Five Unique Ways to Celebrate Individual and Team Success at Work

Let’s face it, many people are working harder than ever. Lots of us are still working from home. While we appreciate not having to sit in traffic twice a day, the hours we save on the morning and evening commutes are often not going to working out, time with the family, or volunteerism.

A recent survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found that working from home during COVID cut the daily time spent commuting by 41 minutes/day. However, for managers, their workday increased on average by 56 minutes. So much for all those good intentions to get in shape.  

With the pace of work ever quickening and higher and higher expectations on managers and individuals, it is more critical to reward employees. Those rewards can take the form of monetary incentives and/or benefits. And frankly, both of these are what employees come to expect. If they are not compensated well and provided with the help they need, employees will find what they need elsewhere. A 2022 MetLife survey found employees have the lowest job satisfaction rate in 20 years. Additionally, the percentage of those surveyed who stated they plan to be with their current organization in 1 year dropped to 70% from 80% in 2018.

And the traditional way of rewarding employees is just not sufficient. While it is nice to get a box of swag with a t-shirt and a notebook on day one of a job, that is not what keeps employees engaged and motivated. Raises, bonuses, and promotions are just part of what employees have come to expect. 

Let’s look at five ways to celebrate individuals and teams to increase their engagement, satisfaction, and overall commitment. 

Gratitude Dinners

A few years back, my leadership coach suggested I host a gratitude dinner with my team after an offsite meeting. I was intrigued by the idea. However, I wanted to hear more about how she had set these up and the results. After the two of us spoke, it sounded like a great idea. There were eight of us at the dinner at a nice restaurant in Redwood City, which is in the Bay Area. 

The team was unaware of anything unique about this dinner, but after we had ordered our drinks and dinner, I let the group know we would try something different. I stood up, walked next to each person on the team, and shared an experience with each employee that I was grateful for. These ranged from considerable efforts around an acquisition to a massive project with Gartner one team member lead. 

In my gratitude talks, I focused on what they did and how it impacted me, others, or the business. The team was blown away since the stories mattered to them. Their peers were also grateful to hear the stories I shared about each of them. I felt terrific after I walked around the table and shared my gratitude statements with every leadership team member. 

But what happened next really blew me away. One of the leaders said thank you and appreciated my comments, but she wanted to tell an impactful story about someone else at the table. The chance to share peer-to-peer gratitude statements spread like wildfire. Each team member went around the table and spoke about everyone else on the team and gave an example of why they were grateful for that person. That was one of the best team dinners we had ever had. And to say we were more connected, bonded, and truly felt like one team was an understatement. 

Advancing Their Skills

One of the greatest gifts I’ve been given at work is someone willing to invest in me. That has taken the form of someone giving their time or helping me advance a skill. Whether you are an intern or a senior vice president, improving your presentation skills will benefit you no matter your profession or industry. One of the organizations I’ve worked with for fifteen years is Decker Communications. When I first encountered Decker, we were doing a two-day workshop on communicating to influence. On day one, we prepared our stories and persuasive arguments; on day two, we had to be on camera and film a three to five-minute video. It is rarely fun to break down every aspect of your communications while watching yourself on video, but it is valuable. You rarely see yourself in action when you are presenting a keynote or speaking at a meeting, but watching on film, how many times you say “um”, when you touch your hair or why your posture matters. By being continuous with your words and actions, you can focus on those things that distract from your message and ensure you have maximum impact. 

Time and time again, employees are hesitant about going into these sessions. Public speaking anxiety affects about 73% of the population because of the fear of judgment or negative evaluation by others. But these fears can be tamed. Being a confident speaker can have a profound impact on your career. Determining the skills that will most impact your employees and spending time and dollars to improve them will profoundly affect them.  

Handwritten Thank You Notes

Call me old-fashioned, but personally, there is nothing like getting a piece of mail that is thoughtful and heartfelt. Writing letters is a lost art from an era that seems long ago. In my experience, the impact of an employee opening a letter is profound. The first time I wrote letters to my team was after I left a company after nine years of working there. My leadership team was solid and stable. Many had been with me for years. So deciding to go was a difficult decision. I told them in my letter and thanked them for their contributions to the company, but more importantly, for what they had taught me. They were leaders in their field, and I learned as much from them as they did from me. Many on my team responded by saying this is the first time they had ever received a letter from their boss and how touching it was. While this is a small gesture, it can build lasting bonds. 

Team Offsites

Having participated in some memorable offsites, I know how these fantastic bonding trips can create lifelong connections. While I’ve been able to attend team meetings in Austria, Sydney, Paris, and beyond, offsites don’t need to be in outrageous places or cost thousands of dollars to have a meaningful impact. There need to be moments of thanks where team members share a meal, talk about their lives, and have some fun. One of the most memorable offsites was in San Francisco with my Corporate Marketing team. We tried something that no one had been to before, which was a hip-hop class, where we learned about its history, got to create our rap song, and experimented with our street art skills (check out our picture). The number of stories we walked away from that evening was endless.

Memberships to Associations

Networking is critical to career advancement. Giving employees the experience of joining an association to get to know their peers and other leaders can build their network, hear best practices and become stronger leaders. I’ve experienced this firsthand. When past bosses supported me in becoming a member of marketing or communications societies, I felt they were vested in helping me advance my career.

Two of the most significant programs that have impacted my career are Global Institute for Leadership Development (GILD), a week-long program that focuses on “Meaningful peer-to-peer interactions, world-class keynote faculty, personalized executive coaching, and real-life strategies for making a difference.” I went with a group of my peers and heard some of the most profound and impactful speakers (Nando Parrado, Marshall Goldsmith, Pat Lencioni). I reference these lessons I learned from GILD often in my work. 

The second is The Arthur Page Society. Page focuses on professional associations for senior public relations leaders, communications executives, and educators. It has been a wonderful experience to have deep and meaningful conversations with my peers about topics facing our organizations. I know how fortunate I have been to participate in events and associations that have created meaningful connections for me, and I like to pay it forward to my employees to advance their skills. 

Being mindful of how to celebrate your team is critical for them to see your commitment to them and how vital their career is to you and the organization. 

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One response to “Five Unique Ways to Celebrate Individual and Team Success at Work”

  1. This is all so very true. I recently attended a dinner with my husband’s leadership team as spouses were invited. The CEO not only walked around the room and expressed gratitude (at length) to each of his leaders, he also expressed gratitude to each and every spouse for the support that we give to our partners and referenced something that he knew about each of us (because he pays attention) My husband was doubly proud and that CEO has my support for life.

    Liked by 1 person

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