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A Leadership Primer On Celebrations

In talking with leaders over the years, I`ve noticed that most seem to struggle with celebrations.

Some struggle with when to celebrate. Some struggle with why they should. And some don`t have a struggle because they don`t celebrate at all. (Here the struggle is for those they lead!)

Unlike many other leadership topics, there doesn`t seem to be much of a consensus on the topic. People range from one end of the spectrum to the other – from we don`t need a reason to celebrate to we don`t have time to celebrate.

This article is meant to address some of the questions and challenges, and perhaps provide some balance to the discussion.

Why We Should Celebrate

Celebrations in general (forget about the workplace for a minute) typically are organized to recognize, reward, rejuvenate, relax and/or to have some real fun. Because we are human beings at work, we need to remember that all of these reasons have validity on the job too.

You`ve heard the old axiom that says people spend more time at work than they do with their families? Guess what, unless you work with your family, it`s true.

So, if celebration is at some level a human need, why wouldn`t we incorporate that into work?

Too new-agey or humanistic for you? Let me be more bottom-line for you:

Properly done, celebrations will improve morale, improve productivity, reduce stress, reduce turnover and improve Customer Service.

If you are in the “we don`t need to celebrate” camp, any one of these should be reason enough to reconsider. Taking them all together should make it an easy call.

Why We Don`t Celebrate
I hear many reasons for not celebrating on the job. Here`s a partial list:

We haven`t succeeded yet.
We haven`t reached the goal yet.
The project isn`t finished yet.
Nothing happened
I expected we`d make that target.
We don`t have time.
We don`t have the resources.
No one wants to celebrate.
No one will organize it.
No one really cares.
It`s no big deal.
We are here to work, not to celebrate.

Some are more valid than others.

As leaders I know you can be creative enough to overcome those that are self-imposed limitations. The next time you hear (or say) a rationale for not celebrating, take a step back and decide if it`s a valid reason or simply an excuse.

Did you notice the one word that shows up in many of them – yet? “Yet” highlights a big gray area; few people will actually say they are against celebration – they just set the bar so high that none ever happen! (Keep that idea in mind as you read on.)

When We Should Celebrate
This is where many people get stuck. They realize the value, but either over do it (celebrate because it`s Tuesday afternoon) or under do it (it takes something amazing before we celebrate).

The key is to find a balance between those two ends of the spectrum. Here are some questions to help you determine when to celebrate, and if you have a “good enough” reason to do so.

Do people realize how much they are appreciated?
Do people realize how much they have achieved?
Are people overly stressed?
Do people need some perspective on the progress they are making?
Would you like to bring people together?
Could a celebration help me communicate any important messages more effectively?
Do we just need to have a little fun?

Remember that celebrations can be for achieving a goal, but they don`t have to be!

The real decisive point about when to celebrate (and how to do it) is this question:

Will people appreciate and enjoy the celebration?

Consider this a leadership primer on celebrations.

It`s likely I haven`t answered all of your questions or solved all your dilemmas about celebrations (that wasn`t my goal), but I hope I have given you some tools and some things to think about.

If I achieved that, I can celebrate.

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