Intentionally creating small special moments takes very little time and effort, yet they can have a profound effect on us. And celebrations aren’t just important for your personal life—they have a place in professional life too.
With the holidays upon us, people are getting into the mood to celebrate. But celebration should not be something reserved for certain times of the year. Celebrations do not need to happen only on specially appointed days. Creating a culture of celebration is something that people should strive for all year long. I’m not talking about monthly birthday parties for employees, but meaningful micro celebrations related to the everyday work we all do.
Reality Is Harsh
I think of all the meetings I have sat through where people are asked to provide updates on their projects. Sometimes they’re just giving ongoing progress reports, but other times they’re sharing a significant or challenging milestone they’ve met, or even announcing they’ve completed a specific project. Yet the response from whoever is leading the meeting is typically the same: “So, what’s next?”
It reached a point where I got used to it. I was expected to talk about my work – my successes, my challenges, my expectations. I learned not to expect a “thank you” or a “good job” or even a “how can we help you”. I learned that any satisfaction in my work was going to have come from me. It wasn’t that supervisors didn’t like me or appreciate me (I’m pretty sure they did), but celebration and support wasn’t part of the work culture.
Sadly, its not just the places I’ve worked. I have talked to countless others who work at other places with similar stories. Some people have had great stories about work environments that have cheered them on, but those are in the minority. So, why does this happen?
An Alternate Reality
I understand that people are busy, time is limited, and everyone wants to get through meetings as quickly as possible. But how much time and effort would it take to acknowledge these milestones? I’m talking about a twenty-second verbal statement of gratitude about impact by the meeting facilitator (usually a supervisor). A quick thank you and a word about why that milestone was important, or the impact that the completed project will have on the company, or an appreciation of how difficult, tedious, and time consuming the project was. Any of those personal touches will make the thank you genuine and meaningful to the receiver.
Twenty seconds is not a lot of time in the scope of one meeting, but the benefits it reaps can go a long way. Everyone wants to feel that their work is worthwhile, that they’re contributing to the bigger picture, and that what they’re doing is important. It takes practice and forethought on the part of the supervisor to offer praise and encouragement, but the resulting positive morale it generates makes it well worth the effort. This pause of gratitude should not replace structured employee recognition programs, but opportunities for ongoing well deserved thank you’s should not be missed.
The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate. —Oprah Winfrey
Leaders Dictate Reality
I had a supervisor once tell me that they saw no reason to thank their staff for doing their job. Employees were hired to do a task, and they received payment for that work. End of story.
While that is technically true, if you want those employees to stay and work for you, take on extra work, do any task outside their normal responsibilities, or to speak in a positive way about you and the company, then you had better make sure they feel appreciated.
As leaders, we don’t always recognize the impact we have on the culture we are creating for our employees. The environment that results from our leadership approach becomes the reality that our employees must work within. Just as those above us have created a reality for us, we create the reality for those below us. [Note: I use above and below only in the context of the chain of leadership. I am not suggesting that anyone is more or less valuable based on their title.]
As leaders it becomes our responsibility – and our choice – to determine how much celebration is in the culture. The size, frequency, and type of celebrations are all under our purview. We can design an atmosphere where people feel respected and supported, or not. What reality do you want to work in? What reality do you want to create for others? And if you can’t get the reality you need from others, what can you do to create it for yourself?
Putting It All Together
It all comes down to the basic human need for relationship. Being polite, showing gratitude, and treating others as we would like to be treated—these are important in all situations. So, whether it is finishing a project on the job, or mastering a new recipe at home, there is always room for a little celebration.
What areas of your life need a little celebration? How often do you show gratitude for the possessions, experiences, and relationships that make up your life? How often do you reward yourself and others for achievements? I challenge you to be thoughtful and intentional about showing gratitude to yourself and others. I challenge you to find ways to express your thanks. Celebration and gratitude don’t have to be limited to the holiday season. Find meaningful ways to mark any accomplishment as special.