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Meaningful Celebration

“Please come and see the fantastic donation we received today,” the non-profit leader said to me.  We walked down the narrow hall of the child welfare and development organization and past the big viewing window of their crisis nursery.  There, lining both walls of the hall, were 40+ colorful gift bags.  Inside each were a cake mix, a disposable foil pan, canned icing, candles, and a hand-written card.  “Many of our clients struggle to ‘celebrate’, in even the simplest ways, their children’s birthday. These will bring a lot of smiles to our little friends. ”

Many organizations misunderstand and/or underestimate the power of meaningful celebrations in engaging high performance.  They think it is a waste of work time.  So, they rarely celebrate internally and just keep pushing toward the next goal, objective, or deadline. But, by minimizing and/or not celebrating important accomplishments, significant events, and/or honoring groups and individuals — they miss opportunities to inspire, reinforce, signify, praise, and create greater inclusiveness.  Lack of simple, meaningful celebration can lead to de-motivation, resistance to change, and disengagement.

Here are six questions I ask my clients to consider.  Are leaders in your organization:

  • Overlooking extra effort employees make through challenging economic times?
  • Forgetting key milestone accomplishments and just driving toward the end result?
  • Ignoring significant change and related stress employees go through when new initiatives are launched; technology is replaced; processes change; or cost cutting continues?
  • Savoring success for seconds and then spending most of the time talking about “challenges, headwinds, and missed opportunities”?
  • Neglecting to acknowledge all the small things done consistently well every day?
  • Disregarding the need of people to feel visible and appreciated internally but actively practicing this with external customers and business partners?

I encourage you to take the following MCA (meaningful celebration assessment).  Compare your answers to those of your employees.  Is there alignment or disconnection between your perspective and employees? 

Celebration in our organization is ‘more’:

  • Frequent or Infrequent
  • Timely or Untimely
  • Specific or General
  • Genuine or Scripted
  • Eagerly or Reluctantly Attended
  • Inclusive or Exclusive
  • Inspiring or Unexciting
  • Boundary Breaking or Boundary Making (between groups with the organization)

Meaningful celebration does ‘not’ have to involve lots of time, money, and/or effort.  And its focus is ‘not’ on amusement or entertainment.  Meaningful celebration must be:

  • Sincere and genuine
  • Reinforce what really matters
  • Inspire others to replicate or duplicate
  • Motivate employees toward the next goal
  • Breakdown some invisible barriers between employees separated by functional boundaries
  • Remind employees they are working for a winner

Sports teams celebrate goals, touchdowns, runs, and individual plays.  Families celebrate weddings, anniversaries, new births, and other life events.  High performance organizations celebrate execution of strategy, accountability, innovation, inclusiveness and sustainable progress.  All groups (sports teams, families, organizations, etc.) know that adversity will occur.  So they celebrate what they want to see more of and its relevance.  It helps provides hope, motivation, and commitment.  Just like the  more than 40 children from the crisis nursery who will get to celebrate with a birthday cake and candles this year.                  

Republished with author’s permission from original post.

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