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Have You Been Frogged Lately? A Conversation with Sarah McVanel

May 9, 2023

This week, the Caring Support Podcast was very lucky to have a very special guest on our podcast. She is a recognition expert, professional speaker, coach, author, recovering perfectionist, and movement maker. With over 25 years of experience training, coaching, and leading teams, join us as we learn more about how recognition could change your workplace environment with Sarah McVanel from Greatness Magnified!

Can you tell us about you and your journey to becoming who you are today?

My journey to you today see me working in health care almost my whole career. To be able to spend every single day helping care providers to care for each other has been one of the greatest joys of my life it was quite by accident.

I trained as an adult educator while I was doing my masters, thinking I was going to be a therapist, but my scrumptious job early on in my career that I completely fell into by accident was working in a hospital and doing team consultations for the providers to help them to really recognize, support and build each other up. It was a magical experience to be able to help the caregivers to provide guidance to try to ward off burnout and compassion fatigue and to be able to perform as the amazing integrated team that they are.

Everything that I know about recognition as a frog lady comes from working with the people who know how to provide appreciation and support and encouragement to the people under their care.  I attribute what I do in my career now because I got a chance to see it in action from the people who work in caregiving roles.

With a long and very impressive educational list as a Certified Senior Organizational Development Professional (CSODP), Professional Certified Coach (PCC), Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL), BA in Psychology, MSc in Family Relations, and Diplomas in Human Resources and Healthcare Administration. What made you want to pursue that?

Well, because I had the incredible experience of being able to work in the healthcare sector, what’s so great about healthcare is there are so many opportunities for you to build your career and you get a chance to try different things. We know, as a field, that the only way we bring new drugs to market, we create new centres of excellence, is we have to try something different and bold, and that's so needed. The neat thing is a lot of people don't realize behind the scenes is we're doing that all the time in human resources and organizational development and continuous improvement departments, quality, patient safety. So, that was my journey to those designations. It involved getting a chance to try new things, learn, grow, and then I went, well, I should probably find out why this is working. I would go to school afterwards and get a designation or certification to shore up my evidence-based practice and knowledge in that area, but also I was always curious why did it work so well? When you're in an evidence-based sector like health care, to earn the right to be with all of these smart, brilliant and well-educated people, I also kind of felt like I needed to put some skin in the game myself.

What are some of the struggles that you would say nurses are facing when it comes to longevity with the companies that they work for?

It's the challenges that we've seen well before COVID. They give so much of themselves to the work, to their organizations and they don't have the option to call in sick. They don't have the option to refuse unsafe work. They don't have the option to just say, you know what, this is a lot of emotional load for me, I think I'm just going to do something a little bit lower key and easier. They certainly can't say I would actually prefer my work to be hybrid. We have always seen burnout, compassion fatigue, and also injuries to be higher among our healthcare providers.

A little-known fact that not even everybody in the healthcare industry knows is that people who work shifts, particularly in a field like this, their lifespan is shortened by five years. That issue and the musculoskeletal injuries that are aligned with people who physically do the lifting and work with their bodies for their whole career, it's very high.

We saw that well before COVID and then we add the emotional trauma that happens by witnessing for a protracted period of time the biggest healthcare crisis of our lifetime, the biggest, not just of our healthcare system. We talk a lot about the health care system, but this is a living, breathing crisis that people saw every single day and didn't necessarily have the personal protective equipment and didn't necessarily have the number of trained staff that could be redeployed to those areas. Our families weren't prepared to give up all of us to be able to work the front lines as well.

I think that everything that we know is challenging about the work of dedicating yourself to a life of being a provider was harder. Now we see people leaving the field and the industry sooner than ever before and we're at deep, deep risk of losing people who choose to do nursing, social work, respiratory therapy, be a physician for life. We see this across all careers that people don't necessarily choose a career for their lifetime. It's not just a crisis of people leaving organizations. What we're seeing right now is people opting out of the healthcare profession as a whole. Talk about a downer.

Can you tell us about what F.R.O.G is and how is it helping healthcare organizations and nurses with what they are experiencing right now in the workplace?

