Leaders build culture by what gets celebrated, and by what does not get celebrated.
That which gets celebrated very quickly becomes embedded in your culture.
If you celebrate teamwork, then collaboration will become a part of the culture.
If you celebrate treating one another with kindness, then compassion will become a part of the culture.
But be careful. Because you could be holding celebrations for accomplishments that could actually be undermining a healthy culture.
There are a few commonly celebrated accomplishments that look good on the surface, but which could be embedding all the wrong values in your culture.
Here are three accomplishments that don’t always deserve celebration:
Working Long Hours
Leaders who “high five” those who slog their way through the much-vaunted “80-hour work week” are not necessarily embedding the value they think they are.
Long hours at work have been thought by some to be the gold-standard when it comes to hard work and determination.
But long hours can also point to poor time management, poor work-life balance and general inefficiencies.
Rather than celebrating long working hours, better to celebrate “working until the job gets done.”
Coming in Way Under-Budget
Who wouldn’t want to see a department, project, or manager exercise strong fiscal responsibility?
In most cases, under-spending a budget is laudable.
But be careful. Sometimes an under-spent budget can be a sign of inactivity; that not enough investment is taking place on key drivers.
The point is, don’t automatically assume that every un-spent dollar is worth a celebration.
Hitting the Numbers
This one requires explanation.
We all want to see targets being reached. But don’t be too quick to high-five every sales figure or attendance total. To be of any value, a number needs a context.
What is the comparison to last year? To last quarter? To last month?
Numbers can be made to sound very impressive. And, given the right context, sometimes numbers should be celebrated.
Just be sure you’re not actually celebrating a downward trend.
The old expression goes, “What gets measured gets done”. But more accurately, “What gets celebrated gets done.” When a leader makes a big deal over an accomplishment or behavior, that’s how a culture is formed.
So watch what you celebrate.
Because an unhealthy celebration can quickly lead to an unhealthy culture.