“THE WELL”: featuring… Sarah McVanel

The Well Sarah

When you have the opportunity to work with some of the most interesting and dynamic speakers in the world, you are afforded the opportunity to ask questions about their lives and the messages they share. “The Well” is an ongoing series that provides an intimate look inside the lives of some of our favourite people at the Arlan Group.

This week, we feature Arlan’s newest speaker Sarah McVanel.  We had the opportunity to sit down with Sarah and find out “Why” she believes her message so important.


The Well:     What is your “why”? Why do you feel your message is important and why do you feel it needs to be shared with your audiences?

Sarah McVanel:    Across North America only 30% are satisfied at work. This is ridiculous! 30% shouldn’t represent! Fortunately, it’s changeable. Not only do people deserve to feel valued, satisfied and doing meaningful work, my “why” is also fueled in knowing my kids will be joining the workforce in 10 years. I hope by that time there are so many amazing places to work, where people feel valued, recognized and appreciated, doing meaningful work, in healthy team ecosystems, that they have too much choice! I spread the message about the exponential power of recognition as the fastest, easiest, least expensive and most sustainable way to boost satisfaction, engagement and retention because that’s what unlocks dissatisfaction immediately. Recognition is a game-changer. I see it every day in my clients and hear about the impact even small beginnings have in folks who follow up with me post keynotes. They are changing the world of work, one thank-you, one note, one personal specific acknowledgement at a time. Why war for talent when there is peace in recognition?


TW:     What do you feel are the two most important take-aways from your message?

SM:    One is that greatness is in all of us. My brand – F.R.O.G. Forever Recognize Others’ Greatness – highlights how every person in our workplace – even the biggest complainer, the least satisfied, the most burnt out – have greatness waiting for someone to notice and acknowledge. People don’t show up to be miserable. Through small gestures we can help that person to see they’re valued and appreciated (which takes all the fun out of being a gossipy miserable person at work!) When we focus on great, there’s not energy for hate.

The other is that recognition is something that all of us can do right away. So often people feel that there is so much at work beyond their control. They see problems or opportunities but cannot make permanent fixes. Recognition is something that anyone – no matter if you are blue collar, white collar or have ring-around-the-collar – can do right away with no budget or approval needed. In fact, you already know how. Every person can shift from a cultural bog to FROG through simple gestures of acknowledgement.


TW:     Is there a specific demographic or sector that benefits most from your message and if so, how have you seen your message impact people’s lives and/or work environments?

SM:    My background is healthcare. Frontline caregivers resonate with FROG – the opportunity to focus on something positive and recognition specifically – and they love the fact that the acronym was created by a nurse! Frontline caregivers give, give, and give some more, 12-hours at a time, and do not always get recognized let alone stop to recognize their own greatness. What results: Compassion fatigue, burnout and attrition (from a team, organization or even the profession!) Same story for anyone in frontline service – retail, hospitality, education, parents! We focus first on them seeing their greatness again…at lightning speed (it’s there all along after all!) Then, caregivers have the resourcefulness to recognize others and start to do it right away! They write acknowledgements and create plans before leaving the session because they learn how teams that recognize are not only more satisfied, they’re more trusting, engaged, continuously improving, and intend to stay (and who doesn’t want that?!) In other words, to recognize is business wise. And in our taxed healthcare system, we can use recognition as a people and fiscal reasonability strategy!


TW:     How does wellbeing factor into your own life?  What do you find to be the biggest challenges?

SM:    Ah what a great question! I have regular commitments to be on my yoga mat in the hot room and take dance lessons. These physical outlets are for both health and creative expression and enable me to stay focused, emotionally resourceful for my family, and productive. Running a full-time business while raising teens can eat into this time, however there’s always a space and 5 minutes to stretch whether it’s in a hotel room or my home office. I do need to travel for work, but part of my wellbeing (and my family’s wellbeing) is limiting how much travel I do. It allows me to be available for, tuned into and connected to my family. For example, I turned down any away engagements in September as my son was transitioning into high school and I wanted to be here for him if he needed me. I never regret a business decision based on holistic wellness; I’m not serving my client well if I’m distracted or overbooked and I’m not present and available for my family if I’m disproportionately focused on work. When I get grouchy, resentful and low energy, it’s my cue I’m out of “balance” (if there is such a thing), and re-calibrate immediately. How can I be “motivational” from the stage unless I’m constantly motivated by the clients I serve, my family and my life; that means there needs to be time to exercise, be silent, reflect and plan. Wellness is a way of being, not a destination.


Wellbeing isn’t an end goal, it’s a continuing state of mind and focus, a way of being and thinking that we believe at its heart should drive everything we do.

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