Even though I am well aware of the many (many) ethical problems in the International Olympic Committee and the many (many) ways the movement fails to live up to its espoused ideals I find myself caught up in the competition, the stories of the athletes, and the raw emotion on display. I’ll be staying up too late and getting up too early most days until the Closing Ceremonies of Tokyo 2020 to watch as much live as I can.
This morning I watched Canada’s beloved swimmer Penny Oleksiak set a new national record in the 100m freestyle as she attempts to become the most decorated Canadian Olympian (winter or summer) of all time. She came up just short of that goal this race and finished 4th by 7/100ths of a second. That tiny fraction was the difference between it being a massive accomplishment and a disappointment; although she handled it with her typical class and optimism.
It’s funny and fascinating to me that the entire planet has somehow agreed that finishing first, second, or third is deserving of a precious medal and historic acclaim, but fourth is essentially meaningless. It’s interesting that the current system didn’t start at the first modern Olympics in 1896, but eight years later. I can’t find any explanation of why there are three winners instead of just one, or four, or seven. And yet it’s absolutely ingrained into the collective conscious of humanity.
I believe celebration is one of the most powerful and often untapped resources available to us. Intentionally drawing attention to things we want to affirm is highly motivating to most people and it reinforces the things we want to see repeated and advanced in society, any organization, and in our personal lives. Celebration is one of the dominant themes of The REACTION Dashboard and one that gets the most discussion and impact from leaders who use that resource to improve their organizational culture.
The Olympic example shows us that even entirely arbitrary standards, like top three performances being award worthy, can become hallmarks of a culture and drive enormous engagement from both active participants and interested stakeholders on the sidelines.
The same can be true in your organization.
You can choose the goals, behaviours, values, and attitudes that you want to celebrate and build a system of formal and informal ways to do so. They can be as structured and quantifiable or as free and subjective as you think will best serve your people and your mission. Realizing that even Olympic medals are just somebody’s arbitrary idea that was systematized and repeated until it became unquestioned globally reminds us that there’s nothing magical about celebration: it’s a leadership skill that you and your team can learn and improve.
If you want to develop a healthy culture that gets better results, has less unwanted turnover, motivates staff, volunteers, clients, and donors to deeper levels of commitment and contributions, one of the things you should be actively exploring is how to become skilled at celebration.
Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to take a lot of time or resources and you don’t have to hold podium awards ceremonies with anthems playing at every quarterly team meeting. Taking some small steps towards a healthy culture of celebration is probably easier than you think. In fact, there are probably some relatively simple things you can do on the next month to improve your current practices of celebration that will have significant benefits.
How can you get started?
1. Pick up a copy of The REACTION Dashboard online or (better yet) through your favourite local bookstore.
2. Contact Us to talk about how Catalyst can help you grow in this area. Coaching and facilitating your growth in celebration is one of the most rewarding things we do and we have multiple proven tools to help.
And just for fun, let’s see if we can cheer on some 4th-6th place Olympians, there’s no good reason not to celebrate them as champions too!
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels
Subscribe to the monthly Catalyst Content Newsletter