Well, F.R.O.G was birthed from health care, and I'm super excited to share with you what frog is about. F.R.O.G. stands for “forever recognize other's greatness”. Our teams were doing some work with a group of nurses who were experiencing deep strain in their interpersonal dynamics. There was turnover, there was a lack of collaboration, and the team behaviours were reflecting more of a toxicity as opposed to the spirit of collaboration and the award-winning service and quality that they had been known for. They were very, very well-recognized and well-regarded team. However, the behaviours that were happening on a day-to-day basis were not reflective of this high-performing team.

We all know people are doing the best they can. They're fantastic professionals. It was what's been happening to create these very talented professionals who have so much to contribute to be turning on each other. What we learned very quickly is that not only were they not recognizing each other, when we asked them in our first meeting with them, what do you want to acknowledge about yourself? Tell us about yourself, introduce yourself to us. We’re external people, we don't know all of you, we can't wait to get to know you and work with you. Tell us about yourself. What's your name? How long have you been in this department and what's your greatness? And you can probably imagine what happened. Do you think anybody spoke up and were talking over each other? No. They didn't see themselves as having any greatness. Well, this is kind of an awkward way to start. We turn to the matriarch of the group, the one who had mentored everybody around the room, who was always paired up with students, who was such an incredible contributor, and we asked her, could you please share with the group what your greatness is? And she said, No, I can't. We thought, oh, man, this is going from bad to worse, and she said, Because I don't have any. At first, everyone was really surprised. Then they all started to nod their head, because if you can't see the greatness within yourself, how do you recognize it? How do you, for one thing, notice it and then be able to find the words, to articulate it. So that's where we started.

Over the course of a couple of years, this group built strength. They were hard-wired in self-recognition and recognition of each other. At the end of this really important piece of teamwork we asked them - health care loves acronyms - What is an acronym we could come up with to remember any time you want to come back to this point of the work that you've done as a team and somebody said Frog, forever recognize other's greatness. Everyone loved it. They literally went out and started buying frog stuff, plush animals, and frog motivational posters. Now, as a little side note, these are labour and delivery folks, and I can only imagine being a labouring mum coming in there like huffing and puffing, looking around at all this frog paraphernalia, thinking this baby better not come out amphibian because this is way too big a deal that, I'm sure it's not a frog in there, but I mean, in all seriousness, they were doing this also with the family members who were there with the moms, and with the mom, so it became a spirit of being.

The birthplace of Frog was where the group of talented, passionate providers who were able to turn around a toxic culture to get back to a place of the greatness that already existed, that was very well hidden behind some behaviours that weren't helpful. That's why our team would always say a complaint is merely a poorly worded request. The criticism, the pointing out what wasn't working is the way of them expressing what was so important. It was worth fighting for. It just happened to be coming across in a very un-resourceful, negative way.

I want to encourage anybody who's listening to that story to not just focus on that recognition is helpful. It's also to be curious about where unhelpful behaviours are happening. How might that be a sign that somebody is not toxic or a complainer like insert label negative label here. What they're doing is they're expressing a basic human need. If we acknowledge that, we can move from that as opposed to pitting ourselves against other groups, people, other departments and so forth.

Read More:

Empowering and Uplifting Nurses in 2023

How Recognizing Your Employees Can Lead to a Better Workplace

The Importance of Self-Care at Work

5 Steps to Land your Dream Nursing Job

All About Healthcare Human Resources

About Sarah McVanel

Sarah is a recognition expert, professional speaker, coach, author, recovering perfectionist, and movement maker. She created F.R.O.G. Forever Recognize Others’ GreatnessTM to invigorate companies so they can see their people as exceptional and, together, create a scrumptious, thriving culture where everyone belongs.

Sarah has 25+ years of experience training, coaching, and leading teams. From her senior leadership role, she founded her boutique firm Greatness Magnified. Proclaimed as the “Frog Lady,” she can be found freaking out perfect strangers (in a good way) by handing out squishy frogs and asking them, “Have you been frogged lately?” and then acknowledging their greatness.

She’s a Certified Senior Organizational Development Professional (CSODP), Professional Certified Coach (PCC), and Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL). She is one of 700 Certified Speaking Professionals (CSP) worldwide. She has a BA in Psychology, MSc in Family Relations, and Diplomas in Human Resources and Healthcare Administration.

You can catch her kayaking in the summer and snowshoeing in the winter with her husband, or cooking a feast (while listening to an audiobook on double speed). She’s a die-hard carb-ivour, amateur hip-hopper, and TikTok embarrasser to her two kids.

About The Author
Cali Wiersma
Social Media & Content Specialist

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