It is a popular refrain: “We need to celebrate our wins and successes more often!”

These words are often uttered when:

  • Employees are fatigued
  • People are glum because they didn’t achieve their full objectives
  • Results aren’t good

There is a glaring omission on the list above: Choosing to celebrate what’s working…when things are working. (There’s more than irony in that statement.)

One of the big reasons why well-intentioned leaders fail to consistently celebrate momentum in the business is this: Acknowledging what’s working becomes a check-the-box exercise. Because most of us resist low-value exercises, conversations that don’t seize opportunities or solve problems invite us to multitask.

In other words: When the agenda says it’s time to celebrate successes, most team members sit out the discussion, waiting “for the real meeting to start.”

Most of us know, however, that a culture focused on—and praising—what’s working has significant benefits. Organizational confidence is strengthened, optimism increases, the employee experience is improved and results often improve.

To build a true and lasting culture of celebration, we encourage these two techniques:

1. Rather than only asking “what’s working?” or starting meetings with a “spotlight on successes,” take this important step: Link the celebration to a challenge or barrier your team is currently facing. This way there is an urgent and relevant reason to celebrate.

It could sound like this: “Today we must make difficult decisions about project funding. As we begin, I’d like to hear a few examples of where we’ve made difficult decisions in the past that have proven to be sound choices.”

2. In the flow of everyday work, when someone happens to hint at or mention progress being made, before others can return the focus to problems, speak up and be curious.

For example, “Before we move to the next topic, I’d like to ask: What specifically did we do to create those desired outcomes—so we might replicate or leverage what’s working?”

Most leaders are experts at knowing why their organization is failing; fewer understand why they’re succeeding. Without intentionality, cultures reflect the negativity bias inherent in the humans that create the culture.

Building a lasting culture of celebration requires far more than ticking an agenda item. Optimism, momentum, and forward-focused energy is an orientation, a way of being in and leading the world around you.

P.S. A reminder: The end of 2023 is near. The energy your organization finishes the year with is the top predictor of how you’ll begin 2024. There’s still time.



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