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Leaders need it too

May 10, 2011

A lot has been written about how motivating it is for employees to have leaders celebrate staff successes. But what about leaders’ motivation?

 

When the recession hit, the leadership team of Widget, Inc. quietly determined to maintain their company’s profit level, and to do it without laying off any employees. “Quiet” means they didn’t share these goals with any of the employees whose jobs they were fighting to preserve, along with the profits.

 

Against all odds, management did achieve their goal. Not only did the company maintain its pre-recession profit level without layoffs, they even managed to pay out bonuses. Not quite as big as the bonuses of previous years, but still an achievement.

 

Why do companies neglect to communicate their goals to their employees? Especially in hard times, the energy and time it takes to do that gets poured into efforts to hit those targets.

 

Without employees knowing the goals, of course, when the company succeeds, it takes a bit of air out of the announcement. Like coming in at the end of the movie to watch King George making his speech. Hard to feel anything when you don’t know the back story.

 

But it was worse than that at Widget, Inc. There actually never was any announcement, just business as usual. No pride at sharing in success, or even relief from the tension and fears of job loss generated by the lagging economy.

 

What were the consequences for the leaders of this failure to pause for a moment to do a bit of backslapping? Missing the opportunity to celebrate their success left the leadership in a state of low energy and motivation–just like their staff.

 

The lesson is, a company can achieve goals in the short term without stopping to celebrate successes. But unless they do, both leaders and employees will run out of steam. And without it, lose the motivation to face the next set of challenges with confidence and enthusiasm.

 

Tom Peters said it best: “Celebrate what you want to see more of.”

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