company culture

Building a Company Culture of Growth and Happiness

Recently one of our CEO clients was telling me about the important project his leadership team had completed. It was almost miraculous in that they brought it in on time and on budget – though you can probably guess it was grueling and draining for everyone involved.

I asked the CEO what they did to celebrate, and he paused before saying, “Well, I thanked everyone for their hard work and praised them around the leadership table for their contributions…” As we sat for a moment longer, he said, “Other than that, we all got back to work – it’s a busy time for us.”

I’ll bet that sounds like a familiar company culture to many of us. Hard workers keep working hard, one success has to lead to another, etcetera.

That same CEO had, a few weeks earlier, shared with me his frustration that, “folks don’t seem to really appreciate it here. We seem to have this culture of exhaustion and frustration. People are at each other constantly.”

Celebration at work can go a long way to building a company culture that thrives, retaining the talented employees and growing success. So, with all the effort we put into our jobs, why don’t we celebrate more of what we do? Time and money are the most oft-cited answers. Sometimes it’s also a correlation with what we feel we’re already doing (“I pay people well, why do we have to celebrate, too?!”).

Create a company culture that celebrates

Survey says you’ve got to show more than the money

When we ask folks, “When you think about your entire career, and you focus on the job you loved the most, what was it you loved?” the answers we get aren’t about money. In fact, almost no one says the best job they ever had was the best because of the pay. Instead we hear that people loved a workplace where they: 

  • had autonomy
  • felt appreciated
  • were recognized for their efforts
  • felt the company values aligned with their own
  • were on a team that wanted to win together
  • felt the goals were clear

Now, consider a celebration of the people who made a company success possible. How many of those positives might we reinforce with a company culture that celebrates hard work and dedication?

I imagine some of you are thinking, sure, that would be nice but I have time and/or money constraints. 

Here’s how to start honoring successes and the toil needed to get there, without taking too much time away from work or blowing your budget:

Celebrate the small wins
You don’t need to book a hall, a caterer and a band to celebrate! Celebrating on a small scale can be very meaningful and motivating for everyone. Got a new client this week?

Seeing good numbers this month? Buy a box of doughnuts or cupcakes and gather everyone around for a quick coffee break this morning. Up till the wee hours getting a presentation together and thrilled the hard work paid off after a great meeting? Thank everyone and suggest you start the next day a little bit later than you normally would (and don’t forget the pastries!). Has the team salvaged a client relationship that was tanking? Thank them at the next team meeting (and maybe provide some cookies to go with that afternoon coffee break!).

Before you start singling out team members with flashy thanks in front of the group, just remember that you may have to cater your communication style to be effective! Depending on personality style, some people like a big public thank you and others flourish when it’s a more private expression of gratitude or a group thank you.

Celebrate often
Doing anything often helps make it habitual – and that includes recognizing effort and success. If you want to create a company culture of growth and happiness, you have to start celebrating together. Check out our 10 simple ways to thank your team during the holiday season and be prepared to do so year-round.

Does it feel like you just celebrated something and you’re not keen to celebrate again so soon? Celebrate again. If you’re not used to it, building the habit is going to require you to celebrate things more often than feels “natural” because right now the company culture’s “natural” is not celebrating at all.

Tie the celebrations to your values
Does your organization have values it lives by? Have you looked at them lately? (We’ve discussed before why it’s important that your organization’s values and vision line up.) Walk the talk by tying your celebrations to the values on that poster in the boardroom.

So if your company says: “We value diversity” then celebrate someone having the courage to share a different point of view on how to tackle a project or working hard to bridge a cultural gap with an international client.

If your organization says: “We value our customers” then celebrate a thank you letter received from a customer, etcetera.

Being able to tie celebrations to your organization’s values is especially important if you want to foster those values. When you recognize folks for things they do that align to the company values, you reinforce those values and actions.

Systematize celebration
Another way to make celebrating more of a habit (and thus a part of your company culture) is to assign a budget (even if it’s a very modest budget!) and put key employees in charge of the festivities.

Don’t force this on the accountant who thinks it’s a waste of time. Instead, take a look around the next cupcake and coffee gathering. Who is really enjoying it? Who thanks you for the treat? Those are the folks who like to celebrate and might be happy to take it on.

Be careful not to delegate and run! Instead, ask them to take on ownership, but be sure to encourage them, suggest things to them that have happened that can be celebrated and show that you’re supportive of their extra efforts.

Start celebrating NOW
Like so many good ideas, this idea of building a company culture of growth and gratitude is only as good as its execution. Letting this good idea linger isn’t going to change the company culture. Carpe diem

Coach’s Questions

When was the last time you celebrated success and hard work with your team? How can you make celebrating part of your company culture? What can you celebrate this week?