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Chapter 14: Technique 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.


Inner leaders recognize that there are also rewards other than financial (Michlitsch, 2000) 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, 1999).

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, 1995). 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, 1989). 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, 1999). 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.

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