Growing up in New England, I tended to maintain a pretty good work ethic. If there was work to be done, I did it. And as I entered the workforce, year after year, life got busier and more jam-packed with obligations and responsibilities. And yet, it occurred to me this past week that not celebrating the wonders of the work that we do is truly a missed opportunity.
It's critical to take time to celebrate the accomplishments—both big and small—within an organization. I know that margin pressures and deadlines don't make this as simple as we would like, but it is nonetheless imperative. If you have a culture that understands how to celebrate its successes, people will remain motivated, achievements will be valued more completely, and deeper relationships will be forged within the group. Plus, it beats the hell out of doing your time sheet.
Re-imagining the process and ideation of celebration is also essential. If you have a colleague who has achieved something important in his/her job, a celebration can be as simple as treating your colleague to lunch and discussing his/her career potential. Celebration can also lead to establishing rituals that help to simply make it through a tough week—such as the bocce court/league that we've just formed at VIA. But sometimes, a celebration mandates an all-out throw-down. Don't formally schedule the celebration with your HR department, but instead, organize a party that allows everyone to let their hair down and be human together. Camaraderie within an organization leads to higher employee morale and ensures that your most valued colleagues stick around.
Last year, our agency received a wonderful honor, being named Advertising Age's Small Agency of the Year. A few weeks ago at one of our management team meetings, someone commented on how quickly the year had gone by, and how we should have taken more time to celebrate this important milestone. So what we decided was to not just have a party in our honor, but to instead create a short film congratulating the next winner.
This in and of itself became a celebration for all that we had done, but was expressed through a creative endeavor that captured the imagination of everyone in the company. We laughed together, we looked back over the year together and we collectively set our eyes on tomorrow. And each of these things added a certain spring to everyone's step.
This brings me to my last point: Don't forget to celebrate the successes of those outside of your own company. Industries are microcosms that inevitably involve a lot of horizontal movement from one company to another. Creating a fun sense of camaraderie where competition is friendly makes passing the torch something that's bittersweet—instead of just bitter.
[Image: Flickr user Amanda Tipton]