There is power in celebration. No, I am not talking about throwing a party or holding an awards ceremony, no, I am talking about what Ken Blanchard calls “catching people doing things right.” It seems obvious that this would be a powerful tool. It works on your kids why not in the workplace? But the workplace is a funny beast. A lot of behaviors we demonstrate daily in our personal lives go by the wayside the minute we walk into the office.
When we step into the office, so many people turn off their emotions and it is all business (whatever that means), and, as the too oft-repeated phrase goes, “it’s not personal, it’s business.” But why? Why is it that the workplace has to be impersonal and everyone should be robots doing their jobs without too much passion, certainly no warm fuzzies, and most definitely not any empathy or love (yeah, I said it) for those we work with side by side 250 days a year?
Well, that is nonsense. The workplace need not be a hellish place devoid of humanity. It need not be like stepping onto the planet Vulcan where logic, reasoning, and calculation reign with all emotion looked at with derision. It need not be an impersonal, lifeless place. In the words of Meg Ryan’s character in the movie You’ve Got Mail, “What’s wrong with being personal anyway? … Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.”
We are human beings. Read that again – BEINGS. Beings means we are alive, we are not machines and our workplaces need to be living and breathing rather than dead and suffocated. And because we are living beings, work is and should be personal. Whenever people are involved in anything, it’s personal because we all have unique personalities, needs, wants, dreams, hopes, fears, etc., and our feigned attempts at depersonalizing human endeavors typically only end in darkness and negativity.
So what about the power of celebration? Why have I drifted off into a rant about humanizing the workplace? Well, I wanted to make it clear that, for so many, their workplaces have been dehumanized and turned into prisons rather than humanized as centers of creativity, energy, and engagement. And one action leaders can take to humanize the place is to go looking for all of those things people do right every single day and celebrate them. The regular and sometimes constant focus on everything done wrong has been nothing more than a life-sucking force in most workplaces and the thing that can breathe life back in is so simple. Find what’s right. Celebrate it, praise it, and share it with others. Make your team feel so good about themselves that they want to find things right with their coworkers and celebrate those things with each other. The change in your workplace will be enormous.
But even given these life-giving benefits of celebrating success, there is still a tendency to look for what’s wrong. Honestly, it is a mystery to me. Somehow we think that digging up every imperfection will make things better when all it does is sink people lower and lower. Imagine the coach of your kid’s soccer team doing that. Do you think a lot of the parents would be looking for another team? If, after every practice or game, the kids came dragging in crying because all they ever hear is what they are doing wrong, don’t you think parents would be angry and go looking for a better team?
This is true in the workplace too. When there is no positive reinforcement, good team members go looking for a better team and the poor performers stay to make things even worse. It is a death spiral that turns teams and workplaces into nightmares. On the other hand, when leaders celebrate successes (even the little ones), they build greater connections with their team members and grow those team members’ sense of loyalty. These little hits of positivity keep energy high, boost engagement, and promote repeats of successful behaviors. It’s a win for them and a win for your business.
Like it or not, business is personal and those persons sitting next to you are the key to success. How can you make positive praise and celebration a part of your leadership tool belt? How can you bring the being back into business and drive a wave that humanizes how employees work together and with customers? There’s a lot of value here, so don’t throw it away because you just can’t let down your Vulcan-like business exterior. Get out there, look for things done right, and celebrate the hell out of it … and get the “hell” out of your workplace as well.
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