How to Celebrate Success
A deep dive into the psychology of celebrating success and strategies to enhance it.
As a seasoned leader with over a decade of experience in this role, I have faced numerous challenges. Interestingly, the most persistent challenge hasn't been related to significant issues with team members, performance problems, or anything of that nature. Instead, it revolves around something that has gone well.
It might seem strange, but one of my most significant ongoing challenges is celebrating success.
Even now, I occasionally struggle with this, prompting me to dig deeper into the issue to better understand its various aspects and try to suggest potential solutions.
However, before I explore these potential solutions, I think it's important to examine why something that should be a positive and straightforward action turns out to be so difficult for many leaders to execute, as well as challenging for employees to receive.
The Challenges of Celebrating Success
While researching and reflecting on this topic in recent weeks, I was surprised by the numerous reasons why celebrating success can be challenging. I decided to divide these into four categories:
👨💼 Leadership Challenges
👨💻 Team Challenges
🧑🤝🧑 Cultural Challenges
🏢 Environment Challenges
Some of these challenges can be influenced, while for others that’s hard or not possible at all.
Now, let's explore each of these categories in more detail.
As a leader, one of your primary duties is to recognize the hard work of your teammates. However, there may be various reasons why a leader might find it difficult to celebrate their team's accomplishments.
🤔 Limited awareness or understanding: a leader may not be fully aware of their team's achievements, especially if they are not directly involved in the day-to day work. This limited understanding can make it challenging to recognize and celebrate successes.
⏰ Time constraints and competing priorities: leaders often have numerous responsibilities and demands on their time. As a result, they may struggle to find the time or energy to focus on celebrating their team's accomplishments among other pressing tasks.
😨 Fear of complacency: some leaders may worry that celebrating successes could lead to complacency or a decrease in motivation among team members. They might believe that continuously pushing for improvement and focusing on future goals is a better approach to maintain high performance.
🔍 Perfectionism: leaders with perfectionist tendencies might have high expectations and focus on areas of improvement rather than recognizing and celebrating achievements. This mindset can make it difficult for them to acknowledge and appreciate the success of their team members.
😣 Discomfort with emotions: some leaders may be uncomfortable expressing or engaging with emotions, which could make it difficult for them to celebrate their team's successes in an authentic and enthusiastic manner.
😶 Lack of reaction: this is something I experienced many times (and we will see after why). When you congratulate people, their response might vary depending on their attitude; some may remain silent.
Just as it can be challenging for a leader to celebrate success, team members may also find it difficult to be celebrated for their achievements. There are several reasons why a member of your team might feel uncomfortable when their accomplishments are acknowledged.
📉 Low self-esteem: employees with low self-esteem might have difficulty accepting praise or recognizing their own accomplishments. They may feel undeserving or uncomfortable when their achievements are celebrated.
🎭 Impostor syndrome: employees experiencing impostor syndrome (I mentioned about it here) might doubt their abilities and feel like a fraud, despite evidence of their competence. When their achievements are celebrated, they may worry about being exposed as a fraud, leading to discomfort.
🔇 Introversion: introverted employees often prefer to avoid the spotlight and might feel uneasy when their accomplishments are publicly acknowledged or celebrated.
🐍 Fear of envy or resentment: some employees might worry that being celebrated for their achievements could lead to jealousy or resentment from their colleagues, particularly if they perceive the recognition as relative or competitive.
🙊 Discomfort with praise: some individuals simply have difficulty receiving praise, regardless of their self-esteem or accomplishments. They might feel embarrassed or awkward when their achievements are acknowledged.
As we've seen, both the individuals celebrating and those being celebrated can face challenges when it comes to acknowledging success. However, there are also challenges that stem from cultural differences or human nature itself.
Sometimes, the difficulties arise simply from where you were born.
In certain cultural contexts, openly celebrating success or praising individuals may be considered inappropriate. Leaders from these backgrounds might find it challenging to navigate cultural expectations and norms surrounding the celebration of achievements. Similarly, in cultures where humility is highly valued, drawing attention to one's accomplishments could be viewed as arrogant. Employees from these cultural backgrounds might feel uncomfortable when their successes are acknowledged.
But culture isn't the only issue. As humans, we have innate tendencies, and one of these is for our brains to assign more importance to negative experiences, emotions, and information than to positive ones. This phenomenon is called the Negativity Bias.
The Negativity Bias has its roots in our evolutionary history and served as a survival mechanism that helped our ancestors avoid danger and threats.
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