Healthy Habits for High Performing Leaders: Pause to Celebrate Success

pausing to celebrate success

Healthy Habits for High-Performing Leaders

Do you remember getting a participation ribbon when you were in elementary school? I do. While I was pretty excited in kindergarten, as the years went on, I realized I needed more than a participation ribbon. I wanted some recognition from my classmates and peers, and later from my manager and co-workers.

Just because you are not in kindergarten anymore doesn’t mean you don’t want, and need, recognition. Yet, leaders and their teams tend to focus on what has not been accomplished and where they want to go rather than taking the time to pause to celebrate, recognize, and acknowledge what they have accomplished.

Celebrate The Small Successes Early and Often

“If we celebrate too soon, we may be complacent and unfocused.”

Often, our focus leans towards what remains to be achieved rather than pausing to acknowledge what we’ve already accomplished. It’s not that there isn’t a desire to do this, but as human beings, our innate negativity bias often directs our attention towards unmet goals rather than celebrating accomplishments. We habitually look at the future, so accepting incremental progress is difficult.

“We don’t have the time to celebrate small victories. We’re too busy focusing on the
day to day”

As leaders, sometimes we may not feel a real need to celebrate (either personally or professionally), inadvertently overlooking the impact of acknowledgment and celebration. However, it’s essential to recognize that while some team members may thrive without explicit celebration, others greatly benefit.

Celebrating even the smallest successes early and consistently creates a feedback loop, contributing to an upward spiral of motivation and productivity. Neurologically, experiencing positive emotions triggers the release of feel-good chemicals (Dopamine and Serotonin) that counteract anxiety and stress while counterbalancing the brain’s natural negative bias. This reward mechanism boosts morale and inspires individuals to strive for further success.

Acknowledging achievements, regardless of their size, fosters a positive work environment and sustains momentum towards overarching objectives, ensuring continued growth and success for the team.

Does “Feeling Good” Really Help?

The book Tiny Habits by behavior scientist BJ Fog states, 

“Emotions create habits. Not repetition. Not frequency. Not fairy dust. Emotions.” 

This emphasis on emotions’ role in forming and sustaining habits, particularly feeling good, is a catalyst for people being more likely to take action when they feel successful. It suggests that when individuals feel successful, whether by achieving small goals or milestones, it motivates them to continue their efforts and sets a positive cycle in motion. Celebrating these small victories positively reinforces the behavior, making it more likely to become a habit. 

For example, imagine you’re halfway through a mountain climb. Instead of always looking forward and feeling overwhelmed by what’s ahead, visualize taking a moment to glance back over your shoulder to reflect and celebrate how far you’ve come.

What can leaders do to celebrate successes? 

No, we’re not talking about party poppers and formal rewards programs. Celebrate early and start small by acknowledging and giving the team that ‘high five’ and making it stick.

  • Encourage your team to create personal success journals where they can write down three things they achieved successfully. The simple act of making a list is satisfying because it gives you a feel-good boost. Leaders and teams can also establish a success whiteboard: at the start of meetings, they can add recent successes from the week. This can be done virtually using a whiteboard or chat platform. Regularly adding to this board helps cultivate a habit of celebrating success.
  • Consider developing a meaningful ritual to mark milestones within your department or team, such as sharing success stories during a dedicated meeting or creating a recognition wall to highlight achievements. Sports teams are known for having their rituals, which can be as simple as high fives or as elaborate as victory chants and post-game traditions.
  • Plan a formal recognition event to leverage successes, foster community, and connection, and reinforce achievements. Activities such as team lunches or happy hours can significantly strengthen these bonds.

Let’s Close Out the Quarter and Celebrate Our Successes

Celebrating successes, big or small, is crucial for creating a positive and motivated team environment. Leaders who acknowledge achievements through rituals, personal journals, and informal gatherings can foster a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie among their teams.

As you close out the second quarter and push for your Q3 goals, take a minute to celebrate your accomplishments  Recognize those people who contributed to them, and use the opportunity to boost morale, enhance productivity, and strengthen commitment to shared goals. Ultimately, celebrating successes ensures that every milestone, regardless of size, contributes to a thriving workplace culture.

If you’d like to learn more about developing a leadership program that leads to healthier habits, follow our blog, or contact me for a custom program around your needs.

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POSTED ON: Leadership, Team Development, Teamwork