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A Key Ingredient in Team Success

The Art of Celebrating Well

December 12, 2023
Servant Teamsmanship
Joseph Cook

What does “celebrating well” mean?

We all have different ideas of what the word “celebrate” means. We all know what it is, conceptually, but we each think about it differently. If I could be so bold, I would say every human on the planet needs and wants to be celebrated. This falls into the realm of a sense of belonging on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If you find yourself disagreeing with me, perhaps you haven’t been celebrated in the right way.

To get everyone on the same page, we define celebration as a look back to see what has been accomplished and/or affirm who someone is. Celebration is critical for any team seeking high performance, but in our experience working with so many teams over the years, we have found that a high percentage of teams see celebration as a major growth area.

Many teams forget or do not think about celebrating much; others do it too often to the point of having it lose its authenticity and power. The purpose of the article is to help provide clarity on how to celebrate with your team in a way that builds true fulfillment and fuels future performance.

To achieve this purpose, I will highlight three specific levels of celebration and describe how each level can add value to the team. I will start with the top, overarching level, and work down to the first, individual level. Along the way, I will also use the real-life metaphor of my most important team…my marriage with my spouse.

celebrating well - what does it mean?

Level 3 – Celebrating Big Wins Well

Last year (2022), Kim and I celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary. 10 years of marriage is a big deal, so we needed to celebrate as if that were true! As humans, we communicate what we value by what we celebrate. Kim and I value our marriage more than anything else, so we celebrated by booking a trip back to our honeymoon spot in an all-inclusive resort on the Riviera Maya.

Teams must create ways to celebrate big accomplishments, and these celebrations can vary to fit the culture of your team. It does not have to be confetti and balloons if that does not fit your team. The reason Kim and I booked a big trip back to our honeymoon is because we love traveling together. Trying to force a cliché celebration that does not fit the culture of your team will greatly reduce the impact of the celebration. Find something that fits.

We will get to individual preferences later, but some preferences may need to be put aside for bigger celebrations. The WinShape Foundation gathers every single employee during our ONE conference every Spring, and we set aside time to celebrate our 3:14 Award winners (our version of employee of the year). To put it mildly, confetti is definitely involved…loads and loads of confetti.

While being recognized in front of hundreds of people is not everyone’s cup of tea, the big celebrations reinforce the alignment of shared values. Teams must take time to do this, but more importantly, teams must take time to do this well!

celebrating well - big wins

Level 2 – Celebrating Milestones Well

While high-level celebrations are vital, not every celebration needs to be a huge one. Kim and I did spend more money and take more time on our 10-year anniversary, but we also take smaller trips every year on our anniversary to celebrate the new milestone. For example, this year (year 11), I had a work trip in Niagara Falls, and I brought Kim along for a short, weekend anniversary trip. We also try to celebrate within each year by going on dates and spending time together.

On your team, you do not have to wait until the purpose or large goals are accomplished to acknowledge progress. We do not want to go to the unhealthy extreme of celebrating everything we do every day because, again, those celebrations can become empty and inauthentic. Rather, find smaller ways to acknowledge milestones for your team, which are specific moments that have propelled the team towards the larger goals.

This past summer, my instructor team and I completed a big summer project to increase and clarify our alignment. At the conclusion of this successful project, we simply took an afternoon and did a fun activity together to acknowledge this milestone. It was inexpensive, quiet, and did not take much time. It was just a pause to celebrate progress together.

Waiting until the absolute end when the purpose is finally fulfilled can accidentally create exhaustion and disengagement. Think of taking a long road trip to Disney World with children. We keep them engaged by getting excited when we finally get on the interstate, then when we cross the state line into Florida, and then finally when we drive through the gates. Celebrating milestones along the way keeps your team engaged and fulfilled while on the journey.

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Level 1 – Celebrating Individuals Well

Finally, what makes an enormous, glorious forest is every individual tree. What makes a relaxing beach is every grain of sand. Each impressive team is comprised of individual team members that contribute to the team objective.

Kim and I love celebrating our holistic marriage together, but it is also essential to celebrate each other distinctively. We are polar opposites in how we function, which several personality assessments have confirmed. Ironically, however, our distinct strengths, giftings, and perspectives add value to the team. I need to take the time to celebrate what Kim specifically brings to our marriage and acknowledge her contributions.

This is where personal preferences come in. Kim and I do NOT feel celebrated the same way. Years ago, for my 30th birthday celebration, I wanted a lot of friends and family over at our house. We played yard games, watched football, and ate a lot of food together. My cup was so full of joy. Kim would not have felt celebrated in that way. She is much more introverted and would rather celebrate in an intimate setting with a few family members present. If I celebrate her the way I want to be celebrated, the celebration loses its power.

When people say, “I do not want to be celebrated,” they are communicating that they do not want to be celebrated the way you are trying to celebrate them. Instead of a huge announcement, they may prefer a hand-written note to read on their own, a private word of affirmation, or maybe just a small gift on their desk. It is critical to recognize the individual contributions of team members, but they must be celebrated in ways that the person receives it most.

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Every person (and team) craves recognition, just in their own way. To create an affirming and fulfilling culture on your team, take advantage of meaningful moments to celebrate together. Celebrate the significant victories, the milestones that show progress, and each individual’s contribution.

One way you can celebrate with your team is by booking an all-inclusive team retreat at WinShape Teams. We will ensure your team is cared for, fulfilled, and has fun when you are retreating with us.

Another purpose for retreating together is to take the time to get to know each other better outside of work. You might not be celebrating other team members well because you may not notice their contributions or know how they feel most celebrated. On a retreat, you will get the opportunity to understand each other better and find out how each person brings distinct value to the team’s ultimate purpose. We hope to celebrate with you soon!

team retreat

Celebrate your team by booking an all-inclusive Team Retreat with us!

When you retreat with WinShape Teams, we ensure that your team is cared for, fulfilled, and has fun.

Retreating together creates time and space to get to know each other better outside of work. Learning how the individuals on your team feel most celebrated is the first step in perfecting the art of celebrating well. On a retreat, you will get the opportunity to understand each other better and find out how each person brings distinct value to the team’s ultimate purpose. We hope to celebrate with you and your team soon!