Why it’s important to celebrate little victories

If, like me, you run or work in a start-up, you may (should!) read lots of business books and attend conferences, honing your leadership skills.


And they all urge us to ‘celebrate small victories’ with our teams. It’s a great principle, but reality can get in the way: it’s hard for start-ups to set aside time and money to celebrate wins.  When you’re burdened with a list of unmet goals, it’s easy to overlook what you have achieved.


I’ve struggled with this, in both Posse and my former music company Scorpio.


Sometimes at Scorpio, when our artists hit #1 on the chart I focused on the next goal, working through rather than celebrating.  As my team expanded, I learnt that this approach weakened motivation.  The team didn’t feel appreciated and productivity dropped. Worse than that, we weren’t having fun! I discovered the importance of setting goals and celebrating their achievement, every time.


Last week we hit one of our small goals: 50,000 signed up users (stores and people). Everyone on the team has worked incredibly hard over the past few months in the lead up to SXSW.  It paid off at the conference: a number of media declared Posse one of the standout start-ups, and our user numbers exploded as a result.


We still have the next goal and the next – but won’t we always? I decided that we celebrate this milestone.  I’m in New York just now, away from the rest of the team, so I sent in a massage therapist to treat the team, along with a box of champagne and chocolates. We’d usually go on a group activity like bowling; that’s what we did when we hit the first 5,000 users and we’ll plan an activity when I’m next in Sydney.


In the chaotic, pressure-cooker of a start-up, where time and money are critical, here are five reasons for celebrating small wins:


1. It reminds people that goal setting works


I want everything to happen all at once, but accept that this isn’t achievable.  Our team makes steady progress because every quarter we agree on a plan and set of goals. The goals are challenging but achievable, and when we hit them it feels great! Celebration underscores the success of our process. It motivates everyone to set and reach for the next goal.


2. It unifies everyone around a positive outcome


In a small start-up team, each person is often responsible for their own department.


On our team we have one community manager, one business development, two retail engineers, two mobile engineers, two web engineers and so on. We set company-wide goals but everyone contributes differently.


Celebrating company-wide success rather than just individual achievements unifies everyone around the goal and reinforces that we’re working on something bigger than ourselves.


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