"Celebrate what you want to see more of." ~Tom Peters

"Negativity breeds negativity. The wise focus on the positive in every person and every situation." ~Philip Arnold

One of the things that leaders tend to put a disproportionate amount of focus on is what is going wrong in the organization. Even as you read this you’re natural reaction is “wait, aren’t leaders supposed to solve problems?” The answer is of course, “yes”, but great leaders also understand that there is a need to focus on what goes right as well. Focusing on what is going right not only shows you what to leverage within your organization, but also “refuels the tank” of your most important resource, your people. People need recognition for their accomplishments to feel valued and to give them something to strive for when they are beset with problems. Acknowledging accomplishments, both small and large, are an integral part of a leadership strategy.

This may make sense to most of us, but it isn’t necessarily simple for us to put into practice. We are generally conditioned to focus on solving problems, and in fact, most of our accomplishments have come from successfully solving problems. For this reason I recommend a relatively simple way to start integrating some acknowledgement into your leadership style; celebrate milestones.

Milestones are golden opportunities that too many of us as leaders don’t take advantage of. Taking a second to smell the roses doesn’t reduce your momentum or take you out of your rhythm, it doesn’t reward mediocrity or lower your standards, it gives your team a moment to reflect and refocus. It’s free positive encouragement and builds a legacy of success. The more milestones you are eclipsing, the more accomplished your staff will feel. So given that you may not have celebrated a milestone in the last couple of months (you’re not alone). Here are some suggestions:

Look for them – The more the better, small, large, whatever. We’re talking about sales goals (daily, weekly, monthly), completion of a big project, even just surviving the busy season (anybody work retail over Christmas?)They can be departmental milestones, company milestones, even personal milestones (the anniversary nod). Again, the idea is that they are positive and by looking for them in every nook and cranny they are varied and continuous. Helping people feel successful is one of the ways to keep them fulfilled and motivated. So remember that too many milestones is less of a problem than too few, so err on the side of a lot.

Take it beyond your walls – Instill pride by bragging. It seems a little base to put it that way, but it got your attention. If you want people to take pride in their work, help them by touting their accomplishments to the world (or at least neighboring departments). “Heard you guys and gals had a good month in September” should be something that your people hear from their peers in other departments.

Set the next one – Looking to the future gets your team refocused and ties the good feeling they feel now to a goal in the future. This step is the key to getting the momentum of success rolling. Done consistently, the pace will pick up and you’ll begin rolling from one success to the next in quick succession.

So keep your standards high, keep looking for areas of improvement (i.e. problems), but make time to acknowledge the work that is being put in and the success that your team has contributed to. I guarantee there is plenty of it out there if you look for it, and by acknowledging it you can help sow the seeds for more.