How do you celebrate birthdays? (celebrating team milestones)

OK- so I’ll admit that it’s my birthday. And acknowledging it made me think about milestones in general, and more specifically, for a project team. Birthdays are a great milestone that can—and should-be celebrated. Do you celebrate milestones for your team members? I wish I could say we do a great job; we at least get together once a month and have a cake for all the birthday folks. I already wrote about celebrating successes on your project, but I want to make sure we (as great managers of people) are celebrating our staff’s milestones too. The art of being a manager, no – being a great manager–is to balance and integrate work and life for yourself and your team. (Personal admission: I am probably the worst person to talk about balance!)

So a couple of thoughts here: what do you set as milestone celebrations and how do make sure that the “party actually happens?” There are many excellent books, posts and writings on how to celebrate success and milestones. I especially liked Paul McGuire’s post on “Stop and Celebrate Milestones.” His simple 5 step process for using milestones is easy to implement.

First, do you know what the milestones are for your project or team? Oh, I have talked about the need for a predictive project schedule which always has milestones in it, but I am talking more specifically about which ones you use as “celebration points” from both the schedule and people. How about some examples:

  • Birthday’s – everyone has one! Let’s celebrate the achievement and acknowledge their special day.
  • Length of time on the project or team – surely in the current business climate we should celebrate people who stay with our organization and continue to provide increased value.
  • Major project milestone – I really like doing this with the client or stakeholder. I know I always seem to fill my week with handling problems, so a short time-out to celebrate a success is always welcome.
  • Team member life event – people do have lives outside of work! Be aware of what is going on. An engagement, marriage, new baby, diploma or even new house are great opportunities for the team to celebrate and get to know each other better as individuals.
  • Company/Organization event – do you celebrate your organization’s birthday? I bet your HR folks would say it is a great way to have people realize the benefits of being a part of a going concern. Or how about celebrating promotions? I hope you don’t call someone in and say “Oh by the way, you are being promoted to Vice President” and then walk away. Most promotions come after demonstrated success and lots of hard work. This makes it a great milestone to celebrate, especially if you helped the individual in setting goals to achieve the position, or have mentored or coached them.


Second, when should you celebrate milestones and successes? As G. Legh’s wrote in Accidence of Armoury, “There is no time like the present.” Another way to think about this is celebrate often, and as close to the milestone as possible.

Third, how do you celebrate milestones and successes? The answer is simple – it depends. There have been some great posts and articles written on this subject, so I’ll refer you to some of the better ones:

Fourth, how do you ensure that the celebrations you hold will provide motivation and feedback? This is a little harder to do on a consistent basis. Just holding a party without any special meaning is fine for after work time – but if you are going to celebrate make it count. One way to ensure you are getting the most out of milestone celebrations is to first identify the right milestones! Both project and personal milestones come and go while we are too busy to identify and recognize them. If you are a project manager, you already know that planning is a key to accomplishing a goal. So involve your team in identifying Key Milestones that you all want to achieve and celebrate. I really like the quote from Zig Zigler, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time!” I don’t expect my team to make every goal we set, but when we do make them, they are certainly worth celebrating!!

Finally, be sure that the importance of the celebration and milestone are highlighted. Have you ever been told to come to an all hands meeting for a celebration and then were not sure what was being celebrated? Not the right way to do it! Make sure that the achievement is known and talk about the success.

I think it is time to go celebrate another year of sharing with you! Thank you for reading!

New Year, New Job? What’s Your Plan for Success?

If you are like me, your new year coincided with a new job, CONGRATULATIONS!

If again you are like me, you have probably hit the ground running. That’s the natural response. No doubt, there are many of things on your plate—some of which your boss wants done ‘yesterday’.  So I understand your situation, but I want to encourage you to take moment to consider the following question:  “What’s your plan for success?”  Whether you are in a new job or not, taking the time to answer this question can improve your professional success, as well as the success rates of your projects.  And what better time to do a plan than at the start of a new year?

As you consider your plan for success, here are seven things to think about:

1.  What’s the culture of your organization? Even if you are in the same job as last year, the culture may have changed based on new management or direction. Knowing what’s important and highly valued in your organization gives you information you can use when you are making decisions, working with partners or team members, resolving problems, and presenting to upper management.  There are many factors that drive internal variations in the culture of business functions (e.g. finance vs. marketing) and units (e.g. a fast-moving consumer products division vs. a pharmaceuticals division of a diversified firm).  One of my favorite books related to leadership and culture is written by Edgar Schein, Organizational Leadership and Culture.

2.  Which resources and tools does everyone use? You may not have strong SharePoint skills, for example, but if that is how your organization collaborates and shares information, you’d better learn quickly or you will be left out.  Figure out if there is a process or tool that is the key to your new position and make sure you become an expert at it!  This may mean asking for documentation (good luck), job aids, books or finding training to acquire the skills and knowledge you need.

3.  How does the organization communicate? Is there open, honest communication, or do people hoard tips, project status, and critical information?  If it’s the latter, you’ll have to prove yourself and build your network quickly to be able to get what you will need to succeed?  Become an effective communicator in your new role and it really takes practice, practice, practice.

4.  How are people resources selected for, and managed on projects?  Are there a few key people who seem to be on every project, overused and overworked and in short supply?  If so, why? Is the organization thin in the project resources you’ll need to succeed? Is outsourcing a possibility if hiring is not?  Is there a resource management or resume database you can review to get a feel for skill gaps that will affect your projects?  Or even better, are there resources in the organization that everyone has put into the “wrong” jobs and just need your “management” to motivate them into a better role in order to succeed?

5.  Which projects are key?  If your organization has many projects ongoing, and you’ve been tasked to manage more than one of them, how can you quickly figure out which projects are important, and where to focus your attention? Perhaps there is a project portfolio that ranks the projects and indicates the business strategies each of them supports. If not, schedule a meeting as soon as possible to understand which projects are most critical to your management.  Be sure to learn any tips from peers or books on how to avoid the pitfalls that may have already been done.

6.  Get to know and understand your new boss.  I wrote a post in 2009 about Surviving a New Boss, and many readers have told me this is a key for success in a new role.  Be sure you plan out your strategy and plans for

7.  Don’t neglect your own development.  The New Year is always a good time to reflect on the success you want to achieve within this job, and as you plan for your future growth.  I recently read a good little book Breaking Tape: 7 Steps to Winning at Work and Life. It’s a practical seven-step guide to help you define and achieve success to make the positive changes you desire.

I hope these suggestions help you get started on the right foot this year, whether you’re in a new job, or not. Do you have other tips you can share?

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