Building community spirit involves leaders in activities that increase the bond between coworkers and between the worker and the work community. Part of this task is creating meaningful experiences for individuals, teams, and the whole work community. The intent is to inspire and recommit individual members to agreed-upon tasks, methods, and the leader’s vision. If an idea (vision) is important, leaders must present it passionately if inspired action is to result. And they should celebrate any successes in reaching toward that vision. Two kinds of celebrations are discussed in this section: celebration ceremonies and cheerleading behavior. Together they encompass most activity inner leaders engage in to communicate their values via praise and recognition.
Celebrations come in many forms. They can be elaborate productions or informal get-togethers. Programs developed in the past may consist of easily duplicated certificates, suggestion reward systems, newsletter profiles, employee-of-the-month competitions, or formal or informal employee-initiated recognition of helpful colleagues. Some of the large number of success recognition techniques are described in this chapter. Perhaps the best methods of celebrating individual and group success are those unique programs developed by inner leaders to meet the specific needs of the moment and unique work process peculiar to their work community’s role in the larger corporation.
A celebration is a technique inner leaders use to honor excellent—or at least, unusual and desired—performance (Chambers, 1999). It is taking time to reinforce wanted behavior or results and to acknowledge a job well done. Celebrations can take place at any time—in the middle of a project or at the end of one. Celebrations are held when individuals or the work community as a group demonstrates commendable behavior in hard work, creativity, imagination, foresight, or other values-enhancing effort. They mark activity that deserves celebration in that it goes beyond the call of duty.
Several characteristics of celebrations follow.
The actual rewards given at these celebrations are often simple fun and are related to the actual interests of the people involved.
Celebrations deliver the best regards of the leader.
They can take place at any time.
Frequent work communitywide gatherings whose primary object is to recognize, honor, and celebrate community performance help create and maintain unit cohesion. Celebrations dramatize the leader’s commitment to people and to work-community values. They are heartfelt expressions of appreciation. Ensuring that celebrations are directly relevant to specific actions that are in line with the vision, values, and culture of the work community also helps ensure their effectiveness. It is often the fun (Santovec, 2001) aspects of a celebration that make recognition ceremonies positive and motivating experiences. Fun, simple, and original rewards work best to motivate community members (Nelson, 1999). The goal is to make the rewards given clever and unique. The simpler and more creative the better. Informal—spontaneous, even—rewards are often very effective in bonding workers to work-community goals and methods.
Celebrating success can also focus on individual performance. Inner leaders give followers a chance not just to do a job but to have some impact on the work community, its processes, and its products. When a follower does his or her work well, they reward them in a celebration that praises that performance. They know that recognizing extraordinary performance will engender more of that behavior in the individual and also in all other workers. They know that the most motivating incentives from their followers’ point of view are based on recent performance. People want something for something—they want recognition for a job well done and they want to see a direct connection to work done and the resultant reward. And, inner leaders have learned that recognition means most when it comes from a leader whom the employee holds in high esteem.
As individuals perform in exemplary ways, some inner leaders create or develop ways to publicly acknowledge that behavior. One corporation created what came to be known as the Golden Twinky when an excited inner leader, seeking for something to acknowledge a coworker’s completion of a particularly difficult and thorny task ended up handing the follower a twinky from his lunch with a cordial “Great job. Congratulations!” Over time, the Golden Twinky Award became one of the most prestigious honors bestowed on an inventive employee in that division (Nelson, 1999).
Michlitsch (2000) recommends multiple programs and events to celebrate success. He says leaders should reward employees for doing a good job, that is, for engaging in behavior that achieves the work community’s mission and strategy. In doing this, inner leaders find out what motivates their employees, and then provide situations within which they can motivate themselves. The reward is sometimes money but often is things that do not cost anything except time, concern, and recognition. Knowing that you get what you reward, inner leaders make certain that they reward performance that is aligned with the community’s values, vision, mission, and strategy (Michlitsch, 2000).
While thought of by many as an old-fashioned and almost meaningless human relations technique, innovative inner leaders use this generic idea to craft programs to recognize and reward creative ideas from followers. Such programs can be focused narrowly on the immediate work tasks of suggesters or broadly engage all followers in proposing ideas for performance improvement anywhere in the work community and the larger corporation. Rewards may be recognition only, be limited to token gifts, or be one-time bonuses or pay increments. In some corporations they are a significant percentage of first year savings produced when the innovative idea is implemented.
Rewarding success does not have to cost much money or time. Developing criteria to identify outstanding performance by classes of worker and then measuring actual performance against those standards to highlight top performers is the basis of many recognition programs (Bowman, 1991). Some programs inner leaders initiate to honor a worker involve merely naming that person employee of the month—or week, or year, or other time period. Some inner leaders include a framed certificate attesting to that honor, provide a convenient free parking space, or otherwise give the winner visible special privileges.
Recognition for exceeding preset standards or personifying community values can also take the form of easily duplicated certificates honoring outstanding service. It also can entail filing an official commendation in the follower’s personnel file to be considered in the future along with other data prior to decisions on raises, promotion, or selection for training or choice work assignments.
While not always within the sole discretion of inner leaders, implementation of elaborate bonus and incentive awards programs is another recognition technique. Regardless of inner leaders’ roles in creating and administering bonus and incentive plans, they use corporation-wide programs to foster their personal professional and work-community objectives as they make decisions about who will be included in bonus distributions and for how much the bonus will be for a given follower vis-à-vis other community members.
An innovative adaptation of bonus systems is one that focuses on work community as opposed to individual performance. Some inner leaders foster competitions among work units withing their sphere of leadership in which a unit endeavors to save more of its operating budget than other units. The problem with this plan normally is that such savings go back to the general fund and the saving unit reaps nothing but fleeting congratulations. Some inner leaders develop plans where a portion of the annual savings produced by a given unit is retained in its budget as an unallocated lump sum. That unit may keep that money in its budget and apply it to any other part of its work or use it to initiate other performance, quality, or cost-savings activities. Thus, the unit may use the bonus to buy technology, send people to needed training programs, or fund consultants to help propose new or improved systems, procedures, or products.
The chief mechanisms for fostering enthusiastic commitment revolve around communications. Inner leaders broadly communicate their sense of excitement about the work community, its people, the work, their clients, and the situation in which they find opportunity to work together. Cheerleading may involve the leader in actions to bring work-community members together to celebrate their successes (any successes, not just their major ones). It often involves individual contacts in which the inner leader communicates personal gratitude to coworkers for their work, their commitment, their accomplishments, or for just being part of the team.
Inner leaders communicate an attitude of enthusiasm for the work and the workers (Lombardi, 2000). As inner leaders praise their followers for their values-directed work—whether it is truly outstanding work—they create trust, respect, and commitment within the organization. This kind of action helps build an attitude among work-community members that highlights achievement. Praise is a common virtue that is not as common today as it once was in normal human intercourse. If inner leaders cannot dispense monetary rewards in the same way that top leaders do, they can resort to courtesy, recognition, praise, and respect as incentives to others to behave in desired ways.
Success is a matter of the mind as much as it is a matter of performance. Inner leaders use a variety of means to help followers think about success in the same way they do. They consciously project the precise picture of excellence that they have in mind for their work-community members. They embody in their actions and communications the qualities of mental intensity and commitment needed to fashion within their work community trust, respect, and commitment to the tasks and methods needed for success. And they are consistent over time in promulgating these values and behaviors. The result is that the community develops a tradition of excellence such that the members do not simply attain their goals, they maintain them over time. This is the real payoff from leading (Lombardi, 2000).