Leadership Tip: Why Should Good Leaders Always Celebrate Success?

Sarah Hood

Taking time to honour small victories may be your most powerful team-building tool A good leader has a clear vision. She sets the direction for …

Taking time to honour small victories may be your most powerful team-building tool

Celebrate team successA good leader has a clear vision. She sets the direction for her team. She identifies priorities and communicates them clearly. But in the drive to achieve, one trait of a great leader sometimes gets lost. Recognizing victories—even small ones—and setting aside time to celebrate success are very important parts of the job of leadership.

Honouring success can happen at every level of the operation. The annual performance bonus, the uplifting speech at the holiday party, the media release broadcasting news of a major corporate achievement: these are all fine ways to recognize success. But it’s also important to entrench recognition of a job well done on the small scale, too.

I’ll never forget an afternoon years ago when I was handling media relations for a major arts festival. A volunteer who normally worked in the event headquarters had just finished a day in my office assembling media kits. As she prepared to leave, I thanked her for getting through this big task for us—whereupon she burst into tears!

Apparently, through weeks of volunteering, she’d never received any feedback, and was beginning to think she was a failure at every task. A simple thank-you was more important to her than being paid.

But recognizing and celebrating success goes beyond simply boosting employee confidence. It’s an important tool for unifying your team and keeping them directed toward your overall vision. In a 2015 article titled “Why You Must Celebrate Small Successes”, business technology writer Minda Zetlin (co-author of The Geek Gap), writes that in order to succeed in a big endeavour, you must “parcel the journey out into the smaller steps you’ll take along the way” and “celebrate when you reach one.”

If your ambitious goal is to become the top-rated firm in your field, you need to celebrate the moment when you move from third to second place. Otherwise, striving to reach long-term goals can become an endless slog with no rest or sense of progress. Great leadership isn’t just about pointing towards the victory to be reached; it’s also about giving the team a reason to keep going over the long haul.

Taking time to mark the small victories may mean anything from colouring in a thermometer-shaped chart on a whiteboard to holding a celebratory lunch to flying the team to Costa Rica for a break. Whatever the method, “it reminds people that goal setting works” and “unifies everyone around a positive outcome,” points out business writer Rebekah Campbell in her 2013 article “Why it’s Important to Celebrate Little Victories”.

Celebrating success is also good for leaders themselves. When we evaluate a project we’ve wrapped up or an innovation we’ve introduced, we have a tendency to focus on the flaws, so we can do things even better next time. But if we honour every win, big or small, we restore our own confidence, too. In his 2014 article “3 Reasons to Celebrate the Little Victories (While on the Way to the Big Ones)”, coach and inspirational speaker Shawn Ellis recommends that leaders should “celebrate every little victory you can so your confidence bank has the ‘funds’ needed to meet the challenges of the day.”

“Great leaders find the way to appreciate progress in themselves and progress in others,” writes motivational speaker and self-help author Tony Robbins in his 2012 article “Leadership Secret Five: Honor Success and Celebrate Victory”. It’s a rewarding habit that can strengthen resolve and build unbeatable teams. And it doesn’t have to cost anything: it can even be as simple as saying “thank-you”.

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Sarah B. Hood is a Toronto-based freelance writer. She writes well researched, fresh and engaging articles on news and lifestyle topics like food, culture, design, urban life, environment and travel.

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