Communication, Management

Why Your Team Needs a Win Outlet

January 7, 2016

Remember Whack A Mole? That carnival game where, depending on the amusement park, the prize ranged from a keychain to a stuffed elephant the size of a small child? And when you won that big stuffed elephant, what did you do? You instinctively, with the bat still in your grip, looked to your left at the best friend/crush/stranger there next to you, to say: “Look! I won!!”

We all need that win outlet.

We may not be bopping little plastic woodland creatures on the head anymore, but we’re still regularly “winning” at challenges throughout our days. If we don’t have an immediate outlet to share those moments, it’s a huge opportunity loss for building relationships and knowledge sharing.

As humans, we thrive on those words of congratulations and recognition, especially if we’re shy introverts who don’t regularly ask for it.

This is why it’s so important to have a platform for sharing these wins within any organization.

How to create a win outlet

What you need is a reliable communication platform where anyone can easily send a brief message to the entire company with zero barriers. The zero barrier part is important:

  • No approval queue needed, the person should feel encouraged to share without checking whether it’s okay first.
  • Goes to everyone. The feeling of having an entire organization hear you is very powerful, and increases the number of people who will be able to cheer in response.
  • Supports, and encourages, brief 1-2 sentence messages. Win announcements should not take the form of An Important Memo. Consider a 140-character Twitter message — people’s expectations are very different from an email, which most people still expect to have a greeting and signature. Less newsletter, more Facebook status.
  • Enduring. Not everyone will see it at the same time; choose a platform where latecomers can still send their congratulatory messages, and the sender can receive them throughout the day — keep those highs going.
  • Stability. Pick a stable platform so that technical difficulties don’t knock the wind out of your sails.
Why low-barrier? Why to everyone?

When a win happens, the broadcast to everyone should be instantaneous, when the person is still feeling their high of achievement. Don’t let that go stale. It’s all too easy to tell ourselves after that initial rush of excitement, that “it’s not that big of a deal,” or “others don’t care.” “This is just my job.” When we don’t fall into that trap, and do tell others, we can exponentially magnify that rush and keep it going — every time someone responds with a “hell yeah!” we keep the rush going. Like drugs — we’ll still come down from our high, but it will have been sustained enough that a little bit of it lingers. Just enough to make us crave it again, which means we continue to do better.

Sustained wins

It’s important to keep wins coming at a sustainable rate. By celebrating wins, we give them the acknowledgement needed to count them as wins and to give us that fix. This is a habit we don’t want to kick. By regularly feeding that endorphin rush, we’ll be positively rewarded to keep making them.

So which ones to celebrate?

All of them. Landing a big client – that’s a no-brainer. But don’t forget to celebrate the little wins like clearing out your inbox. Anything that you’ve felt some amount of struggle with, it’s worth mentioning. You’ll see that others can relate, and you might even motivate someone else to cross that same item off their list.

Tips & How-to

Group chat platforms are great for this — Hipchat, Slack, Campfire, even IRC. Create a room for general company chatter (we called it “Watercooler” at a previous company), where anyone can participate by reading and posting. It’s low-pressure – messages can be as simple as “Hey everyone, how’s it going?”. Encourage a culture where this isn’t seen as a “waste of time.” It takes 2 seconds to send that message, and approximately 4 minutes at most to play out that conversation should someone respond. There should be inherent trust that people who are heads down or feeling particularly prone to distraction don’t have that room open when they need to concentrate.

In the absence of these chat tools, you can even use email for your win outlet – just make sure there’s a dedicated thread whose purpose is for sending quick low-barrier messages. Set the precedent that no salutation or signature are required, and that brief messages are not frowned upon.

All done? Congratulations! You just improved your company culture.


Also published on Medium.

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