Passing the ball
My dog has a little red ball covered in blue mesh. If he's lucky, I'll stuff some treats inside the mesh. That treat ball creates at least 30 minutes of entertainment for him. He gnaws at it trying to move around the bits of bone-shaped biscuits until they fall out. And, then, gobbles them up. Sharing a reference on someone's behalf is sort of like passing along their treat ball.
Let's say your colleague is applying to a new job and asks for you to speak to their potential future employer. They're passing you an unfilled-treat ball. You get the opportunity now to decide what treats to put in it. What about them will you pass along to this next person? What qualities of theirs would you share in the treat ball? The way they show up with empathy? Trust? Creativity? Getting the chance to add to someone's treat ball and pass it along is an honor and a gift. And, it's a cycle. Unlike my dog, who quickly eats his treats, this person's future employer will one day get the chance to add to the treat ball too. To build on what was already shared. What would you want someone to add to your treat ball as they pass it along?