I couldn’t help it, I was overwhelmed. Butterflies in my stomach, a tear in the corner of my eye. The presenter read aloud the qualifications for winning the award. She spoke about how this person impacts the agency every day, through their work, their attitude, their ever-present spirit of can-do. She read from a prepared statement and had a hard time keeping things together herself. It was too much. I stood at the back of the room, listening, anticipating, hoping and waiting.
And then she read Kasie’s name.
The place erupted. A hundred people, more, coworkers and friends loosened by ticketed drinks and taking time to celebrate last year and the people who made it possible. I snuck to the side of the stage. I wanted to be closer. I saw her step up to the podium, a look of genuine surprise and gratitude on her face, her eyes watery, her voice shaky in that school girl way. Kasie was being given the recognition she never asked for but so richly deserved.
Awards shows are always a strange thing. In most cases they feel to me self-congratulatory. But this one is different. The agency I work for has 10 guiding principles, principles designed to hold all of us accountable to a standard higher than profitability and growth. They are human standards, things like ‘does the right thing,’ ‘is a hand-raiser, not a finger pointer’ and ‘makes the work better.’ It’s what sets working here apart from other places. Ten people were given awards, each nominated by their peers and voted upon. Kasie had been nominated for eight of them. The award she received was not for her embracing demonstrating one of these qualities, but all of them.
I met her when she was 22. Fresh-eyed, just about to graduate. She was the first job interview I had ever conducted. She was the first person I recommended get hired. It was instant. There was something about her, the way she asked questions, the way she refused to talk about herself in that weird, forced way that so many of us do in an interview. Something about her. Something indeed.
She was hired a couple of months after me and we’ve worked together closely for most of the six years. She comes to me with questions. We work together on answers. We learn from each other. We share. We trust each other. I have marveled at watching her grow in her career and in her life. I have felt lucky to be a part of any of it.
What sets Kasie apart is innate. I’m not sure you can teach it. So many people bring baggage to their jobs. They bring attitude and ego. They bring expectations and a strange entitlement that makes them immune to growth. She brings none of those things. Kasie is the kind of person who always says yes, even when saying yes is scary. She comes to work excited to learn, excited to challenge herself and to help others. She bears no expectation, only appreciation. Even at her lowest points – and there have been some – she seeks solutions, not excuses. She gives a hand when others might assign blame. She’s tough but listens. I could go on and on.
Last night, standing on the side of the stage watching her beam, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of pride. I was proud of her. I was proud for her. And it was an immensely satisfying feeling – for someone you believe in to be recognized by others; for someone you have invested in to be rewarded; to stand and watch Kasie smile and to hear the people clap and cheer, I felt like I was watching family.
I’ve been lucky enough to be recognized for things in the past, to win awards and have my name called. I’ve always been uncomfortable with recognition. But, in many ways, Kasie’s recognition last night was more satisfying than any plaque with my name on it could be.
Congratulations Kasie. You absolutely deserve it… and so much more.