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Is Celebration Part of Your Company?
By Marcia Zidle   Printer Friendly Version

Is this happening in your area? There's been lots of change, morale is low, and everyone is stressed out. You are the manager and you know you need to do something...anything...but don't know exactly what. You come up with an idea...bring in a motivational speaker to rouse your folks. Or, better yet, send them to a motivational rally where they can get pumped up.

Well, I was recently contacted by such a manager and asked if I do motivational speaking. I answered that I am a business speaker on current workplace issues. I do presentations which inform, inspire and involve the audience in developing positive ways to improve their situation. Do they feel better? Perhaps. But what I'm striving for is not people feeling better but people thinking and doing things differently.

I then asked this manager what is the purpose of bringing in someone to speak to his folks or of sending them to a rally? Is it to acknowledge and recognize outstanding performance and then to encourage his people to move on to the next level? Or is the purpose to help his people cope with the inevitable uncertainty and loss that comes with any kind of change?

The manager was not really sure. So I suggested that:

  • First look at what is really going on in his department
  • Next determine what specific things he would like to be different.
  • Then, and only then, decide what kind of program would work best.

So what is the best way to deal with many of the major issues in today's business environment: employee commitment, effective leadership, continuous change, high quality teams, etc.? "Celebrate!" says Terry Deal and M.K. Key in their new book Corporate Celebration, Play, Purpose, and Profit at Work

The book asks: "How can you improve employee morale, increase productivity, and boost your bottom line all at the same time?" The answer is: Thoughtfully planned and meaningful celebrations which can pump life back into the workplace.

It can restore company spirit, reinvigorate employee morale, create community, and ultimately improve quality and financial improvement. However the real question is not whether to celebrate but what is the best form of celebration that will achieve specific desired results?

If the above manager wanted to recognize outstanding performance and to encourage his people to move on to the next level, then a motivating presentation could be a viable program. In addition, Corporate Celebration provides many other examples of how to give individuals and teams incentive to do their best...to go the extra mile.

However, if this manager wanted to help his people cope with the inevitable uncertainty and loss that comes with any kind of change, then the most appropriate form of celebration should focus on the rituals of comfort and letting go....not on motivation. The authors state that, in a world of rapid change, we need "to pay attention to loss as to gain, to demise as to growth, to disaster as to triumph." Otherwise, people are deprived of the ceremonial support of letting go, maintaining hope, connecting with a new reality, and moving on. Bitching and moaning can become the daily ritual if there is a not more positive, upbeat substitute. Cited are examples of how Southwest Airlines, AT&T, and a health care organization dealt positively with such change situations as a failed project, a divestiture, and a business merger.

My reading of the workplace is that there is little to indicate that downsizing, mergers, or reorganizations will decrease in the years ahead. Rapid change is an inevitable part of life in the 21st century. Transferring employees, renaming business units, merging functions, changing reporting structures---common place events in corporate America---all require, according to the authors, "ceremonial recognition bringing closure to the past and generating hope and optimism for the future." Corporate celebration is not only good employee relations but also good business.

So the next time your department or team or division is experiencing lots of change, low morale and stress what, as a manager, can you do? Or how might you recognize outstanding performance and encourage your people to perform at a higher level? Think celebrations and bring play, purpose and profit at work!

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