Do You Celebrate Wins, Even When You’re Losing?


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On a recent engagement, an auditor was reviewing the customer feedback process as part of the broader Quality Management process. Towards the end of the discussion the question was raised, “Where do you capture all positive comments from your customers?“.

What makes this question so important is that the business was going through significant change i.e. employees were reapplying for their roles, cost reduction initiatives etc.

Whilst the question may be related directly to a customer feedback capture process it nevertheless highlights a recurring theme I see in a number of businesses – everyone talks about celebrating wins but hardly anyone seems to do a good job of it.

When an organisation is undergoing sizeable change, particularly when the financials are poor and cost cutting is prevalent, the outcome of celebrating these small wins becomes a critical part of the building blocks in rebuilding the company. Managers, Business Owners, CEOs etc who feel as though the tide is up to their nostrils often lose sight of the importance of celebrating small wins. This is understandable when they may be coming to work and facing red ink and disenchanted employees. In a world divided by winners and losers, the employees may certainly not be feeling like winners with office gossip often centred on a “sinking ship

However this is where Leadership takes a central role. By celebrating a win a number of critical forces come into play. As John Kotter, author of The Heart of Change, states, “These short term wins are essential, serving four important purposes:

  1. Wins provide feedback to change leaders about the validity of their visions and strategies.
  2. Wins give those working hard to achieve a vision a pat on the back, an emotional uplift.
  3. Wins build faith in the effort, attracting those who are not yet actively helping.
  4. Wins take power away from cynics.”
Additionally Kotter adds, “Not all wins are created equally. In general, the more visible victories are, the more they help the change process.”
Faking a smile does not help. Those Managers, Business Owners, CEOs etc who take control of the situation and display sold leadership characteristics will celebrate the win with empathy and genuine thanks to those employees, whether individuals or teams, ensuring positive momentum is established. 
Everyone wants to be a winner but the reality is that in the competitive world of business, almost all, if not every, company will go through some considerable change effort in its life. However even when times are tough and the proverbial has well and truly hit the fan, and losing seems the constant outcome, its then that feeling like a winner can make a material difference to the bottom line.
Craig Padoa
Having been exposed to a multitude of consultancies, spreadsheet jockeys, strategic models and technologies, I subscribe to the quote by Sir Winston Churchill, "However beautiful the strategy, one should occasionally look at the results."


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