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Harnessing the power of celebrations

Lindsey Williams, Group Chief Executive
6 July 2022

Hands up who loves a reason to celebrate? We all do! Celebration is powerful because we feel it. It’s easy to forget what people say or do, but we remember how people and events made us feel. 

Taken from the Latin word ‘celebrare – to assemble, to honour’, celebration brings people together to recognise something that matters. It meets our core human needs of connection and recognition. So, if a celebration brings people together, creates a good memory, effectively communicates what’s important and meets our core needs, why don’t we do more of it?

I believe we can use celebration more intentionally as leaders. Whether we’re looking to engage, navigate change, or communicate what’s important in our organisation’s culture.

Celebration engages people

When you think of celebrating as a tool to engage, you might go straight to staff or industry awards. I’ve seen the impact that winning awards can have on people – I’m always pleasantly surprised by the team bonds and the moments of excitement they create. But in Gallup’s employee engagement model, a key measure is ‘in the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work’. This suggests celebrating smaller, individual achievements on a very frequent basis is massively important too.

The opportunity for small, frequent celebrations to create a compound effect on engagement is huge.

Celebration supports change

This year, we celebrate our 20th anniversary at Futures Housing Group – and as part of that we’ve relocated to new offices. But before we moved in, we stopped to close the doors at our previous base. We relocated a memorial bench dedicated to a former employee and gathered (over cake!) to reflect, celebrate and enjoy the time we’d shared there. It was a great way to recognise and respect the past, while giving people opportunity for the closure before we began our next chapter.

Organisations are changing. Over the past two years agility and flexibility have been prioritised out of necessity. We’ve had to move at pace, and it’s given us some good learning, and progress. But could we benefit from more moments of reflection too?

Could celebration be the pause for breath we need to emotionally process change?

Celebration shapes culture

I was reminded in a talk by Mark Robb recently that what leaders attend to, measure, reward or control is one of the key factors that shape organisational culture.

To stop and celebrate something shows it matters to people. So, people focus on it more. Celebration influences culture and helps create the future.

What do you want more of in your organisation? Could celebration build positive momentum towards it?

Celebration can bring people together and help us to connect as individuals and communities. Its energy is powerful, memorable, and purposeful.

How will you harness it more?

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