Boundless Leadership: Cultivate celebrations that matter

The office Christmas party: loathe it or love it? It is a universal principle that end of year celebrations are done to foster good company culture.

This is mostly true. Our workplaces are modern tribes, and a tribe needs a sense of purpose and moments in time to know that we are progressing towards that purpose. End of year parties provide an opportunity to pause, reflect, and celebrate.

Many organisations stuff this up. You’ve no doubt seen it too - too much alcohol, a once-per-year motivational speech from the boss, finished with a patronising and insincere ‘good job’. And then the staff get on with getting drunk and blowing off steam. They don’t really feel appreciated, and they are quite happy to drink and eat on the company tab because goodness knows they feel they’ve earned it, and they will take what’s owed. It’s more of a ‘stuff you’ than a ‘thank you’.

This is especially true if the end of year party is bundled in to other business processes to take advantage of all of the people being in the one place. This is NOT the time for policy updates, process training, or performance reviews. The message is: you are a commodity and a cog in our business wheel. Certainly not ‘we value your contribution to this amazing enterprise and the mission we are trying to fulfil together.’

Bundled celebrations dilute meaning.

It’s like the poor folks who are born on public holidays like New Year’s Eve and Christmas Day. Their special day is overshadowed by the bigger celebration, and their sense of specialness is muted.

One executive commented about their farewell party after many years of dedicated service to the organisation. The organising committee decided to lump in their farewell with another departing staff member who had been there a few months, a welcome to the executive’s successor, and the CEO’s birthday. Tell me, who felt special and recognised in that hodge podge?

Just because you hold a party does not mean you hold their hearts.

A celebration is meant to be just that - a celebration.

Yet one party does not a culture make. It is a moment in time, to be treated as a peak experience, a moment of intensity. A fun highlight. It’s dessert, not the main meal.

Boundless teams do not rely on the end of the year to galvanize enthusiasm. They work hard to sweep away barriers and obstacles on their path throughout the year. Barriers like poor communication, fuzzy reporting lines, and convoluted systems.

Boundless teams cultivate moments together daily. It’s moments when you say good morning to each other, where you check in on how their project is progressing, when you ask about their ailing elderly cat. It’s showing you care, that you’re interested, and the human matters first before the results.

These tiny moments build a culture. Strung together like gems on a string, they sparkle and we remark, “how marvelous!”

Moments are expressions of our deepest values - how we show up is a personal broadcast. What message are you sharing in these tiny moments?