Projects are completed every day. While some aren’t as successful as others, most organizations treat all those endings in the same way – with deafening silence or at most, a sigh of relief. Effective leaders and project managers think about how they will reward, recognize, and yes, celebrate project success.
Experience and observation shows that many leaders don’t do it well. I am, at best, uneven in my track record in doing this. This article offers five things to consider when celebrating a successful project. I write it for you, and I write it for myself, as well. Here’s to all of us getting better at this important activity.
Be Clear on What you are Celebrating
If there were clear goals and targets when the project began, there is a higher likelihood they will be reached, and there will be a clearer reason to celebrate when those targets are reached. Having something to celebrate isn’t the biggest or best reason to have clear goals and targets, but it is one to add to the list. Besides that, when success occurs, it holds us accountable to celebrate and say thank you.
Focus on Effort and Results
We should celebrate success for sure. But sometimes, on big and complex projects, complete and total success might not be achieved. That doesn’t mean there isn’t value in the effort. Focusing only on effort or activity (“we worked really hard”) cheats people of the meaning that comes from achievement. Yet, we can (and should) celebrate effort, diligence, loyalty, and commitment, too.
Show Real Appreciation
If the project was important, there should be heart-felt appreciation when it is completed. As a leader, be personally invested in the celebration. If you simply assign it to one person, or worse, make the celebration one more project task, it will feel hollow and meaningless. Spend time and energy to make sure that however you celebrate, people know you truly appreciate their work and success.
Make it Their Celebration
While you should be personally invested and involved, the celebration is for the team, so it should be something that they appreciate and like. Ask people how they would like to celebrate. Find out what would be meaningful and fun for them. Consider putting that discussion right at the front end of the project. When people know what might happen when they achieve a goal, it adds one more reason to succeed, and something to look forward to.
Think About More than a Cake
Cake in the break room might be easy, but the obligatory cake that not everyone likes (and the remote team members can’t even have a piece of) probably doesn’t check off the previous two items on this list. Celebrations can include food of course, but there are many other ways to celebrate, too. Creativity rather than another cake might help people see how much you appreciate their work, and create a lasting memory as well. Done well, celebrations can shape your company culture, increasing job satisfaction and long-term retention of team members.
Celebrating success is more than just a good or nice idea, or even the right thing to do. It can provide meaning, create teamwork, and help achieve even greater success.