Here at SSI, we have adopted the FISH! Philosophy as the cornerstone of our corporate culture. We see signs of it in departments throughout the company in the form of fish-shaped knick-knacks, a FISH! bulletin board, and even FISH! thank-you notes that TXU sent to every employee for service above and beyond the call of duty. Penny Johnson, Manager of Customer Service, found a glass fish sculpture and immediately saw it as an “Oscar”-like award, to be used to recognize the “Best Employee” on a daily basis. The award would underscore the importance of the FISH! Philosophy at SSI and unite the departments, management, and owners of our company.

The next question: what to call the award? During a lengthy brainstorming session, “Merlin” was mentioned. At SSI, the name “Merlin” has negative connotations because that’s the name of the U.S. Postal Service machine that monitors the mail and is potentially a source of bad news. We decided we could turn our reaction around by calling the award “Merlin.”

Each week the recipient of the Merlin Award chooses the next week’s winner, and Sondra Gooch, bookkeeper at SSI, records the winners’ names and the reasons they are chosen. Since the Merlin award was initiated over a year ago, almost every employee has won it and some have won it more than once.

Throughout the company, the response has been enthusiastic, and all SSI employees are motivated to have Merlin sitting proudly on their desks one day.


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The fishmongers of Seattle’s Pike Place Fish Market are the inspiration for the FISH! Philosophy. One day John Christensen, the CEO of ChartHouse Learning, was visiting the market and observed the attitude and actions that the fishmongers brought to their jobs. They were enthusiastic and having fun, yet focused on the job they were doing. From his observations of their whole-hearted commitment to their work, Mr. Christensen developed the FISH! Philosophy, four principles that serve as a foundation for a healthy workplace and life.

Those principles are:

Play.
Take work seriously, but get it accomplished in a lighthearted, spontaneous way.
Make Their Day.
By doing small acts of kindness or other meaningful gestures for others, routine encounters become memorable.
Be There.
Doing work in a wholehearted way benefits both yourself and others.
Choose Your Attitude.
You select how you respond to situations. By looking for the best, opportunities arise.