How to Have More Big Wins by Pushing Your Team through Small Wins

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About 65% of employees don’t feel valued by their boss, according to a study by CareerBuilder.

You might think it’s time consuming or expensive to celebrate if the accomplishment is just a small progress in an ongoing project, or an otherwise unnoticeable upward movement in a long term goal. It’s not like your team was just awarded a huge 100 grand deal, right?

Big Wins come from…

However small or insignificant it is, it’s still worth celebrating. When the going gets rough, it’s the recognition and celebration that comes from small wins that pushes your team to keep going.

Even if everything is going wrong, withholding praise or recognition on a legit accomplishment or progress sends the wrong message. Say the sales are bad and you don’t recognize that one team member who just closed a deal. How do you think that team member will feel? How much more hopeless will others feel as a result?

Not a New Concept, but Still Hugely Ignored

Prior to becoming Nobel Laureates for building the DNA Structure, James Watson and Francis Crick observed that the amount of progress they made towards their work was hugely influenced by their attitude. This effect was later called the ‘progress principle,’ which states that meaningful progress (small wins) increases people’s motivation more than any external or internal factor.

3 Tips for Encouraging Your Team using the Progress Principle

  1. Cheer them, Cheer Yourselves, Cheer Everyone

One account manager finally convinced a hesitant client to push through with a campaign? Celebrate that with the team. That account manager isn’t the only one supposed to be celebrating.

When you celebrate one team member’s success as a team, everyone gets to bask in that person’s limelight, and in turn feel they’re a part of the effort and win. Cheering or celebrating as a group solidifies your bond as a team.

  1. Celebrate Itty-Bitty Milestones

When most leaders think about progress, they imagine a long to-do list finally completed. To most managers, a win is a major dent in a long-term project spanning months, not something that only took days to finish.

While such big wins are amazing, they take much longer to come to fruition. Do you expect your team to slave off continuously at their 100% best without any boost from you?

No. Only robots can do that.

That’s why big projects have to be broken down into manageable to-dos. Small milestones provide a quick boost of morale to everyone at a more frequent pace.

How can you apply this?

Ask individual team members to set their own goals in line with their current responsibility. For instance, a team member assigned to meet prospects and close deals can set a small milestone win after every five prospect meetings. Having team members track their efforts will also help them remember their progress, especially on bad days.

  1. Keep it Positive

Sometimes, even the most well-meant praise sound sarcastic.

“About time you hit that quota!”

“I’m glad you finally finished that report”

While you might be really appreciative or glad of a subordinate’s progress, such statements can be construed as a complaint, or sarcastic praise. Keep constructive feedback to formal coaching questions. For now, let your employees bask in the glory of their accomplishment.

Mementos and Trophies

On a final note, don’t be hesitant to give tangible rewards when it’s well deserved — even for a small win. Some managers don’t know how to do this, or they just don’t know what to give their employees. In this case, remember that you’re giving a symbol of their accomplishment, not necessarily a monetary reward.

Remember how much you liked trophies, medals and awards as a kid? It’s the same for your employees. Even adults like to receive awards.