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Celebrate Wins that Matter

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New Year’s resolutionists, the people who flood gyms around the nation each January, are serious about their goal of getting fit or losing weight. According to fitness experts, the crowds begin to die down in February (TRXtraining.com, 2017). Why do those who resolved to make this the year for change end up changing their minds? The goal was big and small steps of progress were ignored.

Similar to resolutionists, organizations tend to set large goals that might even take years to achieve. Intentional celebration of meaningful steps of progress toward those audacious goals is an effective way to motivate our team members and prevent burnout along the way to achieving what matters most.

Connected to the Core Business

Progress vs. People

Small demonstrations of progress toward big organizational or individual goals are the wins that matter and should be celebrated. When we are thoughtful about celebrating progress that connects to the core business, we validate the actions of our team members. This is different than celebrating people, which can sometimes come off as trivial. “But if you focus on managing [acknowledging] progress, the management of people—and even of entire organizations—becomes much more feasible” (Amabile, 2011). Meaningful acknowledgement of the progress people have made reinforces the goal and builds momentum for continued success. Acknowledgement of progress made also connects our team members to the purpose of the work they do each day.

Positive vs. Negative

Worried that celebrating might be too fluffy? Don’t be. 88% of employees want to be acknowledged for great work, with more than one-third of employees preferring words of affirmation as the method of celebration (Rogers, 2017 & HRDive). Not only do celebrations matter to those responsible for getting the work done, they also don’t need to be elaborate or cost companies any money. Being positive, sincere, and specific about progress made does far more to move an organization forward than only ever being harsh about results. In fact, 70% of employees report that a simple “thank you” from leaders does wonders for morale and motivation (Madison, 2017). On the other hand, consistent negativity about a lack of results derails, demotivates, and can even paralyze progress.

Note: Not being negative does not mean we don’t hold our teams accountable. There is a difference between persistent negative feedback and critical performance conversations.

Celebrate Wins That Matter in 3 Steps

Define Progress

The first step in celebrating wins is to define a win. Establishing a goal is not enough. This is where the resolutionists likely went wrong. The lofty aim of reaching a goal weight was set, but what about the measures that would allow them to experience small wins and track progress? In our example, pounds lost would be a sensible measure of progress toward an overall desired weight. Measures of progress become the signals for celebration. Defining those with our team members adds clarity and regular opportunities for success.

Check In

Once progress measures are in place, it is important for leaders and teams to develop a regular cadence of checking in. Our resolutionist might schedule weekly weigh-ins. A sales team might review sales funnel metrics or number of conversions each week. Getting into a habit of checking in keeps the goal and progress visible for teams. Teams and leaders can also use this time of reviewing progress to celebrate what matters for the team.

Keep an eye on set-backs: The resolutionist might not account for added muscle mass. Stalled progress, or even movement in the opposite direction, could feel like defeat. In reality, this type of body change is normal for a new gym-goer. Instead of negatively reacting to a perceived set-back, explore the full scope of barriers. If needed, decide on a new course of action to get over any real hurdles and back to steady progress.

Be Intentional

Celebrate wins the way your team wants to celebrate. The best way to find out the type of celebration that is most meaningful for the team is to simply ask. Chances are, they will say a “thank you” is all they need to feel like their work matters and that they are making a difference. Be intentional about celebrating what and how your team prefers. Also, consider setting calendar reminders, to keep from dropping the celebration ball.

Win vs. Loss

When we’re trying to accomplish really important goals, it’s easy to forget to celebrate progress. For one week, keep a tally of the number of times you point out a set-back and a tally of the number of times you celebrate a win. Do the wins win? If you proclaimed the negative more often, try again next week. Build a habit of celebrating wins that matter.

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