Celebrate and Appreciate Your Way to Success

“What gets measured gets done,” is an often-quoted business aphorism (FYI, wrongly attributed to management guru Peter Drucker).   Proper attribution aside, the veracity of the statement is evident to anyone working in a large organization.  Companies allocate their time, money, and human capital to the goals that get measured.  Doing so leads to success.

I offer an alternative path and saying: “What you celebrate and appreciate you propagate.”  Success is generated, cultivated, and stems from what you celebrate and appreciate.  With that in mind, I share suggestions to unleash their power.

  1. Celebrate Results and Values

Focus celebrations on desired results and organizational values. Imagine two companies, HareCo is a company competing in a fast-paced industry, where innovation and risk-taking are sources of long-term competitive advantage.  TortoiseCo competes in a low-margin industry where safety and reliability are prized.

As the president of HareCo you want to follow the celebration lead of Google.  It is important to celebrate success like Google AdWords and Search Advertising that generate close to 80% of its revenues; but it is also necessary to celebrate business that did not develop as planned like Google Glass Smart Glasses.  In his book Work Rules! Google’s Head of People Operations Laszlo Bock states “it’s also important to reward failure” so as to encourage risk-taking.  Other examples include the accounting software company, Intuit, that gives a special award for the Best Failure.  WL Gore, makers of Gore-Tex, celebrate projects that don’t work with beer and champagne.

The president of TortoiseCo also values innovation, but their celebrations take a different path.  Following the lead of Toyota, TortoiseCo would celebrate Kaizen events.  Kaizen is a Japanese term that loosely means change for the better.  It focuses on iterating and continuously improving.  Amazon, a company focusing on e-commerce and cloud computing, and Jeff Bezos are also a big proponents of Kaizen principles.

What values drive your success? Storytelling and quality like Disney, or safety and excellence like NASA?  Whatever they are, make sure to continually celebrate the values and results that determine your success.

  1. Appreciate Workers and Work

In past blogs I’ve highlighted the work of Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen who separate feedback into three buckets: appreciation, coaching, and evaluation.  When I speak with HR leaders, they agree that colleagues receive little appreciation feedback compared to coaching and evaluation.  This is too bad because appreciation is a great way to focus employees on the actions and behaviors that directly correlate to success.

Research by O.C. Tanner (LINK), a leader in employee recognition solutions,  shows that when news of success is spread across an organization, there is a 57% increase in feelings of appreciation. Companies with the most loyal team members show their appreciation early and often. Colleagues will typically work harder when it’s clear their efforts are appreciated.

Appreciation Examples:

  • CVS Health Paragon Awards (appreciating performance): started in 1990, CVS Health Paragon Awards celebrate the best of the best among CVS Health colleagues who serve in customer, patient, and member-facing roles. Winners achieve outstanding results while demonstrating the company’s purpose of helping people on their path to better health.
  • The Netflix Prize (appreciating an attitude of collaboration): was an open a competition for the best collaborative filtering algorithm to predict user ratings for films, based on previous ratings without any other information about the users or films. The grand prize of $1 million dollars was given to the BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos team which bested Netflix’s own algorithm for predicting ratings by 10%.
  • Anniversary Sabbatical (appreciating loyalty and work ethic): a health care company where I worked in the 1990’s offered employees a one month paid sabbatical in recognition of 25 years of service to the organization. Staff often used that time to explore new roles, research, and/or spend time with family.
  • Lunch with the CEO (appreciating goal attainment): I worked at a bank where teams that achieved a major goal got to meet with the CEO. They were given time to review their results, then ask questions of the CEO over lunch. Both colleagues and the CEO look forward to these opportunities to learn from each other.

Celebrating and recognizing employees tangibly links actions, behaviors, and results that align with company values.  Research shows that lack of recognition is the top reason people leave their jobs, and more than half of employees say they want more appreciation from their managers.

Bottom Line

Get the results you need by celebrating successes, and failure when appropriate, that align with your values, and appreciating colleagues in multiple ways.

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