Healthy Ways to Celebrate Success

Celebrating Achievement: How to Help Your Team Feel Good

Healthy Ways to Celebrate Success

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Find the right way to celebrate success.

Celebrating a milestone an anniversary, a birthday, or a great set of grades can give us an amazing feeling. And it can be even better when someone else notices our achievements and makes the effort to acknowledge them.

This is true at work, too. Celebrating achievement can boost confidence and increase motivation. Showing appreciation can also boost your organization's reputation, improve retention, and help to attract top talent.

But how much recognition is enough? And when do celebrations become overbearing or lose meaning? In this article, we explore nine ways to celebrate achievement in your team, while avoiding the pitfalls.

Celebrating Success

Take a moment to consider how your team or organization celebrates success or achievement. Is it having a positive impact?

In a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), most respondents said that their companies did operate some kind of recognition scheme. However, more than a third of the people surveyed had received no recognition in the previous year. Less than half said that recognition was provided fairly, and only half said that they felt valued by their employer.

The employer probably had the best of intentions, but these schemes were ly a waste of effort and resources, and left many employees feeling demoralized rather than motivated.

If you celebrate achievement in the right way, you'll ly increase confidence and motivation, leading to happier and more productive teams. If you rarely acknowledge a job well done (or you celebrate in a way that feels forced, unfair or inappropriate) there's a risk that morale and dedication will slip away.

A reputation for celebrating wins and effort can also become a central pillar of your employer branding, helping your organization to attract and retain talent.

What Is Achievement?

When we think of an achievement, we tend to picture something the ordinary, exceeding targets, landing a big sale, or delivering a project milestone.

But other, less measurable, behaviors deserve recognition, too – for example, pulling together as a team to head off a crisis, learning and applying a new skill, or supporting new recruits. Even something as simple as quietly consistent good work can be worthy of celebration.

You might wonder why you should bother to bolster your team members' self-esteem in the first place. After all, aren't they just doing what they're paid for?

But self-assured teams don't «rest on their laurels.» Acknowledging and celebrating their achievements is part of building an effective, driven team that will actively seek to improve results and performance.

Make Celebration Meaningful

Whatever you choose to celebrate, make sure it's appropriate for the people involved.

A celebration can take many forms, from a private, low-key conversation to a public event with no expense spared. But the APA survey we referred to earlier also showed that a reward or gift has no positive effect if the recipient doesn't actually want it, no matter how much you've spent on it.

So, be sure to think carefully about your colleagues' preferences and personalities – and the dynamics of the team – before you hold a celebration.

For example, if the person concerned is an introvert, they might not want to stand up and give a speech, or receive a gift in front of their colleagues. Instead, a quiet, personal «well done» could be all they need, and they'll appreciate it even more knowing that you've taken their preferences into account.

Similarly, don't present a bottle of champagne to a person who doesn't drink alcohol, or organize an expensive outing for the team when salaries are frozen.

Some people may feel offended or patronized by any overt appreciation of their work. From their perspective, it might seem to imply surprise that they've done well! There might also be wider cultural faux pas to avoid if you're part of a culturally diverse team.

Also consider whether your organization, or the people in your team, place more value on extrinsic or intrinsic rewards. For example, a conscientious team member might enjoy the opportunity to spend time on a personal project more than receiving a monetary bonus.

One way to find out what your people value is simply to ask them. You can do this informally, or through an employee satisfaction survey.

Don't go overboard! Excessive celebration of everyday efforts might make you appear touch with your team's work. And if you give praise too frequently, it can lose its impact.

Recognize Your Own Achievements

Don't forget to celebrate your own accomplishments, too!

Find time to think about what you've achieved as part of your personal goal setting. This can boost your self-esteem, and your sense of autonomy and mastery. It can also increase your visibility, particularly if you share the credit with others.

But avoid indulging in noisy self-promotion: it may seem arrogance, your co-workers won't appreciate it, and it could damage your reputation.

Nine Ways to Celebrate Achievement

So, how can you acknowledge and applaud success? Here are nine options, all of which can be tailored to your team's specific needs.

1. Just say it. A straightforward, face-to-face «well done» is a simple but effective way to celebrate achievement. A personal email can be sufficient, too, and a handwritten card or note can add a valuable personal touch.

