Project Management Institute




When was the last time you celebrated a noteworthy accomplishment by your team?

If it was within the past three months, you are to be commended. From my experience, most leaders—whether project managers, sponsors or senior managers—fail to celebrate major milestones or noteworthy events that their teams have worked hard to achieve.

Special milestones or events should be planned to occur at least every three months and should be challenging, but achievable. Teams need these noteworthy goals as a means to productively pace themselves. Moreover, as a team approaches a major milestone, it may need to work harder and smarter—just as you did in college when you were heading into final exams and the end of the school term. When the milestone finally is achieved, you should celebrate in recognition of all those who pulled together to make it happen.

Celebrating the successful completion of the milestone is motivating, exciting and helps the team to bond; it feels good. It doesn't have to be a big or costly celebration—lunch, an afternoon off, tickets to a movie, an after-work get together. Just the act of pausing to celebrate—to recognize and thank the team—can go a long way.

If there is no time to pause for celebration—whether a half hour or a half-day—then the integrity of the goal is highly suspect. If months and months pass and there seems never to be much to celebrate, then you have a far bigger problem: leadership.

Either you are not setting the bar high enough to make the effort noteworthy or you are not successfully leading your staff to worthwhile outcomes. In either case, results worth celebrating are really the only results worth having.

My experience shows that the number one reason employees leave a company is that they don't feel appreciated. They feel like objects or commodities that are moved from one project to another, from one crisis to another. As people, we are high maintenance; we need to be routinely and positively stroked. Obviously, a project, organization or company cannot be successful without people performing successfully. Promoting a culture that encourages the best from people—that shows its appreciation for their contributions—will provide great returns on that investment.

When we feel appreciated, our morale rises and our workday goes faster. Our dedication and loyalty also increase. I know many, many very bright and talented people who could make more money working elsewhere but they feel so appreciated in their current work environments that they have no interest in pursuing other opportunities.

Promoting a culture
that encourages the best
from people—that shows its
appreciation for their
contributions—will provide great
returns on that investment.

If you subscribe to the school of thought that people should not need to celebrate or be told “thank you” for simply doing their job, end your subscription. We all need to feel wanted, needed and appreciated.

What are your celebratory plans for your team's next major accomplishment? People will never forget how you made them feel. PM

Neal Whitten, PMP, president of The Neal Whitten Group, is a speaker, trainer, consultant, mentor and author. His latest book is Neal Whitten's No-Nonsense Advice for Successful Projects.

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