“It’s not hard to look around and find people who are deserving of nomination,” says Gray, who has nominated four Excellence Awards winners in just the past five years. “What’s hard is finding an easy way to get the nomination done — and I’ve found a way to do that.”
Nominations for this year’s awards are due Oct. 24 for campus staff, Oct. 17 for Lincoln Laboratory employees. The Excellence Awards recognize exceptional accomplishments by support, service, sponsored research, administrative and other academic staff (they’re not intended to recognize teaching and research). There are six award categories: Greening MIT, Fostering Diversity and Inclusion, Innovative Solutions, Bringing Out the Best, Serving the Client and Unsung Hero. Individuals receive $2,000 prizes, and each team shares up to $10,000.
Gray, who received an Excellence Award herself for Bringing Out the Best in 2004-05, says, “As satisfying, as wonderful as that was [to win], I get more out of seeing people I nominated win. That’s very joyful.”
Gray, therefore, tries to nominate someone every year, simplifying the process by reaching out to others for support. “One of the things I do to prepare for performance development reviews is ask for names and email addresses of people I could ask for input on how the person did,” she says. “Then, without attribution, I ‘recycle’ some of the great input I receive for a nomination.”
For nominees outside her department, she emails colleagues more familiar with the candidate and requests specific anecdotes. “I’ve had successful and unsuccessful nominations, and what I’ve learned is that the selection committee wants specifics,” Gray says. “Writing and saying someone’s done a great job, with just a few examples, isn’t enough.”
In the case of some team nominations, she has even reached out to those on the team to ask for a list of specific accomplishments and to gather names of people she can contact for more information. “I think it’s an honor just to be nominated,” she says. “So for a group to know what I’m doing — I’m not afraid of that. Even if they aren’t selected, they still have the honor of being nominated.”
Gathering material from a variety of sources makes writing the nomination easy, Gray says. She gives her sources a deadline, usually about two weeks, and then compiles the responses. “I just start cutting and pasting what I get into a Word document. Putting it together in the end takes maybe 30 minutes to an hour,” she says.
And, while she admits her job may give her something of an advantage in pinpointing worthy candidates — because she works with employees all across the Institute — she notes that several of her successful nominations could have come from any number of other people. “Anybody could have started the Thomas Stillwell nomination,” she says, referring to the custodian honored in 2010 for Serving the Client. “Anybody could have started the Alyce Johnson nomination.” (Johnson won the Fostering Diversity and Inclusion award in 2011.)
The bottom line, she says, is that MIT and all its employees benefit from honoring exceptional effort. The Rewards & Recognition (R&R) program, which organizes the Excellence Awards, helps MIT to grow a culture of development — one in which employees are engaged in their work, love their jobs, thrive and go the extra mile, Gray says. “The whole concept of recognition, of the spirit of R&R is a very important tool.”
President Susan Hockfield and other senior leaders will present this year’s awards at Kresge Auditorium on February 28, 2012.
For more information about the awards, or to submit a nomination, visit the 2012 Excellence Awards website.