What’s Your Team’s ‘Closing Ceremony?’

How often do you reach the end of a team or solo project that has taken hours, weeks, or even months, and move straight on to the next thing? If this is common for you, is this invigorating and motivating? For some of us, it is – we get momentum and forward motion that kick-starts our other projects in new ways. But for many of us, moving straight on can feel exhausting and draining, in ways that don’t serve our next projects. 

Related to this, it’s worth noting that viewership numbers for Olympic closing ceremonies are typically some of the highest of the entire Olympic Games, and athletes commonly describe participating in the experience as one of the most amazing moments of their athletic career. The lengthy and joyful ceremony allows everyone involved – athletes, organizers, commentators, and even viewers at home – to reflect on and celebrate the experiences of the prior 17 days: the successes, the challenges, the stories, the themes, and the surprises.

Most of us have not been involved in the planning and execution of any project as large as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, but we all work on projects and initiatives that take time. A friend of mine has been developing a new iteration of a large sales website which, due to COVID and non-COVID complications has taken more than a year so far. The launch of the site will only close phase one, to be followed by updates and additional daily work. But still, the close of phase one is a close, and is a chance to reflect and celebrate with everyone involved. A company I worked for more than 20 years ago used a maxim that I still carry with me today: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth celebrating!” Celebrating is a ritual that also helps our brains to bring a close to something we’ve been thinking about for a long time; to close that file and put it in a folder (or to put it in more modern terms, it closes the app to free up some RAM for our brain to think about other things).

Of course, with many of us still working remotely – and with many workplaces making permanent changes to office requirements – we don’t have the traditional options for a spontaneous meal, drink, or other gathering to celebrate the close of a project. What might our other options be? And how can we build this into our daily and weekly work to bring in a foundation of reflection and celebration to our personal and team work?

This Week’s Tips:

  1. As you close your work day, take 2-3 minutes to reflect on your work, and celebrate your successes. This might be something you share with family members at the dinner table, or a friend or colleague, or something just for you. You may want to celebrate with a treat of some kind (chocolate chips are my personal choice), or by enjoying / dancing to a favorite song to close out your day.
  2. Take time in each team meeting to reflect, share, acknowledge and celebrate. Invite everyone to share some successes – no matter how small – and celebrate these with genuine acknowledgement and congratulations. The more specific you can be in acknowledging what they did, the better. Keep this separate from the ongoing or upcoming challenges your team is working on to allow them to feel the success without a looming “but…”
  3. Plan a regular celebration. This might be planned around the end of larger projects, or could be a monthly / quarterly event which focuses on the successes of the season. Keep ongoing work out of this time! If this is an online event, plan some fun activities – this could be something as frivolous as an online rock/paper/scissors contest (contact us if you’d like to know how that works!). Maybe send a party supply packet to everybody’s house – if budget allows, some branded swag goes a long way! Have them open their packet during the celebration, or ahead of time to decorate their Zoom space. There are a lot of options and no one-size-fits-all solution; we’re happy to help if you’d like to find the right fit for your group.

Try these out this week and let us know how it goes – we’d love to hear from you. If you have thoughts or questions, contact us or post in our Facebook group.

Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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