team celebrating success at work applauding

Beyond “Great Job”: Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Success in the Workplace

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As the end of the calendar year approaches, many businesses and organizations are getting ready to take a breath before diving into the new year. These organizational pauses are often a good time for celebrating success at work – what has gone well since the last time you paused? Too often we rush from one thing to the next without marking our accomplishments and, perhaps more importantly, taking note of what we learned from them. Activities to recognize or celebrate success can be used meaningfully at this time of year – or any time!

I encourage you to facilitate organizational celebration during these transition times, but do so in a way that feels productive and meaningful. There’s nothing worse than empty praise, so don’t do it. Instead, invite members of your organization to generate their own specific markers of success and share them with each other. Remember, even a celebratory meeting should consider the 4 P’s of successful meeting planning: Purpose, Plan, Participation, and Progress.

While celebrating success at work can be as simple as making space at a staff meeting or office party to share accomplishments, you can also craft a more intentional means for celebrating success that pushes folks to reflect more deeply. By doing so, you can increase people’s engagement with other’s success, and also pinpoint ways in which the organization has learned and grown.

The following celebration activities for the workplace are designed to be specific, productive, and supportive for your employees. They are also meant to be SIMPLE ideas to recognize success, because inviting folks to celebrate should not be a taxing or burdensome request. They should build goodwill, and give folks a moment to realize that even if there were bumps along the road, there are always successes to be celebrated.

What do you do? These are just a few examples of activities to celebrate success. Do you have one to share? Please feel free to leave a comment below with an activity you have enjoyed so that we can fill each other’s toolkits!

Rotating Graffiti Celebration

hand writing accomplishments on a piece of paper on the wall
In a Rotating Graffiti exercise folks move around the room contributing to brainstorms.

This exercise is done in person and without too much facilitative intervention. Simply place 3 or 4 large sheets of easel paper on the wall and title them with short prompts to think about over the last year (or whatever period of time you desire) – things like “Appreciations, Achievements, Memorable Moments, & Lessons Learned.” Give each person a marker (mix up the colors) and invite them to walk around the room writing short testimonials on these easel papers (this is their chance to write on the wall). Their contribution can be anything from one word to a very short story.

After about 10-15 minutes (depending on the size of your group), tell folks to stop where they are and gather near one of the sheets. Invite them to quietly read over everything written on the sheet they are nearby, then open things up for discussion – what stands out to you in what others wrote? What trends or common themes are we seeing? What do we want to take with us from each sheet?

Virtual Success Board

2021 Accomplishments JamBoard!!

A Google “jam board” is like a virtual white board, complete with sticky notes, images, and the ability to write comments. It can be incredibly useful when your team has gone virtual or when it is hard to gather everyone in one place. Create a Success Board for your team and invite each member of your team to add a post-it note celebrating a specific achievement from the past year. You can go a step further by inviting folks to add a visual image or photo along with their achievement. Then, invite others to comment or add graphics to the board if they want to respond to their colleagues. 

Give the Jamboard a week to develop then dedicate some time for everyone to review it. You’ll have a visual representation of what everyone is proud of, and even documentation you can reflect on in the future. You can process this together in a team meeting or simply let everyone process it on their own time.

“Pass the Paper” Individual Strengths Brainstorm

With smaller to mid-size teams, it can be hard to give each individual a chance to hear positive feedback from others. If your team is fairly well-functioning, and ranges in size from 5-15, this exercise may be a good choice. Each person gets a blank piece of paper on which they write their name in large letters (as creatively as they want). They pass the paper to the person on their left and the next person spends a minute writing down something they see as a strength of the person whose paper they are holding. Folks can use visuals, or doodle, or simple write a few words. Then, pass again (and so on and so forth). By the time the person gets their own paper back, it is full of strengths that others see in them.

The important part about facilitating this exercise is to have a quick conversation about what you mean by “strengths.” This is not about writing something like “good job on your project” – it is about getting specific about a person’s skills or talents – “You have a way of bringing people together that makes a team more successful” or “Your creativity helps us think outside the box.” Showing your team a tool like the Clifton Strengths Finder list of strengths can be a great way to prompt their thinking

Use caution with exercises like this if there is tension in your team; stick to organizational-level success if you feel team members may have a hard time complementing each other.

Whatever you do to help your team celebrate their accomplishments or progress, remember to also facilitate a conversation about what you are taking away from this celebration. As a leader, you can synthesize the conversation and point out concrete ways that these celebrations are leading to future decisions and strategies. You can do this verbally at an in-person meeting, or through a year-end note to your team. Your team needs to know that you heard them, you appreciate them, and you are looking forward to building on these accomplishments in the future.

Nothing is perfect – no team, no individual, no organization – but I truly believe that there is always something to be celebrated. Taking time to do so will help build positive momentum for the future.

As always, I am happy to consult with folks as you design your celebration, or if you want help facilitating it. Learn more about my facilitation services here, and please reach out with any questions!

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