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What Are You REALLY Celebrating?

High-fives and victory dances are awesome (especially for uploading to YouTube after one too many celebratory toasts at the all-night company happy hour). But sometimes we need to pause in the midst of the revelry to ask just what it is we’re really celebrating. Is it the new contract we just scored with a coveted client? Is it a five percent growth in referrals over last quarter? The chance to finally move up to swankier digs in a downtown high-rise?

Perhaps outwardly it seems so. But when we step back for a moment, we quickly realize that those are just milestones that come and go. What we’re really excited about are the more intangible things these milestones say about the teams we have working for us:

  • Innovation and resourcefulness. Outpacing a competitor, re-branding a stagnated product image, diversifying marketing efforts to reach previously untapped markets–such are the things that we usually reward. But what really matters to us is our team’s ability to see the big picture, to hone in on new opportunities, and to leverage its resources to effectively capitalize on them. We’re not interested in bursts of success that are ultimately unsustainable, and we don’t want our teams understanding their value to us in terms of the win itself, but rather in terms of what the win represents about their growing competencies.
  • Teamwork that really works. Getting along is one thing. But really getting the job done effectively as a group is a lot tougher (and a lot rarer) among business teams. That’s because we’re hardwired to do things our own way, and effective teams are rarely comprised of a bunch of like-minded people. Yet business success depends on a variety of perspectives, a diversity of skill sets, and the cooperation of many different parties (often with competing interests). Given that outlook, it’s astounding that teams work at all–and, in fact, many don’t. They just get along. So whenever we do win big, we need to make sure we’re celebrating it as an especially lucid example of a truly rare thing: a team that actually works.
  • Rising from the ashes. Sometimes we get it right the first time. But unless we’re part of the vanishing minority of overnight success stories in the business world, our wins come as a result of hard-fought battles to overcome early struggles and setbacks. Or perhaps early success was followed by some backtracking and we’re only now finally breaking free and gaining new ground again. The point is that whenever we achieve an important new milestone, what we want our teams to understand is that we’re celebrating their ability to rise from the ashes of past defeats and push forward with greater initiative and stronger resolve than before. Only those who can keep their losses in proper perspective have the tenacity to turn them into wins later on, and that’s worth celebrating.

When we celebrate what really matters, our teams see their successes as the springboard for new ones. They feel empowered to take risks and even to take a few hits along the way toward growing a stronger, more innovative organization. Getting a good feel for your team’s strengths is a great way to make sure those qualities are what take top billing at your company’s next victory lap.

Cheers to that!