You tend to see two extremes: Those who don’t celebrate anything because employees “already know they are succeeding so why waste time celebrating?” and those who celebrate every-single-thing along the way.
The best solution (as is the often the case) lies somewhere in the middle. You need to celebrate, but you don’t want to overdo it.
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 should you celebrate progress? Because it helps to maintain focus and build momentum. In the midst of long projects or in the pursuit of big goals, focus can get lost. Employees don’t see how far they’ve come. When you recognize progress it helps renew focus while re-energizing the team and that sustains momentum.
So, the question is, how do you do it? Follow this advice:
- Base celebrations on milestones. In order to celebrate progress, you must know what progress you have made. Any good project plan will have milestones attached to it. Look at those upfront, and determine when might be good celebration points. Of course how the project is going in real life and in real time may alter your plan, but start with a celebration plan attached to the most important or strategic milestones.
- Get the group involved. Ask employees to let you know when a celebration might be needed, and get them involved in both the celebration planning and execution. When people feel ownership, the celebration 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. It’s important that people know that you aren’t done yet.
- Celebrate (really). Balancing the previous point, don’t make the celebration a veiled attempt to get people to work harder. Any message that sniffs of “We’ve made good progress, but it is time to redouble our efforts” will be seen cynically and may have a negative impact on morale and productivity.
- Be authentic. Let people know how much you appreciate their effort and progress. If you aren’t really feeling it, perhaps better to delay the celebration until you do.
- 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 be involved. Provide food. After all, any celebration is better with food. Your situation will dictate how fancy or informal it is, but having food always makes a celebration better. If possible, provide each team member with a small reward. However, whatever you do, make sure to block of a time and pick a location where every team member can participate and enjoy the celebration.
Hopefully these suggestions will help you make your celebrations of progress more successful and meaningful. Remember: When used effectively, celebrations can create focus, momentum and even greater morale and productivity.