In a recent workshop I was taking, I was stopped short by a passing comment from one of the participants.

The training was an experiential training of a strengths-based approach to improvement.

The day-long workshop had been with a team of senior practitioners from the Ministry of Education – all of whom have a heart-felt dedication for the growth and learning our nation’s students.

Everyone had been paired up and had just completed their 1:1 interview, answering three questions. They'd had 20 mins each way to answer the questions and people were sharing their partner’s answers.

One pairing reported back that they had answered the first question but could go no further. [The first question was: Tell me about a time in your life when you were part of a team when you felt a wonderful sense of achievement and teamwork. What was it that made the experience so successful?]

The reason they could not proceed was a realisation: while they both had eventually been able to answer the question with multiple examples, they were shaken because this was the first time they had deliberately undertaken this reflection and shared their recollections with someone else.

This lead to a second, more potent, insight: how rarely they stop (as an office) to reflect on and celebrate their many successes.

I have found this to be common across all sectors. "What's next?" tends to be the default setting.

The Ministry, like most organisations, is under pressure to undergo significant, and often concurrent, restructurings and changes of focus. They have been set aggressive targets that often require the buy-in of multiple stakeholders.

This continual change and demand for improvement can be exhausting. That's why effective leaders break the endless improvement journey into a series of short exciting trips.

A key element of that is celebrating and savouring successes. It's how effective improvement leaders re-energize everyone to strive for the next goal.

Energising leaders employ a multitude of creative ways to foster appreciation and recognition given among all team and organisation members.

  • They find numerous ways to lift energy and enjoyment levels by marking and celebrating milestones along the way.
  • They constantly search for ways to make change and improvement fun and rewarding.
  • They know that the Laughter Index is a key indicator of the health and vitality of a team or organisation.

We’re all aware of the nutritional substance of different foods: at one extreme are empty (overly processed) calories - these foods may have an appealing taste but lack nutritional value. At the other end are Superfoods: high in nutrients and confer massive health benefits.

The emotional equivalents of this scale are: 'Worry' at the empty calorie end while 'Appreciation and Recognition' are the ‘emotional superfoods’ that enable us to thrive.

Moments of Appreciation can't be rushed; they take time to be savoured and need to be refreshed often.