Learning to celebrate success

I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic recently, because in my ongoing goal to emote more, this is a real easy arena to do something about, one would think – how hard can it be to take a moment to reflect on an accomplishment and self-congratulate? Very hard apparently. And why? Because I’m nothing if not an eternal Devil’s Advocate. Show me something good, and it’ll take all of 10 seconds to find something to quibble about – a counter-argument to a statement, an oversight, a mistake, a not-quite-perfect element. But it’ll take minutes, if not hours for me to come to the conclusion that none of those things matter, and what you’ve shown me is in fact, really quite good.

At work, this was never an issue when I was working by myself, or just with Jeff. I’m only ever as good as the project I’m currently working on. We didn’t stop to celebrate our success because we were always driving so hard for our next success. And, to be frank, because I’m leary of success. Looking at a finished website, and I don’t see a great project, I see a site that could load 0.2 milliseconds faster, or a function that’ll only work in these 15 scenarios, and not in these other 2, or a datbase that could be further optimized, or could have just a few more accessibility features, or … etc. You see the point. This doesn’t extend (generally) to other people’s work – I love seeing what other people do, and unless asked, generally approach it with an appreciative, rather than a critical eye. But I cannot turn my critical eye away from myself. I’ve discovered that as an owner and manager of a software company that my critical eye extends to everything produced by staff because whatever they produce is implicitly approved/produced by myself (I’m only as good as the software my team is currently working on). I’ve tried to do things as little as a fist-pump, or shouting “yes!” when I solve a particularly troublesome piece of code, which, actually, is very satisfying, but I mean on a larger scale.

Celebrating success is, however, important for corporate success. For both morale and for brand-building. I often encounter people who know our work, but don’t know that we were the producers of the work. This is largely because we at Pencilneck don’t have a great track history of celebrating our success. We haven’t been good about thanking our clients, or celebrating with them, despite feeling great about launching a project for them. We haven’t written press releases to puff out our chests so everyone can see what awesome work we’ve done, even when we’ve really deserved to. And I haven’t taken the time to pause and celebrate the completion of a project with my staff. And this, I think, can lead to problems down the road. So I’m committing myself to start to do this. I don’t know what exactly we’re going to do, but I’m going to make a point of pausing, with my team, when we complete a project, to celebrate. This won’t be a time to review the project with a critical eye to see how we could have done better. This will be an event, perhaps as quick as a meeting around the water-cooler, perhaps an evening out, to sit around, thank the team and let them bask in their well-deserved glory.

And how will we celebrate with our clients & partners? I don’t know. But we’ll do something this year to better mark the end of a project then simply saying “we’re live!”, and then turn around and start in on something else.

How do you celebrate your success?