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Chapter 14: Method 11: Celebrating Success

Leaders engage in activities that do honor to the "personhood" and potential of their stakeholders while at the same time honoring the work community's - and their own - values. Of course, some of this recognition is demonstrated in traditional ways as leaders promote followers, assign them interesting work, provide them with both tangible and intangible incentives, and otherwise reward appropriate behavior.

Inner leaders, however, do not have control over the range of tangible rewards their top leader bosses have. Instead, they use intrinsic rewards - rewards that appeal not to their paychecks but to their psyches. Celebrating follower and work-community successes are ways inner leaders highlight community values and encourage these values as the measures of worker success.

Defining Leadership Celebrations

Inner leaders recognize that there are also rewards other than financial (Michlitsch) and that these intrinsic rewards are frequently more powerful in shaping behavior than material ones. They believe that simple recognition is a reward sought by many employees. They know that for most people money is not necessarily motivating because many see it as a right, whereas recognition is a gift. People want to feel important based on the work they do. They want to feel that what they do makes a difference and only formal recognition - often public recognition - can give them this feeling. Hence the need for reward celebrations of individual and group success (Chambers).

Frequent work-community gatherings, which have a primary objective to recognize and honor - celebrate - the individual performance of stakeholders, often result in increasing stakeholder performance, satisfaction, and commitment. These celebrations acknowledge work well done. They are a purposeful pause to acknowledge the work community's and individual member's success. Celebrations bind the followers in common cause of quality and service (Bolman and Deal). They recognize extraordinary community and individual performance. And they reflect the work values guiding community action. Celebrations dramatize the inner leader's commitment to the work community's values, its future potential and joint acceptance of that future likelihood by members.

Celebrations can take place at any time. Often they mark the end of a period of hard work on a project. They constitute rewards. Inner leaders reward their employees (in celebrations that deliver the best regards of top management) when groups or individuals meet established standards. Celebrations are held also when individuals or groups demonstrate exemplary behavior in creativity, imagination, or foresight. They mark employee activity in going beyond the call of duty. Rewards given at these celebrations are often simple fun and are related to the actual interests of the people involved. Of course, their success also depends on their being directly relevant to known follower behavior - behavior that is consistent with the leader's vision-values and culture and consonant with stated goals and methodologies.

Celebrations are community cultural ceremonies acknowledging shared work values and basic assumptions. They are events. These celebratory ceremonies display the ambient culture and honor it. They are usually memorable for members (Ott). Sometimes they are consciously elaborate, dramatic, planned sets of activities that combine various forms of cultural expression. But they need not be elaborate or formal affairs, only heartfelt. They often have both practical and symbolic results. While they may involve monetary bonuses or similar financial elements, those focusing on psychological " stroking" are equally useful (often more so) in encouraging desired performance and commitment to community values and performances.

Besides the use of celebrations to recognize and reward followers, inner leaders use them to help define the work group's culture and to manipulate it to serve their core value goals (Chambers). They are a significant cultural feature, one that defines and places in operational context the work values the inner leader has established for his or her work community. Celebrations provide an additional method - beyond policies, procedures, and processes, which tools may be beyond the inner leader's control - for leaders to inculcate work-community values, methods, and goals.

Award ceremonies serve a wide variety of purposes. One ancillary result is that they extol the symbols of the leader's work-community culture. They also maintain uniformity, assist in the initiation of new members into the community, and provide a sense of social involvement. They convey powerful symbolic messages about the value of the work, the methods used, and the importance of hard work. They provide connections and order - they bridge between order and chaos. They provide satisfaction, a sense of involvement and hope. Reward celebrations also communicate meaning from the inner leader to individual members and from one subunit to another and to their multiple external communities.

Dedicating time in the workday to celebrate current and past achievements can play an important part in accomplishing new challenges and realizing the future the leader has "created" for the group. Celebrating individual and community achievements is a powerful way inner leaders can praise people who improve, change, and accomplish set goals. Constantly imploring people to improve and get better quickly can become a negative drumbeat of "you're not good enough." Celebrations and other recognition ceremonies of follower performance are the tools inner leaders use regularly to honor their people and acknowledge what they do and have done well. They can also be used to further define and spotlight the leader's desired future for the work community.


Inner leaders also enthusiastically support their people. They love, encourage, and inspire employees and other stakeholders to perform the work community's business in ways and for results these leaders set. A part of their work is to cheer on the workers as they do needed work. Cheerleading is the reverse of systematic control. It employs more personal, emotional, and psychological devices to nourish workplace cohesion, recognize accomplishment, and buoy up flagging morale.

