positive feelings by receiving a card, no matter how much success or what position you’re in – whether it’s the front lines or the CEO.
What’s the most impactful card you’ve received?
When our associates earned $1.6 million in bonuses at the height of the pandemic for doing a great job and working on the front lines, I received nearly 100 cards. I was taken aback by the outpouring of positive reinforcement I received.
We expect a lot of ourselves and others across our organization. I believe reward and recognition in the form of a Winners’ Circle card are vital to our culture and long-term success.