If left unchecked, charitable work can become downright depressing. It’s heartbreaking to watch someone struggle with addiction AND work to get her kids back from the child welfare system. It’s difficult to know that the same family comes to the food pantry each week because they’re paid less than minimum wage.
This work is tough work. This is why we need to celebrate.
Before you write me off as insensitive, let me explain. Celebration, happiness, and joy all go hand in hand. Celebrating meaningful wins leads to happiness; and happiness, connected with meaningful work, leads to joy. I’ve argued many times in this blog that you can’t be an impactful do-gooder and be cranky. In fact, it’s downright disrespectful. We must learn to celebrate small and large victories.
Here’s why, according to the authors Kouzes and Posner in their fifth edition of The Leadership Challenge:
- Celebrating builds community and humans are hard-wired to be communal. We evolved around fires, eating together, debriefing on the day, and planning for the next day. By bringing people together to celebrate, you’re building the bonds of your team.
- Teamwork makes the dream work. One way to build a team is to celebrate together, especially celebrating the behaviors and values you want to see more of. Public acknowledgement of a job well done boosts everyone’s morale. For the person who did a great job (for example: displaying integrity during a meeting with a funder), that praise in front of everyone can be the catalyst for him continuing that behavior and modeling it for his co-workers. For his co-workers, they see that positive behavior is rewarded and also strive to demonstrate the values that are valued.
- Fun and hard work must go together in order to be sustained. People naturally want to enjoy their work. They want to get out of bed and look forward to seeing their co-workers. Employees at all levels will step their game up when they are challenged and can have fun doing it. Plus the more fun your team is to work with, the more people will want to collaborate with them. If you’re having fun, it’s like a magnet that draws others in.
Sometimes we take ourselves way too seriously.
It’s time to lighten up. Here are five ways to celebrate without breaking the bank:
- Host a surprise ice cream party for your team to celebrate winning a grant, launching a new program, or meeting client outcomes for the month.
- Create a meaningful award with a silly representation. For the colleague with the most membership touches, they get a big plastic fish hung outside their office for the month.
- Have the leadership team host a regular happy hour and serve the drinks. Happy hour can include any variety of drinks, from alcoholic to milkshakes
- Allow employees at every level to ring the cowbell for small victories. When the cowbell is rung, everyone comes out to cheer.
- Create a program that allows employees to praise each other when good things happen. Some companies might call it a “Cheer Ticket” program or Happy Bucks. Basically each employee gets a stack of these Tickets to pass out whenever they see happy and meaningful work that aligns with the organization’s values. The employee writes on the ticket exactly what they observed within a few days of it happening. They give it to their receiving colleague. Individuals who receive these throughout the year can be nominated for larger awards during a special awards breakfast.
The cheapest and easiest way to celebrate others’ work is to gossip — POSITIVELY. Let others overhear you bragging on your colleagues at all levels, and make sure you say it to the employee directly. Nothing compares to hearing positive praise to increase the amount of great, happy work from your teammates.
Now it’s your turn.
How do you recognize your colleagues when they do a great job and celebrate with them?