Congratulations, Team. Now Let's Party!
The holiday season is upon us. This is my first year with our practice, and I’m glad to see that festive energy has found its way into our daily tasks.
It is distracting at times, but hearts are lighter, and we are all looking forward to a few extra days off. And, of course, to our staff holiday party…
Practice celebrations may seem like a reason to take a break from the busyness of practice life, or to just goof off. Research by Kouzes and Posner proves otherwise: “Celebrations are among the most significant ways we have to proclaim our respect and gratitude, to renew our sense of community, and to remind ourselves of the values and history that bind us together. Celebrations serve as important a purpose in the long-term health of our organizations as does the daily performance of tasks.”2
Celebrations Build Community
Celebrations are reasons to gather other than to work. They build community by establishing and nurturing relationships. Extraordinary business leaders “understand that one of the most significant contributors to a strong and resilient workforce—and one that, in the long run, can get extraordinary things done—is a culture that builds and strengthens relationships.”2 Honoring individual accomplishments, acknowledging the completion of a major project, or just having fun creates team spirit and a social support system that is needed for a veterinary practice to thrive, especially during stressful times.
Studies show that humans are social creatures hard-wired to connect with others. On the other hand, “service-performance shortfalls are highly correlated with the absence of social support and teamwork.”2 Healthy relationships among coworkers are a prerequisite for the care of patients and clients. Celebrations play a crucial role in building a relationship-centered workplace.
Practice teams can honor both individual and group accomplishments with celebrations. It is important to clearly connect a specific contribution with a practice value. An honor presented to a team member will then serve as a reminder of the workplace behaviors that support practice purpose. Team members develop a curiosity about how other work-related behaviors, including their own, may be worthy of future recognition. Therefore, in honoring accomplishments, we identify role models within our practice—team members who are looked up to as examples of “best practices.”
Accomplishments celebrated as a team, “in public,” are much more powerful than those celebrated privately. For example, we could say to each other out loud, “This is what our practice stands for. Extraordinary client service! It showed in the way Stacy addressed the challenge of the unusually long client waiting time last Wednesday.” When team members are honored publicly for their contributions, commitment is built within the team.
The Fun Factor
Leadership scholars know that fun is not a luxury at work. It helps teams sustain the intensity necessary to accomplish extraordinary tasks even in the face of adversity. Practice owners and managers set the tone by being willing to laugh at themselves and draw attention daily to humorous events. Surprise celebrations, such as treats or lunch from the boss with a “thank you,” build a culture of fun.
There’s Always Something to Celebrate
We traditionally look to the holiday season to mark the year’s accomplishments with a festive gathering. Some practices even honor spouses and significant others to recognize their support of employees. Even holiday celebrations should have a dual purpose: to honor accomplishments and build community.
It’s time to get out the 2013 calendar and schedule team celebrations for the coming year, such as these suggested by Kouzes and Posner:2
• Recognition ceremonies: Specific practice or individual goals;
• Celebrations of triumph: Exceeding performance expectations;
• Rituals for comfort and letting go: Commemoration of the loss of a
• Personal transitions: New employees; valued coworkers who leave;
• Workplace altruism: Celebrations of community service, such as
• Events: Practice anniversaries; holidays; grand openings; National
• Fun: Sporting events; workshops and training sessions; Mardi Gras;
Tell Stories and Make Memories
Storytelling is a powerful way to promote practice values and beliefs and to create memories. Storytelling is not lecturing or giving orders; stories are true, real-life narratives that describe team members’ contributions to practice success. Storytelling is even more powerful when pictures or video are included because they can visually connect practice values to team behavior, as well as add fun to the stories.
In this series, we have examined ways to apply principles of intrinsic motivation at work. Remember to:1
• Plan for and acknowledge PROGRESS.
• Encourage individual CHOICE and autonomy.
• Promote COMPETENCE through commitment to growth in knowledge and skill.
• Put practice PURPOSE at the center of work activities, and make it the measuring stick for performance.
• Build TRUST by getting to know one another and your clients, and by extinguishing fears that hold you back.
As 2012 comes to a close, so does our series, “Welcome Home, Team!” We hope this collection of team building insights and online practice tools has helped your practice grow. Now, we look forward to a new year and to new creative efforts toward team excellence. Enjoy your year-end celebrations!
1. Intrinsic Motivation at Work: Building Energy and Commitment. Thomas KW—San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc, 2002.
2. The Leadership Challenge, 4th ed. Kouzes JM, Posner BZ—San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007.