Go for Small Wins!

Tina voices a common employee complaint about leaders. “My boss is great at laying out grandiose, quarterly goals for our department, but every week he is beating us over the head about getting to the end goal. We are all working to the max and making progress, but he only cares about final numbers. It is discouraging.” Like Tina, employees often feel underappreciated and unrecognized for their efforts.

Effective leaders know that while achieving the long-term goal is critical to an organization’s success, short-term wins are equally vital in maintaining momentum, creating enthusiasm and instilling a can-do winning attitude. They communicate larger quarterly big bodacious goals, but celebrate small wins to help people stay on track.

What are some examples of small wins?

While their quarterly goal was to gain five new customers, one team’s boss celebrated each new customer order by throwing a pizza party for the team or handing out movie tickets. His people appreciated him for recognizing their success in hitting short-term targets.

In another situation, Steve, a new manager of the accounting division, used “small wins” to build credibility with his new team. He personally met with each team member and listened to a litany of complaints about how the department had been run by his predecessor. It was clear that morale was pretty low. He asked each individual to identify three changes they wanted to see and three goals they would individually commit to work towards.

Steve selected a few small, achievable and visible wins from their list – ones that had the best chance of quickly boosting morale and showing progress. The first win was simple: reinstalling the coffee machine in the break room. The prior boss complained that too much time was spent on break socializing and had it removed. On the day of installation, the whole team gathered in the break room to share their first cup of coffee together along with donuts provided by Steve. Celebrating that first small win sent a clear message that individual contributions matter. Visibly demonstrating that he cared about his people set an example and a tone that motivated greater individual effort towards achievement of their personal goals. Steve vigilantly tracked and recognized each individual’s progress and results.

Leaders who look for ways to celebrate the small wins along the way energize employees, by continuously reminding them that their work and contribution counts. Ultimately, small wins add up and lead to achievement of big results.

What small wins can you celebrate right now?