The power of celebration

You don't need a reason to brighten your team's day. Try celebrating for no reason at all. This leads to happy team members who are likely to stick around.
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Oct 01, 2007


Bob Levoy
"Celebrating makes people feel like winners and creates an atmosphere of recognition and positive energy," say Jack and Suzy Welch, co-authors of Winning (Collins, 2005). "Imagine a team winning the World Series without champagne spraying everywhere. You just can't! And yet companies win all the time and let it go without so much as a high-five."

The Welches emphasize that work is too much a part of life not to recognize moments of achievement, so grab as many as you can and make a big deal out of them. If you don't, who will?

Reality check

"Do you know why most employees leave their jobs?" asks a newsletter from Lawrence Ragan Communications. "Because they get in a 'rut' and are, in a word, bored." You can sweep employees off their feet by throwing "guerrilla celebration" attacks. Bring bagels and coffee for your team on a random Tuesday. If you keep employees off balance about what you're going to do next, you'll separate your practice from others—and convince employees to stay put when they're thinking of leaving.

There's no denying that plenty of public pats on the back are a great way to show staff they're on a winning team. What can you celebrate? Ask your team for ideas. Here's a short list of possibilities:

  • Employee anniversary milestones
  • Achievement of practice goals
  • Your practice's anniversary
  • The busiest day, week, or month since the beginning of the year
  • The end of a project such as launching a practice Web site, a major change in appointment scheduling, or remodeling of the hospital.

Hard-learned lesson

"Recognition and celebrations," says Ron Zemke, author of Service Wisdom (Lakewood, 1989), "are ways of re-affirming to people that they're an important part of something that matters." Small ceremonies, Zemke says, can be significant motivators for employees in a service organization where "pride in the product" is essentially pride in personal performance.

Among other benefits, celebrating does the following:

  • Promotes teamwork. Employees bond with each other.
  • Creates energy. Batteries get recharged and the practice team feels renewed.
  • Builds self-esteem. Team members' contributions and achievements are recognized.
  • Communicates your priorities.
  • Showcases and reinforces desired norms of behavior.
  • Helps people through transitions and changes.
  • Makes work more fun.

Action steps




There's no right way to celebrate. In fact, try to explore different forms of celebration to keep things from being routine and predictable. Make events festive. Get lots of ideas by getting everyone involved with the planning and execution. And keep the focus on the people and achievements you're recognizing. Otherwise, it's just another party.

Celebrations remind everyone that goals not only exist, but they're exciting, important, and attainable. Celebrations are also a way of nourishing team spirit. They represent a moment in time when many people's efforts can be seen, felt, and enjoyed. Celebrations let team members know you're paying attention to performance and that you recognize how hard they're working, how much they're contributing, and how valuable they are.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Bob Levoy is a seminar speaker based in Roslyn, N.Y., who focuses on profitability and practice growth. His newest book is 222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices (Jones and Bartlett, 2007).