At work, how do you celebrate milestones and achievements? Are they subdued? Do you talk about doing something and then nothing really materializes? Who is responsible for or takes the lead in planning the celebration?
Thinking back over my career, I’ve had one manager who made sure we celebrated achievements and one who did a pretty good job. With the rest, ideas withered and died. Men seem to be generally uncomfortable driving these celebrations. Historically they have passed the planning to the admin staff.
I’ve always enjoyed putting together something big and fun. Sometimes women are reluctant to put together these events fearing they will fall into a stereotype and deep into the Pink Zone. To prevent yourself from becoming the office party planner, pick and choose what you want to celebrate. Knowing everyone in the office’s birthday and bringing in cake is different from finding the milestones that employees should have pride in achieving. Instilling pride and recognizing hard work is what a leader does. And you don’t have to be the manager to lead the celebration.
Here are a couple of things I have done in the past and after 12 years I will finally admit that it was me who pulled off one surprise event. Think big, think outside the box and use the event to energize!
When I was in the Air Force, about 18% of our shop personnel were deployed for 3 months. And the day before they deployed we had a fire in an old wooden building that destroyed a lot of shop supplies and injured all of the personnel in one shop. My boss was already deployed and I was left with what everyone expected to be a growing crisis.
It wasn’t. Our productivity soared. The shops worked together like never before supporting each other. My superintendents stepped up and led. They got down in the weeds and worked issues. As a team we worked priorities all day long. After two months, the whole base took notice that we were meeting their needs better than before. Lots and lots of cudos started pouring in.
The men left in the shops were crusty middle-aged stereotypical shop guys. They liked working and being left alone. They didn’t like recognition. It embarrassed them. But I wanted to recognize them.
The day before our deployed personnel returned we held a cookout. I heard through my superintendents that many of the guys didn’t plan on attending. We went to work – we personally invited each craftsman to the cookout. On the day of the cookout, I went from shop to shop finding all of the guys who were still too embarrassed or uncomfortable to attend. I got 100% attendance.
It transformed them. It was as if some of the guys put up barriers just to see if I would climb over them to recognize them. They were so used to being beaten down that they never expected anyone to work hard to give them the recognition they deserved. (these feelings are not just held by women!)
When military personnel are deployed for a mission, they often get a medal. Holding that cookout was like giving each of the guys who stayed home a medal that they wore inside of themselves. That experience has remained with me – my job as a leader is to make sure my employees have pride in what they accomplish and are recognized for it. It is about giving them something that they carry inside of themselves.
Many years later I was working for a homebuilder and we met our annual goal for home sales. It made us the largest homebuilder in Tucson. To celebrate someone bought a couple of bottles of cheap champagne and we all got a taste after a toast. Not much of a celebration but typical.
About a week earlier I had an idea of a better way to celebrate if we met our goal. Once we confirmed that we were meeting our goal, I called the party store and ordered a lot of helium balloons in the company colors. I learned exactly how many balloons I could cram into my car! I also bought streamers and lots and lots of glitter. Lots of glitter!!
I came back to the office later that night and started decorating. I decorated the entry, hallways and the conference room with balloons and streamers. I put glitter all over. And I mean all over! Everyone’s desk got glitterfied.
Now the office looked like there was a celebration happening!
When everyone came to work the next morning – Surprise!! It looked like the fairies had been there overnight! Who did it?
I didn’t say a thing. Within an hour, wondering who did it took on a life of its own. It became a new game.
Mid-morning I slipped a note into the HR Manager’s mailbox “I’m having fun watching everyone try to figure out who I am.” This got a new round of curiosity going. After lunch I slipped in another note “You still haven’t figured out who I am.”
This office that was known in Tucson for its high level of dysfunction and where people were at each other’s throats all day long was having fun! There was laughter! What a change! (even if for only a day.)
Only the division manager figured out it was me and I never told anyone else. Until now. (Yes, Kat it was me!)
So take the initiative to celebrate the milestones! Our male co-workers need us to energize them in this way!. Don’t worry about being labeled the party planner as long as you pick and choose the milestones to celebrate. It’s a great way to establish yourself as a leader.
Empowered women are leaders, who recognize and celebrate achievements!
Share below your stories on how you celebrate milestones