One of the best things about delivering projects well is the fact that you get regular opportunities to celebrate the successes along the way (and there should be many). Even the ‘little wins’ deserve some recognition and can greatly contribute to team morale.
It seems a shame then, that this is one aspect of project management that is easily, and frequently, overlooked. When it is considered, let’s be honest, it rarely goes much further than a night out in the nearest bar. This is all well and good, and not to be knocked, but alcohol-based activities are increasingly exclusionary and a bit – well – unimaginative.
So here are some suggestions to get you thinking about how to celebrate the successes and meaningfully thank your team. They are presented in roughly increasing order of cost – needless to say, the cheaper the activity, the more frequently you may be able to do it across the life of the project.
This list is provided to get you thinking differently about team rewards and celebrations – I’d love to hear your own additions. What have you done that has gone down well with the team? Do you have a manager who came up with a great way to celebrate successes? Please let me know in the comments and we can build this list out for all to see and use!
- Put ‘Little Wins’ on your team meeting agenda
Setting aside a few minutes at the start of each meeting to share ‘little wins’ that the team has had over the past week is a lovely way to create a positive atmosphere and set the meeting off on the right foot. They needn’t be project-related – in fact it’s often better if they’re not; it gives the team an opportunity to share and learn more about the other things they each get up to.
- Thank you/recognition cards.
Keep a small stash of cards wherever you work and use them to write a quick thank you note to a team member every so often. You could set aside time once a week or once a month to write one to a member of your team, or hand them out sporadically (they may even become a prized possession like the coveted Hollywood Handshake!) It’s a small overhead for the PM but people respond extremely well to – and remember – these small thank yous. It’s a win-win.
- Feedback to line managers/LinkedIn recommendation
Plenty of companies place great emphasis on feedback, often going to great efforts to chase you down for it. Whilst this kind of soliciting for feedback sometimes seems to verge on harassment, receiving unsolicited feedback is always a delightful surprise. I once worked with someone who set aside time every Friday afternoon to write a short email containing positive feedback for someone she’d worked with during the week. She said she actually started looking forward to it as a lovely way to round the week off, both for her and the person receiving the feedback.
And whilst you’re feeding back positively to someone, why on earth wouldn’t you copy in their line manager so that they know what a great job someone on their team is doing. No additional overhead for you – massive impact for the person on the receiving end.
And finally, I recently offered to provide feedback from someone who had done a great job and she asked instead if I would leave her a short recommendation on LinkedIn. I thought this was a great idea – she certainly deserved it and it required the same amount of effort from me. But rather than being a one off comment in her current role, the feedback would be there for all future potential employers to see as well.
- Letterbox thank yous
With people increasingly working remotely, there’s less opportunity to share a bunch of treats on the table by the water cooler, or in the middle of the conference room table. But companies like Treatbox do a fantastic selection of small gifts and treats that are designed to fit through a letterbox. Bloom and Wild have even managed to squeeze flowers in there somehow. What a lovely idea, and so much nicer than the usual array of bills and “Sorry we missed you [even though you’ve been in all day] cards”.
- A book
Lovely to give and to receive. Perhaps there’s a book that you’ve particularly enjoyed, and you’d like to share the love. Or better yet, a book that you think they’ll love. Why not invest in a selection of classic novels and hand them out over the duration of the project? And of course, a copy of The Everyday Project Manager is a gift that just keeps on giving.
- A rotating recognition award
A really fun way to recognise the efforts that people are making is to have a little award. This can be handed out for major achievements, or on a rotating basis. Perhaps you could even take nominations and votes from the team. You could even buy a cheap trophy that can take pride of place on the winner’s desk.
I once worked with a team of developers who had a version of this that worked in reverse. They had a Tie of Shame which was awarded to the person each month who made the daftest coding error. They were then obliged to wear an offensively-styled 1970s kipper tie for the duration of the team meeting. It was harmless fun – always given and received in good humour and it created a fun talking point each meeting. Needless to say, I’ve flipped this into a more positive suggestion, but you get the idea!
- A subscription
A subscription to a publication is a lovely treat to receive, and there are some great ones out there. Few are as uplifting as The Happy Newspaper by Emily Coxhead which collates good news stories from around the world and is a perfect antidote to the news. However, if the news is your thing, The Week is a great round-up of all the big stories but looking across all publications so you get to hear all sides of the argument. It’s a great digest of the news. And, of course, there are magazines for almost every interest, so you could pick a subscription that it personal to the person or team you are celebrating.
“Don’t just go to Amazon!”
- Cinema gift card
As I get older, I increasingly value experiences over stuff. So, the gift of a night out seems far nicer to me than something physical. Why not send the team to watch a film together? And these days there are all sorts of different types of gift cards you could give to individuals. Perhaps for a meal with a partner/friend. Or a homeware voucher so they can choose something they would like to brighten up their home. Don’t be lazy and just go to Amazon!
- Something practical
I love to give a practical gift – something that I know people will get ongoing use and pleasure from. So why not say thank you with a beautiful notebook (like these from Martha Brook), a handy multi-tool or other gadget. And people will always use a simple, elegant picture frame.
- Alternatives to the pub
Don’t get me wrong. I love a trip to the pub as much as the next person. But there are so many great alternatives to the rather hackneyed end-of-project celebration that are as good, if not better, than simply putting money behind the bar. How about an Escape Room? Or you could go bowling, take a walking tour of local area. Maybe lunch or a picnic rather than an evening meal/pub trip would be more inclusive for those who have personal commitments after work. In the summer months you could organise a sports day. Or if you fancy something a little more cultural, how about a trip to the theatre? There are plenty of sites out there where you can find discounted tickets, so it needn’t cost the earth. In fact, why not support your local drama group/theatre? It’s usually a lot cheaper that professional production and a more informal night out. Finally, TV and radio shows often offer free tickets for audience members to their recordings. It’s both exciting and interesting to see how a TV show is filmed or a radio show is recorded. Obviously, the more popular the show, the longer the wait for tickets but whatever you see it will be an interesting night out and I bet your team will remember it long after the last trip to the pub.
What about you?
So, that’s my list – I hope it’s given you some ideas! But what would you add? Please share your ideas in the comments and let’s get an even longer list of ideas together that anyone reading can benefit from!
Note: I am not affiliated to any of the third-party companies I have linked to in this blog and do not receive any payment if you buy from them. But, they are all companies I have used in the past and whose products I have enjoyed and personally recommend. Of course, if any of them should wish to send me a selection of their goods, I can be reached in all the usual ways…