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Cardinal Services Company Culture: FISH! Philosophy

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Our Adult Day Services staff members bring the FISH! Philosophy of “Play” to everyday activities!

Company culture is important for every business, but especially for organizations that depend on their staff and volunteers to help individuals with disabilities and challenges thrive in our community. 

Everyone working in the Adult Day Services department of  Cardinal Services needs support and encouragement and we bring that to work every day through the FISH! Philosophy.

The FISH! Philosophy enables staff to become more engaged and invested in their consumers, co-workers, and work environment. It was adopted by the Adult Day Services team as a way to bring everyone together as a cohesive team. This philosophy gave everyone a better understanding of how managing ourselves impacted our interpersonal relationships not just in the workplace but in our personal lives as well.

Lola Henk, Adult Day Services Manager

What Is The FISH! Philosophy?

Most people are familiar with Seattle’s famous Pike Place Fish Market and the energetic fishmongers who work there. That’s where the FISH! Philosophy was born. Documentary filmmaker, John Christensen, was shopping in the area when he noticed the fishmongers. They chatted with strangers as if they were old friends, despite the busy context, fishmongers focused on individual customers. Everyone was smiling, enjoying the spectacle of the fishmongers throwing and catching fish, and buying plenty of fish!

Mr. Christensen found it incredible that fishmongers who worked a cold, exhausting job took such joy in their work, approaching it with energy and enthusiasm. He wondered how they did it. He later brought a camera crew to the market and spent several days watching and talking with the fishmongers. 

At the end of that time, he and his team were able to identify four practices the fishmongers followed that anyone could use in the workplace.

The 4 Practices Of FISH! Philosophy

Be There

To “be there” means to be present emotionally for people. It’s a powerful message of respect that improves communication and strengthens management, employee, and customer relationships.


Work should be a way to help everyone be naturally creative and enthusiastic. Bringing the spirit of “play” to work can encourage people to have curious minds, using them to find unique solutions and solve problems in new ways.

Make Their Day

Find simple ways to serve or delight people in a meaningful, memorable way – that’s what “make their day” means. For managers, this can mean looking for ways to make sure your employees know when they’ve done a great job and how much they mean to your department and company. For employees, it’s about making sure you help the people you serve have the best day possible.

Choose Your Attitude

Even when you’re dealing with a frustrating situation or individual, you can always choose your attitude. Encouraging people to take responsibility for how they respond to what life throws at them is important. Asking, “Is my attitude helping my team or my customers? Is it helping me to be the person I want to be?” can provide a welcome perspective and attitude shift.

At Day Services the FISH! Philosophy has definitely strengthened trust, teamwork, and helped us to have fun in our workplace. This tried and true philosophy represents everything we do at Cardinal Services. It’s the glue that keeps our department together!”

Norma Bauer, Adult Day Services Manager

A Story About FISH!

The following story was submitted by Peggy Moss, Adult Day Services Manager at Cardinal Services.

In the 12+ years that I have been a member of the Adult Day Services Team, Norma Bauer has always encouraged us to follow the FISH! philosophy. We’ve attended training numerous times to understand and implement the philosophy and I’ll admit it wasn’t always a 100% buy-in for me. However, reminiscing now, I can say that one of the most awakening moments about the FISH! Philosophy took place while seeing an individual we serve struggle with family loss.

While seeing this person struggle daily, tears dropping, speaking in a pained voice, and a sorrow-filled heart, it finally hit me. Why do we as human beings not share more empathy for others? Why do we not get to know one another as individuals?  How can we be so distant and unaware of others? That’s when I chose to really begin applying FISH! Philosophy to my daily interactions at Cardinal Services.  

During this person’s struggle, I chose an attitude of patience, empathy, and determination while I chose to be present with him through his grief journey. I thought of ways that I had assisted myself or my children through loss that I could use to help support him as well. Together, we discussed his parents and decorated a memory jar based on his descriptions of them. As he processed his grief and shared memories, we wrote those memories on paper and placed them in his memory jar.  

There were memories that made us laugh until we cried and even drew pictures of our thoughts. As his grief journey progressed, he began to smile more when sharing more memories to place in his jar. He began to talk openly of his parents without tears and that’s when I knew we had a breakthrough.

It was moments like these that made both his day and mine. It may not have seemed like FISH! philosophy was at play here, but without that core value, I may not have been able to support him as such. The FISH! philosophy is such an easy, yet extremely important core of life.  When embraced, it can be life-changing, to say the least.

Supporting Cardinal Services Using The FISH! Philosophy

Our Adult Day Services staff members look for ways to incorporate the FISH! philosophy every day as they interact with the people they serve.

When co-workers and managers make a commitment to be there for each other, trust will grow, relationships flourish, and teamwork will improve. As individuals use heartfelt gestures of recognition and thanks, people begin to feel valued. 

When employees bring a playful state of mind to work, it breeds enthusiasm that spreads to every corner of an organization. And when everyone can take responsibility for the attitudes they choose to have throughout the day, teams spend more time supporting one another and accomplishing common goals.

At Cardinal Services we fully believe that the FISH! Philosophy adopted by the Adult Day Services department  is a key example of what makes working for us so unique. We’re currently hiring full-time, part-time, and flexible-schedule Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) to join our Adult Day Services team. 

Click below to learn more about Cardinal Services or apply to become a Direct Support Professional today!

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