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.

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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.

Star Power

Question: I am part of a team working within my company. One of the members of this team is always getting the credit when we succeed. I don’t know what to do about this frustrating situation.

Answer: The most successful teams are those where no one is seeking the glory and each team member supports the others in every way possible. No one ever says, “That’s not my job.” When the team wins everyone wins. And conversely, a team loss is everyone’s loss. It’s not a single team member who is the hero or the goat.

I love going to restaurants where members of the wait staff cover for each other. One server may take my order but another re-fills my water glass when it’s empty. I always am hopeful that they share their gratuities because I feel as though I’m tipping the whole server team and not just one person. Contrast that with a restaurant where servers ignore all guests except those who they are serving directly. Southwest Airlines is also on my most-admired list. How many times have we seen flight attendants and pilots cleaning up the airplane as we deplane?

Unselfishness is an important element to the success of an entrepreneur. Hats off to those who make certain that members of their team are recognized and given credit for a successful outcome. An entrepreneur who can step back out of the limelight and heap accolades on his or her team is both wise and self-assured. When we crave attention and receive for the efforts of others, team morale can be severely damaged.

The question we must answer is, “what are we in it for?” Is it personal glory or gain? Or is it long-term, sustainable overall success that benefits an entire team or company? I submit that when our egos cry for personal attention and pats on the back, someday our team may not have our back. There will certainly be times when we are recognized for personal achievement and there is nothing wrong with this whatsoever. The fine line here is our intention and how we handle it. Did we seek the recognition or was it a byproduct of our efforts? And, when the wonderful things were being said about us, did we acknowledge others who contributed to our (and the team’s) success? But this can be a trap if we aren’t walking the talk. It’s interesting to watch a ball game where a star player is being interviewed at the conclusion of the event and he appears to deflect the praise by mentioning how much his teammates figured into his success. The incongruence in his statement is that his play throughout the game reflected selfishness.

Whether in our entrepreneurial venues or with life in general, we are best served when we subordinate our egos to an attitude of gracious selflessness. Stepping off the stage and genuinely giving credit to others who deserve it is a demonstration of real star power.

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.

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