Seven Tips for Celebrating the Big Payoff


When your team achieves a major win, how do you celebrate and make the most of the moment?

A momentous payoff has just occurred. Your direct report has successfully accomplished his or her goal(s)! Things have gone well; as their leader, your expectations have been met and possibly exceeded.

So what do you do now? How do you celebrate? How do you affirm success? This is the time for you to come through by being accountable in your role as the chief motivator and affirmer in the organization. Although you may not innately be a motivator and affirmer, you know that it’s a critical element of team success.

Here are some tips to help you succeed in this area:

Be specific in your praise. Your goal is to be very specific in your affirmation; so before speaking, take time to reflect on what went well and what steps in the process made the work successful. Remember you want to recognize and “call out” what worked well so that you can reinforce the mindsets, behaviors, and attributes that you know will yield success again in the future.

Be enthusiastic in your demeanor. It’s been said that communications are 20% verbal and 80% non-verbal, so your energy, tone, and body language are all going to play a big role in communicating genuine satisfaction. It’s true—some people are naturally more expressive than others; so if being low key is part of your personality, then you’ll need to stretch your energy and emotions a bit. This may be your courage challenge and one you don’t want to fail. Regardless of where your natural level of enthusiasm falls, you will need to punch it up a notch to show your pleasure at the way things have turned out. A big smile, high fives, and good words of affirmation communicate positive emotions that inspire others with energy for the next challenge.

Debrief the mission. Set aside a few minutes to discuss what went right, what was learned, and what lessons can be used in the next challenging assignment. This is also a good time for you to ask for feedback on how helpful you were and what you might do in the future to better lead and manage your people and processes. Finally, be sure to listen for insights into the challenges your people are facing. You’ll want to reflect on those and see if there are organizational barriers or trends that you and your manager need to know about.

Consider the next challenge. Successful people are generally looking for their next challenge so be ready with a challenging assignment for the next step. Always keep in mind that one of your important leadership responsibilities is to develop your people. Be thinking about their next steps in their careers and how you can be preparing them for higher levels of responsibility.

Be fair and consistent in your affirmation. We humans have very sensitive egos and people notice what you are doing for others. They expect you to be at least as excited about their success as those of others. The way to nip office politics in the bud is to take care of the needs of each person individually as you work with them. Almost everyone is searching for validation at a very deep level to confirm that “My work has meaning; I’m valued; and I’m worth something.” Great leaders help people become successful and that means recognizing individual differences, helping people become successful and providing affirmation of their unique contribution.

Evaluate your situation. Celebration is in a sad and pitiful state in many organizations. Many leaders are so busy they just knock down one goal and head on to the next one without taking time to celebrate. That’s an energy drain for the leader and the team. Also, some folks don’t want to celebrate because they are afraid—yes, afraid that if they celebrate people will quit working hard and lower the standards. I say don’t let your fear take you out. Have the courage (and wisdom) to celebrate and see what happens. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised and that’s a nice thought, isn’t it? 

Where are you now? Are you providing affirmation and enthusiastic positive feedback to your folks as they achieve their goals? Are you willing to ask your folks to give objective feedback on how well you are doing in this area? If you stop and reflect on this, what could you be doing to better affirm and value your people? 

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