Gathering the team together to acknowledge success can be a powerful statement, and a round of applause can be uplifting and team-building – but take care not to embarrass anyone.

2. Share success stories. A group message is another option. Tailor it to the specific person and their achievement, but don't overuse this method or it could come across as formulaic.

You can use email, the company newsletter, social media, or a messaging platform to share and celebrate success stories. You could even set up a dedicated channel to highlight and congratulate people for jobs well done. This has the added benefit of raising your team member's profile.

3. Pay it forward. When you're celebrating an achievement of your own, show your gratitude by acknowledging the people who helped to make it happen. Always look out for opportunities to help other people to succeed, so that they have a reason to celebrate, too.

And when team members share good news, always try to respond positively. Positive reinforcements further enhance team morale.

4. Give a gift. A celebratory gift could be a one-off cash bonus, or a non-cash equivalent, such as a retail or experience voucher. Cash is often the most popular reward, but think very carefully about how other employees might perceive it. Bear in mind that some team members may already be incentivized with cash bonuses.

Try to avoid setting a precedent: you don't want recognition to become just an impersonal cash transaction.

Gifts such as food or flowers are a relatively inexpensive yet powerful way of recognizing achievement. Make sure that you consider any dietary or allergy issues. There may also be cultural sensitivities around giving gifts that you should be aware of.

5. Get together socially. Celebrating by buying team members a meal or drink can be an effective way to reward them and to boost team spirit. However, beware excluding anyone who, for example, is away on vacation, has special dietary requirements, or has caregiving responsibilities.

If you hold your event during the working day, be mindful of colleagues' deadlines and be clear about whether you expect them to return to work afterward.

6. Organize a team day out. A trip to the movies, a meal at a restaurant, attending a sporting event, or even a day of outdoor activities are all common ways of celebrating. But there are potential risks to keep in mind, too.

Everyone will ly have a different idea of «fun,» so try to find an activity that will be popular across the board. You won't want anyone to be unhappy or refuse to take part. This is a particular risk with physical or outdoor activities that might be difficult for some people, for health, accessibility or confidence reasons.

Once you've agreed on a suitable event, further questions to answer might be:

  • What's included in the day at the company's expense?
  • Is there anyone who'd find it hard to afford the other parts of the day?
  • Can people bring family members?
  • If so, will those family members have to pay their own way?
  • Where does that leave colleagues who are single or without children?

7. Offer extra holiday. Time off can be a great reward, especially when your team has worked extra hours to complete a project. But would working late occasionally for no particular reason also count as an achievement? Be careful about creating false expectations for the future.

8. Set up a hall of fame. An «employee of the week» noticeboard or notification can be popular and effective, but it can lose impact over time.

You risk accusations of tokenism if you feel obliged to choose someone rather than no one, whether they deserve it or not. And if you keep recognizing a «star» team member, or constantly overlook another, you might start to alienate people.

9. Have an awards ceremony. A glitzy evening of music, trophies and speeches is an exciting way to combine socializing, team building and networking with formal recognition and celebration.

If you have the budget, you can hire a venue and a professional events team. However, if you want to limit the expense and increase participation, get your team involved in managing and running the event, including making the food and costumes. This will be fun and rewarding in itself!

This list is by no means exhaustive. Use your imagination and judgment to create your own celebrations – and see what happens to productivity and job satisfaction when your people feel celebrated and recognized for their work.

Celebrating achievement is an important part of building and maintaining an effective, self-assured team, boosting your own confidence, and making your organization a great place to work.

There are many ways to celebrate achievement. The key is to understand your team members and what motivates them. That way, you can celebrate appropriately, fairly, and with lasting impact.


Celebrating Success

Healthy Ways to Celebrate Success
See also: Dealing with Failure

It is important to celebrate success. However, in a world that constantly pushes us to aim higher and higher, always looking for the next goal, it is easy to forget how far we have come, and what we have achieved.

Taking time to celebrate your successes, large and small, ensures that you mark the milestones on your personal development journey.

Precisely what milestones you celebrate, and how you choose to celebrate them, is very personal. Each of us has to make our own choices about what we count as success, and how we set our goals. This page discusses some of the factors that may affect those decisions, and why celebrating success matters.

