As we reach the end of another year you can almost hear the collective sigh of relief echoing from workplaces across the world.
It’s hard to believe that we’re here once again. I always find myself saying the same thing as December hits and we realise that Christmas is now only a couple of weeks away. It’s around about now that we reflect on the year that was; we look back on the last 12 months to review what happened, we share one too many drinks with colleagues, and look forward to some family time and a few days off to recharge the batteries.
It’s also the time when we look ahead to the upcoming year; we plan our big goals, set our resolutions and work out how we’re going to fulfil them.
But before you start another year it’s time to do something you probably haven’t done for about 12 months: give yourselves a big pat on the back.
Why? Because you deserve it. Because this year has been many things and despite the challenges faced and the hard conversations had, it’s time to take a moment to acknowledge what you’ve achieved. It’s time to choose now instead of what’s next; to live in the moment and to celebrate.
Why are we so bad at celebrating?
Today, we move so fast that it can be hard to find the time to reflect. Our minds are always one step ahead of us, living in the future: How will we stay ahead of our competitors? How will we keep lifting the bar? How can we make next year better than this one?
It’s exhausting just thinking about it. In fact, I feel anxious writing about it. As a result of these expectations and anticipations we rarely stop to actually acknowledge when something has gone well. Too soon we are on to the next thing. We want to be better, and that’s not a bad thing. But we should be careful not to overlook the great things we’ve done in favour of the great things we’re yet to do.
I had one of these moments recently when our CEO, Justin Babet and I sat down to review the year. We’re at the beginning of our journey and there’s a lot still to do, so I came to the meeting focused on what we need to achieve in the next six months. But when we looked at the product roadmap and reflected on what we were doing and how little we knew this time last year, I thought “wow, we’ve actually achieved a lot, haven’t we?”. And that’s certainly something worth celebrating.
We aren’t helped by a culture in which extreme success is a social currency. We know we need to ‘innovate or die’. We need to chase hyper-growth (not normal growth) to be deemed successful. No sleep and working 70+ hours a week is a badge of honour. Now, in Silicon Valley, we’re even seeing bright, young professionals turning to ‘micro-dosing’, that is taking small doses of LSD, to awaken their creative mind and improve job performance.
It’s not enough to be profitable; you have to be more profitable tomorrow. You need to sell more, find more markets, go into new verticals. GoPro, the camera company that sells millions of very cool action cameras to consumers around the world, has been punished this year for not living up to expectations from the market. Its shares have declined 71%, despite the fact that in its October earnings, the company still reported revenue was up 43 percent from same period a year earlier. Not to mention revenue from its international markets almost tripled.
David Heinemeier Hansson, the founder of Basecamp, sums it up beautifully in one of the best posts I have read all year:
“Part of the problem seems to be that nobody these days is content to merely put their dent in the universe. No, they have to f%*$ing own the universe. It’s not enough to be in the market, they have to dominate it. It’s not enough to serve customers, they have to capture them.”
Stop and celebrate
With all of this pressure, it’s surprising that there isn’t more carnage at our work Christmas and end of year parties. They’re different from most events because of what they symbolise: the opportunity for teams to breathe a collective sigh of relief from the year that’s just gone and forget about everything that lies ahead. A way to process the deadlines, the workload, the politics and challenges.
But they’re also a fantastic opportunity to celebrate everything that went well, to call out achievements and recognise the people that helped make the year what it was. And the team deserves the chance to come together; to shout about what was great and to be proud of each other. To not worry about what comes tomorrow but to be happy with what there is today.
You don’t need a Christmas party to celebrate. Say thank you to a colleague for their help on a project, even if it was months ago. Review the team’s key achievements in your final meeting for 2015. Give everyone a small present to take with them as they head off on their break. Whatever it is, don’t lose that opportunity to say thank you and feel really good about what you’ve done.
Making celebration a habit
While the end of the year is an obvious time to focus on it, celebrating is a long-term behaviour we all need to build into how we work. There will always be things you can improve on as a team – that’s a critical part of culture too – but when you wait a whole year to recognise what’s good, it can be hard to keep team spirit strong throughout.
In times of change, celebrating is even more important. A friend of mine is at an organisation going through a big organisational restructure. But in amongst all of the uncertainty, their team still finds the time to come together to celebrate the good things they’re doing. Because as she says, “it actually helps to keep us together”.
It also helps us to know that the hours spent at work mean something. It makes us proud to work for our company. It makes us more likely to tell our friends and family, to band together when times are tough, to live and breathe the values of our company. It makes us motivated to do more because we want to do more. (If you want to read more into the power of recognition, take a look at Chester Elton’s book, The Carrot Principle.)
You’ve done a lot this year. It’s time to stop what you’re doing for a moment and celebrate that together.