Nobody becomes an entrepreneur because of satisfaction with the status quo. Rather, we’re a restless bunch, with lofty goals that often seem insane to others -- such as earning $1 million in revenue and hitting 500,000 users by the end of our first year.
Dreams like these are enough to keep you motivated, but chances are good that those same dreams feel very far off to your employees. As Tech Cocktail’s Frank Gruber has pointed out, in order to build a team of great people and keep them engaged, you need to create a culture of celebration that recognizes small wins.
Why small wins matter
Psychologists and management experts agree: Breaking major goals down into smaller milestones “reduces fear, clarifies direction and increases the probability of early successful outcomes.”
Studies also show that small wins provide a lasting boost in happiness. In The Happiness Advantage,” Shawn Achor discusses the common misconception that if we work hard, we’ll be successful, which will make us happy. However, positive psychology says we may have that equation backward: Being happy makes us more successful.
This may sound too good to be true, but a University of Warwick study confirms that happy people are about 12 percent more productive; another study revealed that people are more creative when they’re happy.
To reap these benefits, it isn’t enough to celebrate a good financial quarter with a pizza party. You must bake positivity into your culture, so "celebration" is the norm. How to do that? If high fives and dancing sharks aren’t your thing, you can still find authentic ways to celebrate small wins with your team. Here are those five ways:
1. Share your strategic plan.
You can’t expect your teammates to drive your company to victory if they don’t know where you’re headed. Reveal the master plan so they know what they’re working toward and can recognize the milestones along the way. It’s OK -- even good -- if the plans change as you go, but this will set you in the right direction.
2. Identify measurable “wins” that support your core values.
When choosing milestones to celebrate with your team, start by examining your core values. Then, identify concrete, measurable things you do as a company to support those values. For instance, if one of your core values is exceptional customer service, a good measurable milestone might be getting 20 five-star customer reviews on Yelp. Every time your team hits a milestone, go out for pizza, a movie or a happy hour.
3. Single out employees for outstanding performance.
Seeing others do high-quality work raises the bar for your team and energizes everyone. My company recognizes what we call our “peep of the week” -- an employee nominated by a coworker for outstanding performance. We randomly select a nominee; then, we email the team to explain what that employee did to earn recognition. We also send our POTW a small gift of appreciation.
4. Broadcast positive customer feedback.
Research shows that the ideal praise-to-criticism ratio for top-performing teams is about 6:1. That means that for every negative remark, you should balance it with six positive ones. It’s the end of the line for the compliment sandwich.
To boost our positivity ratio, we send screenshots of good customer feedback in our “weekly good notes” team emails. Showing employees that customers appreciate their work and are seeing positive results helps remind them why they do what they do.
5. Create a culture of support.
Creating a culture of support means extending those celebrations beyond work-related accomplishments. Show support when a teammate runs a marathon, buys a house or has a baby.
If health is a company value, consider using a tool such as Matchup to add a supportive element with weekly fitness goals. Team members can see how their coworkers are doing, offer encouragement and give them high fives when they reach their goals.
In today’s job world, growth and mastery are more important than ever. It’s vital to recognize teammates’ achievements so they don’t feel like they’re spinning a hamster wheel. Don’t focus on false praise; make a point to celebrate the things that deserve to be celebrated that we often forget about.