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Progress Principle: 6 Ways to Celebrate Small Wins

Learn why you should celebrate wins and best practices for implementing the progress principle at work to boost self-esteem and productivity!

By Hannah Ross  •   October 4, 2022  •   6 min read

Many leaders—new and experienced alike—underestimate the power of championing their employees and teammates. Small wins are often swept under the rug, ignored, or simply forgotten. To speak to the importance of celebrating the small, everyday wins, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer wrote The Progress Principle, which teaches managers and leaders how to use the small wins to ignite joy, engagement, and creativity at work. 

In this article, we’ll dive into the progress principle, the power of celebrating small wins in the workplace, and tips on how to celebrate the small wins, so everyone feels energized, engaged, and happy. 

What is the progress principle? 

The Progress Principle is a novel written by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer that speaks to the practice of removing barriers that stand in the way of progress. This philosophy also speaks to ways in which one can activate progress through catalyst events that directly facilitate project work and interpersonal events to uplift workers. 

Created by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, The Progress Principle provides aspiring and storied leaders alike with the tools and insights necessary to maximize their teammates’ performance through impactful management and meaningful work. According to Teresa Amabile, “Management should enrich the lives of the people working inside the organization—by enabling them to succeed at work that has real value to their customers, the community, and themselves.” 

Track objectives as part of your meeting workflow

Stay on top of your team’s goals by clearly recording, defining, and tracking the progress of your OKRs in Fellow’s Objectives tool. The best part? You can quickly review those objectives during your team meetings!

Why should you celebrate wins?

1Fosters motivation

Celebrating the wins, no matter how big or small, is an excellent way to foster motivation. As humans, we often focus on the negative. No matter how many good things may happen in a day, negativity always seems to rear its ugly head. Celebrating the small wins fosters positivity and helps to eliminate negativity in the workplace. Additionally, managers who harness the power of progress by celebrating the small wins prove to be much more successful.

2Makes employees feel appreciated 

Retention continues to be increasingly difficult for a variety of reasons. Quiet quitting is plaguing the workforce, and many skilled workers are beginning to embrace the gig economy in search of more flexibility and freedom. As a result, making employees feel appreciated is more important than ever. Employees who feel heard, understood, and appreciated are much more inclined to collaborate, meet company objectives, and stay within a role as opposed to their undervalued counterparts. 

When employees complete a task, hit a benchmark out of the park, or simply mimic organizational values, it’s important to recognize their accomplishments. When your teammates or employees feel as though their contributions are valued and appreciated, they will be more inclined to keep up the good work and a ripple effect will be created throughout the organization. 

3Creates a psychologically safe environment

A psychologically safe work environment refers to an environment in which employees feel comfortable contributing and speaking their truth. Employees who feel psychologically safe also feel supported, valued, and understood. They don’t fear that they can’t speak up, and they aren’t worried that they’ll suffer any consequences for being themselves. 

Celebrating the small wins is imperative as this type of environment fosters psychological safety. Without psychological safety, employees won’t feel encouraged and will be less inclined to take risks or think outside the box. 

4Boosts employees’ confidence

Confident employees exude optimism and embrace adversity with open arms. They are more willing to go above and beyond and more inclined to collaborate with others. Employees who feel confident at work are also happier and more capable of solving problems and communicating effectively with their counterparts. Confidence at work leads to happier and healthier employees in both personal and professional settings, so it’s crucial to give credit where credit is due by shouting out your teammates when they do something great. 

When should you celebrate wins? 

The power of progress is fundamental for humans to achieve happiness in the workplace, yet many managers fail to leverage progress to boost motivation. The progress principle suggests that managers have much more pull than they realize when it comes to employees’ well-being, motivation, and creativity at work. Understanding this principle demonstrates just how important it really is to celebrate wins that occur in the workplace as frequently as possible. 

In short, celebrating the wins is an excellent way to boost morale and should be done all the time! Taking the time to shoutout deserving employees will boost motivation, increase psychological safety, and create a sense of belonging or togetherness. 

How to celebrate small wins 

1Set SMART goals

If your team lacks direction, it will be extremely difficult for them to thrive, and thus, there will be little to celebrate. Setting SMART goals will set your team up to achieve success as you’ll have goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Setting these goals will ensure your teammates have a sense of direction so everyone can work together to achieve organizational goals that can then be celebrated!

2Track the progress of your goals

Tracking the progress of your team members’ goals means you’ll always be equipped to celebrate when necessary. Tools like Fellow make tracking your teammates’ goal progress easier than ever by allowing users to track and follow up on goals.

With Fellow, you can easily create new objectives and key results (OKRs), track progress, and update key contributors. Each team member has the ability to create their own public or private OKRs or create team-wide objectives—doing so is as simple as visiting the Objectives section on Fellow!

3Have flexible deadlines

Stringent deadlines are becoming less popular as they discourage employees from investing the time and effort needed to do a good job. Having flexible deadlines means employees can take their time and complete a job with maximum effort without having to fear repercussions. Flexible deadlines allow for more to get done, which means you and your teammates are still able to celebrate completion or fruition despite it being a day or two late. 

4Break down large goals into smaller goals

Large goals can seem daunting or even somewhat unobtainable. Breaking your teams’ large goals into smaller, more attainable goals means you’ll be able to celebrate more frequently! Not only do smaller, more manageable goals allow you to praise your employees more frequently, but they also help your employees stay motivated and engaged while working towards larger goals. 

5Treat yourself and your team 

While it’s imperative that you treat your team, you shouldn’t forget about yourself! If you’re looking to kill two birds with one stone, treating your team to a group lunch or dinner is an excellent way to celebrate everyone’s success. Treating your team will help them understand that their contributions matter while making them feel valued.

If you aren’t sure how to treat your team, the best thing to do is ask. Take the time to ask for feedback and learn how your teammates wish to be rewarded. Maybe they would prefer a team dinner, or maybe a gift card to their favorite coffee shop? What’s most important is taking an individualized approach that lets your teammates know you put effort into their reward. 

6Create a project timeline with defined milestones

Project timelines with defined milestones help everyone determine what they need to work on and when they need to do it. When creating project timelines with milestones, it’s important to take everyone’s bandwidth into consideration while also ensuring that you’ve provided a reasonable amount of time to complete each task. Collaborating with your teammates when creating timelines will ensure everyone is well-informed and ready to take on more work. These timelines and milestones will act as benchmarks for measuring success so you and your teammates can live by the progress principle and celebrate small wins throughout the course of the project. 

Are you ready to implement the progress principle into your everyday life?

As a manager, living by the progress principle is one of the best things you can do to motivate and engage your team. This principle takes motivators and behaviors into consideration, reiterating the importance of expressing gratitude and celebrating wins frequently. In conclusion, the progress principle—or more specifically, celebrating small wins—will foster motivation, make employees feel appreciated, create a psychologically safe environment, and boost employees’ confidence.

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