Tip for managers: celebrate small wins

“Long, dark tunnel.” “No end in sight.” “A black hole.” We’ve all worked on projects that seemed never-ending. Managing those projects is even harder as you fight to keep your team members focused and motivated.

I thought about the “dark tunnel” struggle as I read Dan Heath and Chip Heath’s column in Fast Company, “Why True Grit Matters in the Face of Adversity”.  The authors talk about those goals that require single-mindedness.  “Grit is tough because you don’t get the psychic payoffs that come along with any exciting discovery or a shift in direction. You rarely get big wins to celebrate.”

Ah-ha! That’s where managers can make a difference. Instead of letting your team wait — and work harder and harder — for that far-away big win, you need to celebrate the small wins along the way. The Heath brothers describe some small wins in their True Grit story about an anti-smoking campaign in North Carolina, which happens to be the home of the pro-tobacco (and smoking) lobby.

Imagine you’re overhauling a website for a client. The small wins might be agreeing on the website outline, getting approval on the design, submitting revised website copy and, later, getting client approval, finalizing website art and graphics, confirming the format, submitting the test to the client, and ultimately the moment when the website goes live. Take advantage of each of those milestone moments to celebrate the small wins and acknowledge the individuals and teams who make each win possible.

Celebrating the small wins along the way is one way in which we nourish ourselves and our team members. We remind ourselves why we love doing what we do. We’re motivated to return the next day and work tirelessly to reach the next milestone, the next small win.

What project is your team’s long, dark tunnel? What small wins can you celebrate?

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