If you found yourself scratching your head about the title of this post, you aren’t alone. We often hear so much about how to respond effectively to our mistakes and failures but rarely do we hear about what we should do when we succeed. Yet responding effectively to one success can greatly improve our odds of securing another.
Below are suggestions for managers and team leaders to practice after that next big win:
STOP and enjoy it.
If the success was a team success, take time together just to enjoy what happened. Don’t feel shy about doing this, but instead, celebrate the success and use it as a well-earned morale boost and team bonding opportunity. If the aftermath of winning feels great, it becomes a valuable future motivator when you need to ask a team for a strong push to finish the next big project or deal. It also helps the team see themselves as capable of closing and winning, which builds confidence and a can-do mindset.
Recognize everyone’s contributions.
Take the opportunity to recognize as many individuals and sub-teams as possible, illustrating how all the contributions made a difference in the outcome. Behind most star players is often a strong team of unsung heroes and heroines. Make sure the crew in the proverbial engine room feels seen and acknowledged. If they do, they’ll give you a powerful tailwind and help you accomplish far more than would be the case if you acknowledge only the stars and look past the rest of the team.
Discuss lessons learned (Let the team do the talking!).
After celebrating the win, get together to talk about lessons learned. What went well and what could be done differently next time? Try round-robin or other formats to get the team doing the talking. You’ll likely learn much more if you speak last, not first. And when the team does the talking, it helps them internalize the lessons more effectively than listening to you tell them the same things.
Watch out for these Pitfalls
If I had to guess why we don’t hear more about learning from our successes, is that we mistakenly believe we don’t have much to learn from them, or we are afraid of making it more likely that we’ll hit one of the pitfalls that accompany success. Yes, there are pitfalls, but if you know what they are and how to manage them, you can avoid them and capture the benefits of learning from your successes:
Hubris. Just because you succeeded doesn’t mean you did everything perfectly. It’s almost always the case that you made mistakes along the way, especially if you’re outside your comfort zone and attempting to do something big or new. If you listen to top sports coaches after a big mid-season victory, you’ll often hear a surprising amount of what the team can improve upon. Practicing this kind of intelligent humility is the perfect antidote to hubris.
Sloth. After a major win that took a lot of effort and sacrifice to secure, there’s a natural lull that takes place afterward. Once the celebration ends, you might feel spent for a while. That’s healthy: you’re recovering. Elite athletes and their trainers are increasingly embracing recovery as a key component of training plans because recovery leads to strength. Just make sure not to linger too long in low gear. Once the lull wears off, make sure there’s a compelling “what’s next” goal for the team and individual team members for motivation.
Moving on too quickly. Have you ever had a coach or manager move on immediately after a success without acknowledging it? It can be a demoralizing experience. You give everything, overcome obstacles, reach the mountain top, and the reaction is “OK, you could have done some things better, now let’s move on”. While doing this guards against both hubris and sloth, it risks de-motivating the team. They may conclude they’ll never be able to live up to your standards and end up leaving the team or not responding to your requests to find their highest gear.
Remember, successes give you the opportunity to do some things to help you move your company forward. Celebrate successes with your staff to build their confidence. Acknowledge their efforts to strengthen their team bond and commitment. Explore through discussion and examination, what was learned during the process for this success and how this knowledge can be applied to subsequent goals. Again, successes need just as much attention as failures for your future wins.