Good Leaders Celebrate

Leaders who are interested in building a T.E.A.M. spirit, a true “we’re all in this together” spirit, celebrate victories and milestones. And here, I don’t mean their own victories and milestones; I mean the victories and milestones of their team members.

I’ve seen too many situations in which only the leader’s accomplishments are acknowledged and celebrated. That’s a poisonous atmosphere in terms of creating T.E.A.M. Often he/she will offer the humble, “I’m surprised that people noticed,” or “How did you know it’s my birthday?” type of response over the cake and congratulatory cards. But, over time it becomes apparent that only his/her birthday is recognized and celebrated in the office. Only the boss’s life milestones (e.g., birth of child/grandchild, new certification, article published, graduation or marriage of child/grandchild, new house, etc.) are publicized from the main office.

Team builders realize that the executives aren’t the only ones that have work and life milestones or accomplishments. Good leaders acknowledge the victories that are related to the job. Great leaders – T.E.A.M. builders – celebrate the non-work related milestones of their team members.

In this regard, being a great leader requires at least two things:

First, the ability to look beyond oneself. Perhaps that seems self-evident. However, not all people in leadership earned the title LEADER by building a coalescent team. In other words, they haven’t attracted people who happily follow. They are leaders by contract: “I’m the boss and you will follow my lead.” This is a toxic environment. Great leaders, look beyond themselves, see the team as larger than themselves, and recognize the members of the team.

Second, a great leader knows his/her charges well enough to know when they have life events, and acknowledge and celebrate those events. A card, a personal email, a company e-blast are easy, inexpensive ways a leader can celebrate with his/her team members. For larger milestones, a cake or small gathering of co-workers is appropriate.

I already hear the objections:

“Our company is too big. I can’t know all that kind of stuff about all the people who work here!” Okay, start by celebrating the victories of those directly under your charge, and expect them to do the same … until every last person on the flow chart is included and recognized. Make this part of the company or ministry or club DNA.

“I don’t have budget or time for this kind of stuff.” How much money or time does it take to send an email or dial an office extension and say, “Happy Birthday!”? A word of warning is particularly relevant here: Don’t simply go through the motions by doing something impersonal. You know, the faux-personal note. People know, or will soon know when the note isn’t genuine. Auto-pilot is a mistake.

I’ve seen instances where the leader had a stack of computer generated post cards and simply scribbled his/her name below a message of “encouragement” (probably prepared by someone else). The first time the person received that type of note, he/she was encouraged. The second time, thoughts of “wait a minute, this looks automated” started to creep in. The third time, the person was convinced the cards were robot-generated and all the previous good will was lost. After that, the cards went directly from the mailbox to the recycle bin.

I want to encourage leaders – in any context – to begin celebrating their team members’ accomplishments and milestones and see how much morale and T.E.A.M. spirit and unity improve. This will result in increased productivity.

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