Why Leaders Need to Celebrate More


2015 will forever be an example of a great family vacation.

We spent a full week up in New York’s Adirondack Mountains near Lake George, piled into a great big house on the Schroon River, to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of my mother and father in-law.

Think about that.  Their 50th wedding anniversary.

Amazing, right?

Such an incredible milestone and a true testament to their commitment, faithfulness and true love through thick and thin.  I look up to them both more than they probably know.

Roller Coaster Great Escape

The 50th Anniversary Celebration takes the show on the road to Six Flags Great Escape!

And we celebrated accordingly.  Everyone in the family wore custom printed, bright red t-shirts with “George & Molly’s 50th Anniversary” boldly printed on the front all around town and on our trip to Six Flags Great Escape.  We announced the big news openly at every restaurant we visited so that everyone in the place could cheer and applaud.  And, of course, the kids were routinely threatened not to argue or fight on the trip since this was Nanny and Poppy’s big celebration (…we almost made good on that one.)

As I reflected on how much fun we had celebrating, and how special it made the occasion for my in-laws, it got me thinking:  how well do I celebrate the wins and milestones that are reached with my sales team?  I’m not talking about the casually forwarded e-mail message with a thoughtless “congrats” or “nice job” typed in.  I mean a REAL, genuine celebration of a worthy accomplishment.

Not very well.

I bet in an honest moment, most sales leaders would agree that they have room to grow in this area.  There are a million excuses we use for not celebrating success more regularly:

  • “Things are just so busy right now”
  • “The company already does something for that”
  • “We’re a virtual team so it’s hard to coordinate things”
  • “It’s not really my style”
  • “Hey…it’s sales. Get back to work and sell something!”

The truth is, as sales leaders there is NOTHING more important than inspiring and motivating the folks on our team.  And few things motivate a team more than celebrating both shared and individual successes in meaningful ways.  Jack Welch, the legendary retired CEO of GE, was famous for throwing pizza and beer parties for his team to celebrate big milestones.  That killer spreadsheet you’re working on can wait – take some time to:

  • Go out to great lunch to celebrate hitting a key market share goal
  • Skip the e-mail and send a hand-written note congratulating someone for hitting YTD high sales volume. Maybe even address it to the person’s spouse or kids so they can make a big deal about it, too.
  • Chop an hour off your next meeting to take the team out for a drink to toast someone’s big work anniversary or have a bunch of pizzas delivered to your room for an impromptu party.
  • Have a Junior’s Cheesecake delivered right from Brooklyn to someone’s house to celebrate nailing down a big deal
  • Use your leadership visibility to very openly bring attention to a great accomplishment to a broad, higher-level audience by creating an award, plaque or trophy. Go big.

This list could go in many different directions and the actual action has to jive with your personal style, budget and company rules – but you get the idea.  We can do better as leaders.  I need to do better as a leader.

We could have bought a cake, a card and went to dinner for George and Molly’s 50th Wedding Anniversary and it would have been fine.  But a 50th Wedding Anniversary isn’t an occasion for FINE – it’s a reason to celebrate.  And we did just that.

What opportunities exist on your sales team TODAY where a celebration is in order?

How will you use that celebration to inspire and motivate your team?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.  Until next time, enjoy the view below from our vacation rental home on the Schroon River…a celebration indeed!

My view from vacation last week...what a celebration!

My view from vacation last week…what a celebration!

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