Tip #9: Celebrate Successes

Too many leaders focus only on the problems at hand, or what still remains to be done, rather than step back and acknowledge how much their teams have already accomplished.  In addition to avoiding a reputation for being a complete slave driver and no fun to work for or with, research shows that people have more confidence to continue pushing forward when they are grounded in past successes.  Strong leaders take the time to reinforce their teams when they achieve milestones.

It’s a good reminder, too, of the benefits that focusing on strengths can bring.  Recognizing what has gone well is one of the principles of Appreciative Inquiry, which states that in every system, something works.  What are the good results the team achieved, and why did they happen?  How can you use the strengths the team displayed in this success to deliver the future milestones you need to achieve?

If you work with someone who isn’t given to celebrating success, think about ways you can influence the culture to change that.  When I was a junior lawyer working on a large team gearing up for a huge trial in six weeks, each day had the potential to feel like a death march.  Everyone was working long hours, tensions were high, and the end seemed nowhere in sight.  Yet people were giving it their best, and we were meeting a slew of deadlines with few hiccups, and I knew we needed to maintain that maximum effort for longer than seemed possible.  To keep our spirits high, I began emailing the team of lawyers, paralegals, and legal secretaries a daily “Thought for the Day” of either inspirational or ridiculous quotes, that had a loose connection to the project of the day.  I hadn’t realized that people had begun to look forward to my TFTD until I was late sending it out one day that first week, and one of the secretaries called to ask if I was OK, since he hadn’t seen my email yet.

In that setting, celebrating the daily small “victories” we had during a challenging time helped keep a large team united and focused, and built confidence that we would persevere on to success.  What can you do to help the teams you’re a part of celebrate their success?

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