Strong leaders often use celebration as a tool for mobilizing teams, a strategy that produces results to drive significant organizational change even at a most fundamental level. Celebration is a powerful motivator with outcomes extending beyond the particular celebratory event.
We often see leaders use intentional celebration of success to bring focus and team alignment. Celebrations remind team members of the importance of their strategic work in situations where team focus is easily drawn away from company goals by competing demands of the day to day workplace. We also see leaders use celebration to maintain momentum through a prolonged and difficult change initiative. In either case, celebration demonstrates management’s satisfaction with outcomes and effort. Recognizing and appreciating good results inevitably leads to greater focus on what matters. Morale and productivity improve. Success breeds success.
I first learned this some years ago. I had the privilege to work with the CEO of a large and very prominent institution. At the time this leader took the helm, it was performing below its potential. In retrospect, it is clear that intentional effort to imbue the culture with a spirit of celebration was a hallmark of this visionary leader’s tenure. The marking of annual accomplishments moved from staid formality to culturally-rich ceremony with the introduction of distinct ritual and celebratory elements. New types of celebration were introduced as opportunities to bring together disparate components of the organization. Accomplishments were broadly recognized and shared. The organization’s culture gradually shifted from one perhaps characterized as “good is good enough” to one proud of and protective of its unique strengths and accomplishments. More and more highly qualified employees were drawn to its ranks. Demand for its services soared. Performance and financial return improved.
Celebration can take many forms. We’ve helped clients celebrate successes with everything from emails and newsletters to infographics and videos. They’ve held anniversary parties and barbecues, handed out wristbands and bumper stickers. Usually, though, it is not the form that determines the success or impact of the celebration. Rather, it is the act of pausing to mark the important, to express pleasure, and share successes that matter and can make a difference. Celebrations create opportunities for team members to connect in new ways, to build alignment around goals, and to recommit to results. Savvy leaders see celebrations not just as a way to give back to participants but as a way to move their work forward.