I was traveling around St. Patrick’s Day, and while I ate dinner and enjoyed some Irish music, I saw a promotional T-shirt for Guinness beer announcing the holiday. It was a very stylish T-shirt, but it was the tagline that I loved the most. It read:
Celebrate as you mean it.
I haven’t been able to get that phrase out of my mind since.
Organizational leaders think about celebrations a lot. Maybe not the type Guinness was thinking about with that tagline, but they definitely think about them. They think about what, when, where, and how to celebrate. Sometimes they get it right. But far too often, they don’t.
Celebrations are important, but even more important is handling celebrations appropriately.
Of the four points mentioned above (what, when, where, and how to celebrate), celebrating and celebrating it are the most important for you to consider. But first, let’s start with an underlying principle – why celebrate in the first place.
Why Celebrate – Consider the Underlying Purpose
There are at least three great reasons to celebrate in your organization:
to commemorate results and efforts.
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to recognize people’s accomplishments and contributions.
to appreciate people.
When you think about these purposes, especially in an organizational context, it is easier to think about when to celebrate.
But before we get more specific about that, think about the last five times you arranged or participated in a celebration and what the expressed purposes were. And, perhaps more importantly, what are the situations when you didn’t celebrate that, using the purposes above, you could have?
When to Celebrate – Consider your Reasons
Read any book on team building, employee engagement, or project management, and you will read that celebrations are important. You can easily find lists of reasons to celebrate that usually include things like:
Celebrate when you . . .
Reach a goal.
Achieve a milestone.
Gain a major Client.
These are probably obvious times to celebrate (in part because so many experts have reminded us). Most organizations do something at these types of “big achievements.” And yet, when you consider the stated purpose above, there are so many other situations when you could celebrate. What if you celebrated when:
Did people work exceptionally hard?
Did people delight a customer?
Did people live their organizational values uniquely or importantly?
Did people deserve thanks?
People reached a milestone, even if the project isn’t complete yet?
Each of these lists could be longer – but please notice a critical difference. The first list is about completion and success; the second is about people. The first list is the obvious times to celebrate; the second list might be more of a surprise and have greater meaning to those being celebrated.
Successful celebrations occur in part when you celebrate for the right reasons and when those reasons are clear to those involved in the celebration.
How to Celebrate – Consider Your Attitude
Ever been to a celebration that flopped? Chances are it wasn’t about the cake, punch, or surroundings. The single biggest reason why celebrations flop is because people are just going through the motions.
Like when the leader arrives late, makes a proclamation then rushes back to his or her meeting.
Or the purpose for the celebration isn’t clear.
Or it has been postponed three times.
These are all examples of celebrations becoming perfunctory and without any passion. And in the end, these “celebrations” hurt engagement, morale, and energy more than they help.
If you want successful celebrations, you must be real and genuine about the reason for celebrating. You must be gracious and thankful for those involved. Your comments must be heart-felt, and you must be present – really there at the moment – sharing in the celebratory feel of the event.
Another article could be written (and I’ll probably write it) about the ways to do the celebration because not all celebrations are (or should be) created equally.
However, you do it, in the end, the biggest key to any celebration’s success is all about the slogan from that T-shirt. If you want your celebrations to be meaningful, celebrate as you mean it.
Potential Pointer: It isn’t about the venue, the theme, the budget, or food. When celebrating events and accomplishments in your organization, what matters most is that you clearly want to celebrate! So, celebrate as you mean it.
Kevin Eikenberry is a leadership expert and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that helps Clients reach their potential through various training, consulting, and speaking services.