Why Celebrate Success?

There are two main reasons to celebrate success.

  • First, because we build achievement on success.

    Many people find that they are inspired by their success to aim higher and further. Each promotion, each pay-rise, or each job successfully completed, encourages them towards the next goal.

    They are motivated by having a goal to aim towards, and they find it useful to mark its achievement even as they look forwards.

    Being successful helps people to see that they can be successful again. Celebrating success is therefore an important part of building self-confidence and self-belief.

  • Second, because we also need to see how far we have come.

    The process of personal development tends to push us ‘onwards and upwards’.

    We are encouraged to review our goals on a regular basis to see if they have been achieved. If we have achieved them, the tendency is then to set new ones designed to stretch us further and to encourage us to achieve more. In other words, rather than focusing on what’s been achieved, we look at what’s still to be done.

    Doing this, however, encourages us simply to look further up the mountain of self-development. There is always more that you can achieve, more skills that you can develop, another promotion to aim towards. This constant striving for more tends to make us dissatisfied.

    For the sake of our mental health, sometimes we also need to look at how far we have come. We need to see the distance that we have travelled and recognise that this, in itself, is an achievement.

    The journey matters too—and that means the individual milestones along the way.

    Being prepared to look back and celebrate the milestones can help to make us more resilient when we suffer setbacks, because we know that each setback is only temporary.

    For more about this, see our page on Resilience.

There are also physiological reasons to celebrate success

Celebrating and, indeed, feeling successful actually causes chemical changes in our bodies. It releases endorphins into our brains, which make us feel good. This, in turn, reinforces success and makes us more ly to want to do it again. It is, therefore, intrinsically motivating to celebrate success, especially if we do it in the right way.

What you celebrate as success depends very much how you define success on a personal level—and that depends on your goals in life.

Both your personal vision for where you want to be in life and your goals may be more or less formal: some people are very clear about their goals, and others prefer a more flexible approach. The goals you set, and what you want to achieve, will also vary at different times of your life. However, pretty much all of us have goals of some sort.

There is more about this process in our pages on Setting Personal Goals, and Developing a Personal Vision: Defining Success.

Success is not just about big goals and major achievements

Sometimes your major goal may seem a long way away and hard to achieve. At times that, it may be helpful to look for smaller successes to celebrate.

There may also be times when you are simply consolidating your position, or happy where you are, and you do not wish to change. However, even at those times, you are ly to have small and large successes to celebrate, both personally and at work.

For many of us, simply making it through the week is worth celebrating—and that’s fine.

The definition of success is individual.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Personal Development

Learn how to set yourself effective personal goals and find the motivation you need to achieve them. This is the essence of personal development, a set of skills designed to help you reach your full potential, at work, in study and in your personal life.

The second edition of or bestselling eBook is ideal for anyone who wants to improve their skills and learning potential, and it is full of easy-to-follow, practical information.

How to Celebrate Success

Just as definitions of success vary from person to person, how we choose to celebrate will also vary.

This is perfectly acceptable, of course—but you need to be aware that how you choose to celebrate may affect your motivation.

In particular, if you decide to reward yourself with something material—and especially if you offer yourself a bribe (that is, you tell yourself beforehand that if you achieve something, you can have a reward)—then next time, you may find it harder to do what is necessary without a reward. In other words, providing a reward is a form of extrinsic motivation. This is less powerful than intrinsic motivation, doing it simply because you want to do so.

There is more about this in our page on self-motivation.

Ways to celebrate that support or provide intrinsic motivation include:

  • Reflecting on your success, and considering what you could do even better next time (and you can find out more about this approach in our page on Reflective Practice).

  • Including others, especially if they have contributed to your success. This helps you to remember that it is very hard to achieve on your own. Everyone s being thanked, so this will also strengthen the connections between the group and make everyone more ly to work well together next time.

  • Take time to do something that you enjoy, for example, going for a walk, watching the sunset, or simply spending time with people you love.

A final thought

It may be hard to take time to celebrate success, but it is worth doing, for several reasons.

If you only ever dwell on the negatives—what you didn’t achieve, rather than how much you have done—then you tend to get very discouraged.

Celebrating your success helps ensure that you can keep going, and also that you enjoy yourself on the way.


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