Celebrations Matter

I spent the weekend serving as a bridesmaid at a wedding of two dear friends. They take care of us when we need it, so we were in the wedding, hosted guests at our home, cooked breakfast for everyone, and had fun honoring them. They do so much for us, so it was important to show up and be part of their big day. Their celebration mattered.

Spending the weekend making sure sweet friends knew they were loved, made me think about the importance of celebrating our teams.

Why We Don’t Always Celebrate

  1. Busy – I think the biggest reason we don’t take time to celebrate is we just get busy. Life happens. We miss a milestone, or we don’t pause as much to tell teams thank you. I don’t think it’s intentional, but it certainly happens.
  2. Next Big Thing – As leaders, I think we have these giant calendars in our heads or on paper of all the things we need to accomplish. Because of that, we often immediately move to the next thing after we finish something. We have a list of things and are playing Tetris to slot them in, meaning we don’t always pause to look back at what all our teams have accomplished.
  3. Not Sure How – I struggled with this too. How do you say thank you. Sometimes the things I go to just don’t seem adequate to say thanks to the team for all their hard work. They do so much, and it just doesn’t seem like the ways I come up with are enough.

Types of Things to Celebrate

In my prior institution, I really worked to make celebration part of the office culture. In doing that, I realized that my celebrations tended to fall under a couple of common categories. These are the types of things we tried to celebrate:

  1. Key Holidays – Halloween, Christmas, Birthdays
  2. Key Achievements – Finishing a major project, Completing a major event, Enrollment support success
  3. Awards – Team accolades, individual accolades, personal victories

This ongoing celebration helped people to feel valued and to feel like what they did mattered as people and as part of team. The little victories did add up to a big sense of achievement.

How to Celebrate

This one is really up to you, and it will vary some based on the situation and on the team dynamic. However, here are three categories of how I like to celebrate.

Group outings — this could be an afternoon at an activity, lunch from local restaurant, or a snack delivered to the office.

This option usually involves a full group and is great for holidays or group successes like awards. It’s a way to build team culture and make sure everyone feels like their work mattered.

Individual Treats — this could be a sweet treat, a favorite snack, a coffee or a Diet Coke (my love language) for a member of the team.

This option is a way to recognize someone who has personally achieved, had success or worked really hard on a project.

Words of Affirmation — this could be an email to the person and their leader, a kind word of encouragement, or a handwritten card.

This option works great to recognize both individuals or teams for their hard work. For some people, this is the most meaningful way you could ever celebrate a team, so knowing your team will help you to know if this is a meaningful way to honor them.

Final Advice

If you aren’t sure how to celebrate your team, just ask. Chances are people can articulate their favorite drinks, their sweet snack, and they can help you understand the group dynamics.

As we head into the busy holiday season, I think it’s important to get your celebration strategy figured out, so that you can do something meaningful for your team to celebrate them. After all, celebrations do matter.

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