Celebration is often a challenging topic for leaders. They wonder if they should celebrate and when they should celebrate. They waffle between “we don’t need to celebrate. People know we are succeeding” and celebrating every single little thing along the way.
The best answer (as is often the case) lies somewhere in the middle.
Celebration is important, and it can be overdone.
Most of the conversation and consternation is typically about celebrating (or not celebrating) success. However, the element of celebration most often forgotten is celebrating progress towards a goal.
Why celebrate progress?
It would help if you considered celebrating progress for two basic reasons – focus and momentum.
In the midst of long projects or the pursuit of big goals, focus can get lost. People can be so busy that they miss the progress. They are so busy in the forest that they miss the trees they have just passed or chopped down. When you recognize progress, it helps renew focus while re-energizing the team.
In addition, the intangible momentum that is so easily seen in the athletic world is just as real in your business or organizational pursuits. Celebrating progress is one way to create and sustain momentum towards your goals.
So, the question is, how do you do it?
I’ve separated a dozen suggestions into two categories – the results components (basically what and when to celebrate) and the process components (how to actually celebrate). So let’s get right to them.
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Base it on milestones.
To celebrate progress, you must know what progress you have made. Any good project plan (that’s an article in and of itself) will have milestones attached. Look at that upfront, and determine when might be good celebration points. Of course, how the project is going in real life and real-time may alter your plan, but start with a celebration plan attached to the most important or strategic milestones.
Get the group involved.
Have other people let you know when a celebration might be needed, and get them involved in both the celebration planning and execution. When people feel ownership, it will be more meaningful and real. I’m not suggesting abdication or total delegation, but a collaborative process.
Don’t be shy.
It is OK to celebrate! Let people know how much you appreciate their effort and progress.
Keep the celebration in perspective.
The celebration is of progress, and that should be clearly stated. People must know that you aren’t done yet.
Balancing the previous point, don’t make the celebration a veiled attempt to get people to work harder. Any message that sniffs “we’ve made good progress, but it is time to redouble our efforts” will be seen cynically and may hurt morale and productivity.
Let people know how much you appreciate their effort and progress. However, if you aren’t really feeling it, perhaps better delay the celebration until you do – or until you get yourself a leadership attitude adjustment (another great article topic!).
The way to a man’s heart may very well be through his stomach… and… any celebration is better with food. Of course, your situation will dictate how fancy or informal it is, but having food always makes a celebration better.
Make it an event.
It needn’t be big or elaborate, but it needs to be an event! Make sure people know when it is, and make it a priority that they are involved. A celebration should be an event.
Think about where.
While you could do your celebration anywhere, progress celebrations are often done when people feel they are still busy with the work. Creating the celebration onsite may balance people’s need to “keep working” with the need you see for celebration.
Think about when.
When to celebrate will really be dependent on the demographics of your group, their habits, and the culture of your organization. You might consider your celebration first thing in the morning, at lunch or, even, after hours away from the office. Use the wisdom and advice of others to make this decision, rather than following your own personal preferences.
Gifts can be a great addition to your celebration. How about a t-shirt, a gift card or something else? Again, culture and preferences will play a role here – get others involved, so gifts are perceived as valuable (not just ANOTHER coffee mug or pen). Remember to make sure the value of the gift is congruent with the point of progress.
Symbols are powerful.
Symbols are really a form of gift, but perhaps with less utility. On the other hand, plaques, certificates, or a hundred other things can be powerful reminders of the appreciation and progress made.
Hopefully, these 12 suggestions will help you make your celebrations of progress more successful and meaningful. Remember, celebrations can create focus, momentum, and even greater morale and productivity when used effectively.
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