As inner leaders "direct" their enthusiasm to some worker behavior rather than other, they can implant gradually their work values. For example, they can inspire strong service and quality work values in their followers. Or they can foster innovation as they encourage individual and work-community creativity. Inner leaders communicate their enthusiasm by their words, ideas, and deeds, and in so doing convey a sense of connection, excitement, and shared commitment to group goals or techniques.

Part of the inner leader's role is that of passionate booster of the work community, its mission, its services, and its stakeholders. Cheerleading can be defined as any personal action inner leaders take to encourage and enthuse others to attain the work community's vision purposes. Inner leaders are enthusiasts. They encourage stakeholders to accomplish leader-set vision-directed actions. They develop relationships, programs, events, and other activities that seek to single out and recognize excellent performance. These leaders are enthusiastic about their work, their workers, and the services they collectively supply. And they communicate that in their interactions with all stakeholders and with contacts in their larger communities of interest.

Methods Of Creating Leadership Celebrations

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.

Conducting Reward Celebrations

A celebration is a technique inner leaders use to honor excellent - or at least, unusual and desired - performance (Chambers). 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.

Communitywide Reward Celebrations

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) aspects of a celebration that make recognition ceremonies positive and motivating experiences. Fun, simple, and original rewards work best to motivate community members (Nelson). 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.

Individual Recognitions

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).

Michlitsch 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).

Suggestion Awards Systems

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.

Employee of the Month

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). 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.

Performance Certificates

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.

Personality Profiles

Profiling the employee in company newsletters or other bulletins or public relations documents also honors outstanding performance and adds to the honored individual's feelings of self-esteem.

Application of Bonus and Incentive Systems

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--vis other community members.

Group Bonus Plans

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.

Cheerleading Techniques

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.

An Attitude of Praise

Inner leaders communicate an attitude of enthusiasm for the work and the workers (Lombardi). 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.

A Tradition of Excellence

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).

Discussion Issues And Questions


  1. Inner leaders are enthusiasts. They encourage, buoy up, and cheer their followers.

  2. Inner leaders engage in activities that honor the person and the potential of coworkers.

  3. Inner leaders believe that simple recognition is a reward sought by many employees.

  4. Money is not necessarily motivating because many see it as a "right," whereas recognition is a "gift."

  5. People want to feel that what they do makes a difference, and recognition can give them this feeling.

  6. Celebrations mark employee activity in going beyond the call of duty.

  7. Rewards given at recognition celebrations are often simple fun and are related to the actual interests of the people involved.

  8. Inner leaders encourage, enthuse, and inspire employees and others to perform the work community's business in ways and for results these leaders set.

  9. As inner leaders direct their enthusiasm to some worker behaviors instead of others, they can inculcate their work and personal values in coworkers.

  10. Part of the inner leader's role is that of passionate booster of the work community, its mission, its services, and its people.

  11. Cheerleading can be defined as any personal action inner leaders take to encourage and enthuse others to attain the work community's vision purposes.

  12. A celebration is a technique inner leader use to honor excellent - or at least, unusual - performance.

  13. Celebrations dramatize the leader's commitment to people and to the work community.

  14. It is often the fun aspects of a celebration that make recognition a positive experience.

  15. Inner leaders cannot dispense monetary rewards in the same way that top leaders do, so they resort to courtesy, recognition, praise, and respect to induce others to behave in desired ways.


  1. Do I sponsor frequent group gatherings whose primary objective is to recognize, honor, and celebrate individual stakeholder performance?

  2. Do celebrations acknowledge both group and individual success?

  3. Do these recognition celebrations bind followers to a common cause of quality and service and recognize both group and individual performance?

Creating Celebrations Leadership Learning Activities

The following activities may be useful to individual leaders to gain experience and comfort in recognizing follower performance.

Activity 1: Design Your Own Reward Program

Instructions. Of the many rewards, incentives, and recognitions available to the inner leader to encourage followers to perform congruently with the leader's vision, select one that seems appropriate to the organization employing you.

  1. Design a new recognition celebration or other program - or adapt an existing program - and apply it specifically to your work community.

  2. Specify as much detail as possible, including

    • The specific behavior (or behavior-sets) this reward celebration program is intended to encourage.

    • Any administrative procedures needed to implement it. You need not design specific procedures, forms, and the like; but be specific enough to give your readers a sense of the scope and impact on existing administrative procedures this new program will have.

    • Sketches of the layout of certificates or other frameable documents that display the honoree's accomplishments.

    • Other information or policies that need to be developed and approved prior to implementation or during implementation and operating phases of this program.

  3. Consider sharing your design plans with your leaders with the idea of implementing them.

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