Celebrate Good Times

What and when do you celebrate? An odd question you think? Here’s the backdrop. Humans and their organizations like to celebrate. It’s positive, it’s fun and it’s great for morale. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs don’t do enough of it. We are so focused on problems to solve, people to hire and products (or services) to create that there may be long periods of time where we don’t even realize that we’ve enjoyed some success along the way. And no, this isn’t a blog about stopping to smell the roses. Sure, that’s important too, but this is about something more intentional.

I’ve been with the same company for more than four decades. I can tell you that we have been pretty successful over that timeframe but we really haven’t practiced what I’m about to preach – though we are starting to do so now. We might close a big deal at some point and slap each other on the back, but we really didn’t stop and truly celebrate a major accomplishment. And it would be pretty safe to say that we never celebrated minor successes. Why? Because that’s just the go-go nature of entrepreneurial endeavors. But I’ve come to realize that we’ve been missing a golden opportunity. Maybe you’ll step back and come to the same conclusion.

When we stop to celebrate it’s more than just party time. It can also be a great time for reflection. We look for the elements that created our success which reinforces the need to continue to implement those same elements in the future. Think about it. Let’s suppose that our company just landed a major contract to sell our product to a very large buyer. Before we pop the cork on the champagne, we gather the team and map-out the steps that led to the signing of the contract. We also identify what didn’t work so well and what we might have done differently. By undertaking this exercise, everyone is reminded of what we did to win.

The accolades, praise and expressions of gratitude all help to build and strengthen our culture. Our team members – especially those who were directly linked to the success – want to feel valued and appreciated. I realize that there may be financial incentives that have helped drive the success, but there’s no question that formal recognition is almost always a strong motivator as well.

So, if we are inclined to celebrate major successes, why not do so for minor achievements too? I’m sure someone is thinking, “If we celebrate everything, doesn’t it cheapen the process and lessen the impact?” This can certainly happen if we’re not careful. But most leaders can figure out what is worthy of celebration and what is not. Perhaps a team member completed the coursework to receive a professional designation. Or maybe the accounting team had a perfect quarter in terms of accomplishing all tasks on time and with 100% accuracy – paying bills, processing receipts, producing financial statements, etc. Finally, imagine each member of the sales team making 25 new cold calls a week for a month. These may be occurrences that in the past were viewed as routine or something that was expected. “Finally, this person or that team actually did their job(s)! Why do we want to celebrate that?” But remember that the celebration process begins with analyzing what worked and what didn’t work. Don’t we want to take advantage of the opportunity to understand what we want to replicate in the future?

Finally, the “party” piece of celebration may take many forms. Certainly gathering everyone for a toast may be one of the more common methods. Trophies, medals, commendations, certificates, plaques and other memorabilia are great forms of recognition. All-company e-mails, newsletters, websites and social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) can be effective tools for celebrating. I like to hand write notes to members of our team for large and small achievements. In one of our business units, they ring a bell and make an announcement when something happens that is worthy of a celebration.

The intentional celebration of achievements and success is an opportunity to reinforce what worked and improve on what didn’t. It’s also a chance to recognize members of the team for their commitment and ingenuity to deliver the positive results.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 81 – Who is Dan Meyer?

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Few, The Proud . . .

The U.S. Marine Corps is well known for taking raw young men and women and transforming them into lean, mean fighting machines (or so goes the saying). The process they use is fascinating and very instructive. It involves breaking down an individual and then building them back up. Legendary drill instructors use a variety of physical, mental and emotional techniques to accomplish this. There’s a lot of yelling and screaming. Recruits are pushed to their limits and beyond. After weeks of training a recruit who was 45 pounds overweight can climb a thirty-foot rope with one hand or run three miles in 19 minutes.

How does any of this apply to us as entrepreneurs? There was a statement in the preceding paragraph that is the key. “Recruits are pushed to their limits and beyond.” Many of these future Marines never dreamed that they could perform some of the physical tasks required. They never knew they had the mental fortitude and emotional stamina to endure. But here’s the truth – they totally underestimated themselves.

As entrepreneurs we may also have a tendency to underestimate ourselves. We fail to see our full capabilities and understand our greatness. Sometimes this is due to a lack of confidence. But it may also be because we just don’t think big enough. And there’s a lot of societal noise that is difficult to listen through. Remember when we were children and an adult asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up? Some of us answered an astronaut, movie star or even the President of the United States! Then something happened and we didn’t become astronauts, movie stars and U.S. presidents. Certainly our interests changed, but we also felt pressure to be more “realistic” with our expectations. We were herded into more “achievable” chutes and we eventually conformed to generally understood limitations. All of this imprinted upon us as adults and we lost the desire to dream in a large way.

Almost every one of us has the potential to be more and to do more. This is evidenced every time we learn something new. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who has reached his or her full capacity to achieve. And yet we sometimes sell ourselves short. We tell ourselves in different ways that we’re not smart enough or persistent enough or creative enough to do something. “Where are we going to get the money to pursue this new idea,” we ask. Then we answer, “I don’t have the right contacts to do it.” This may be a true statement at a particular moment in time. So what are we going to do about it? We can avoid underestimating ourselves when we take intentional “I can” steps.

The first step is to reject the societal noise that tries to impose limitations on us. I’ve learned to catch myself when I start to think or say, “I can’t do that.” I replace this with the thought or statement, “How can I do that?” This sets a whole new tone and puts me in a problem-solving mode from the outset.

The “How Can I” notion will be the trigger that releases a creative stream into which we can tap. By throwing off our mental shackles we are shaping a mindset that is receptive to this creative flow. We explore a multitude of ideas and begin to see a path that leads us to that which we want to achieve. We don’t worry about our ideas being judged as stupid or crazy for we’re looking at all kinds of possibilities. I find the process of discovery to be exciting and challenging, and I thrive on the mental stretch that ensues.

The final step is that of visualizing the successful outcome we are seeking. Visualization is a powerful tool and cements our objective into our conscious and subconscious minds. What started out as the question, “How can I raise money for this idea,” now is revealed as complete. The idea has been implemented and boy is it amazing!

We can avoid underestimating ourselves by asking the question, “How can I” rather than affirming “I can’t.” Then we let the creative juices flow to figure out “How I can.” Ultimately we visualize the end result in grand fashion and move decisively to make it happen.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 36 – Not My Job-itis

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.