(This post was first published on the Leading by DESIGN blog on January 4, 2016.)

When was the last time your team did something that made a difference? That they went the extra mile? That they hit their goals, or accomplished more than was asked of them? When was the last time you celebrated something with your team? I hope the answers of the questions above aligned, and for most of us, I suspect they don’t.

Celebration is often overlooked in the workplace. Why celebrate when people do what they’re expected to do? Today I’m going to share some of the reasons I think celebration is important in the workplace.

  1. Shape the culture of your workplace: Celebration is a great way to reinforce values that are important to your organization. If an educated workforce is important to your company, celebrate each person who gets their degree. If you value cost-savings and want that to be on your people’s minds when they work, celebrate departments that have gone above and beyond, or that have come up with innovative ways to slash costs. Celebrating the team members who live out the values you want to see will automatically reinforce those values to the rest of the team.
  2. Help your people bond: A trusting, bonded team will always accomplish more than a team that doesn’t trust each other, even if the skill sets are the same. One great way to build team cohesion is to do some fun, non-work stuff together. Celebration allows for that, while still keeping the focus on work and what you’re trying to accomplish.
  3. Motivate your team members: Celebration can keep people motivated. Ever run a race? Whether it’s a neighborhood 5K or a full Iron Man, you can bet there’s a big celebration at the end. Why? Because you accomplished something. People by nature love to celebrate, to have fun together and be rewarded. Celebrating wins, big and little, can help motivate your team to keep going even when they are tired or discouraged.

Now that we’ve talked about just a few reasons to celebrated. Let’s focus on HOW to celebrate. Not every company can do a full-on fireworks display, give out iPads, or raffle off free vacations to celebrate. But thinking that celebration always has to be elaborate can, ironically, keep people from celebrating at all! It doesn’t matter if your celebrations are small and quiet or big and crazy as long as they are tailored to delight your people.

I know of one leader who keeps a list of things she noticed about her team members. She jots down if one team member drinks Starbucks every morning, or if another mentions that she loves reading. When an individual team member does something that deserves notice, she refers to her list to personalize the celebration. She might write a handwritten note and include a gift card to Starbucks to her coffee drinker, or stop by with a new bestseller for the reader. Even if the gift is quite small, it makes a big impact because it shows the team members that she notices them. That she cares for them.

You will celebrate with your team better if you get to know them. Would they like to go bowling together? Have Friday afternoon off? Sometimes giving unexpected time off is the biggest way to say thank you in this busy world. Whatever it is, try not to let it fall into what is expected. How often do we dread our company holiday parties? Those kinds of celebrations can feel like an obligation, and that’s not what I’m talking about here. What I hope you focus on is how to incorporate genuine, personalized celebration and gratitude into your workplace. Is it a part of your culture already? If so, awesome. If not, what gains might you be missing out on for what amounts to very little cost. Is it worth it? Or might you need to spend a little time this week figuring out what you have to celebrate, and how you might do that in a way that fits your team the best.

I hope I’ve given you something to think about, and that you’re not too partied out after the holiday season. It’s never too late to bring a little celebration to work, even if it’s as simple as a hand-written card.

Image by maf04. Used under CC by 2.0 license.