It’s all too easy when we are busy to rush through the day in the hope that we’ll get somewhere near the bottom of that ‘to do’ list whilst daydreaming about tucking into that lovely ageing bottle of Bordeaux you received as a gift. It’s all too easy to see the clock reach ‘going home time’ and say bye to the team, “have a great weekend and see you Monday”. BUT……what if we were to increase our levels of mindfulness of the team’s motivation levels and do something proactive that will leave them walking out of the door on a potential high?

Let’s look at the Neuroscience of Celebration and Praise.

We know that our brains, from evolution, are geared towards the avoidance of threat and the pursuit of pleasure on a scale of 5:1 respectively (Roy Baumeister & Evian Gordon). We also know that when we receive criticism its impact is 5 times stronger than receiving praise and that a ratio exists to keep people motivated of 3 positive things to 1 negative (Barbara Fredrickson & Marcial Losada). Even though offering praise might not directly impact performance, its benefits are crucial to honouring ‘the tribe’ and building resilience.

When we receive praise or are involved in celebration, there are certain parts of our brain that are activated that help us to feel good. In particular is the Ventral Tegmental Area or VTA, which is much easier to remember! Found in the midbrain, it is these group of neurons that forward information to other parts of the brain via the hormone dopamine, one of our happy hormones. When we feel good, we want to repeat the behaviour to get another ‘hit’ and so the ripple effect of celebrating success (in whatever form that takes) can spill over for example, into getting home on a Friday evening and in a good mood.

Reward centres of the Brain

Simple strategies for Celebrating Success

1. Show you Care

I once worked as part of a sales team and it was often a rollercoaster ride where, despite putting in so much effort, at the end of the week the scores on the board didn’t reflect our hard work. Leaving the office on a Friday afternoon with our tails between our legs wasn’t making for a great start to the weekend.

Our boss though had been busy noting down our individual ‘successes’ throughout the week and gathered us together at 3 o’clock where she addressed each of us individually and thanked us for our efforts. Her praise was specific and directed at our individual personalities.

Here are some examples of celebrating success in challenging times.

“Clare, thank you picking up the phone again at 5 to 5 yesterday when you had had a 100% rejection rate. Your persistence and willingness to give it one more go are admirable and you are a true role model of resilience”

“John, thanks for keeping our spirits up with your terrible jokes all week. Despite most of us cringing we were all chuckling inside and your generosity of spirit to keep us upbeat far outweighs your quality of jokes!”

“Sarah, thanks for not getting angry at Julie in Finance on Tuesday when she growled at you for not having a purchase order. Julie might have been having a bad day too and your ability to manage your emotions in a conflict situation shows true maturity and personal leadership”.

Note that with the specific praise comes a ‘why’ this is a success worthy of celebration.  In any feedback, without the ‘why’ it can become hollow or have less impact.

2. Understand and elicit what Success is to your People

On a similar theme to the first point, consider gathering your people together and ask each of them what was the best thing to have happened to them this week. Each response will be varied, from having kicked a major goal to having stuck to a new habit or having not lost the plot.

As each person has the opportunity to feed back, the dopamine levels in their brains are rising and a sense of appreciation and gratitude will prevail. This level of connection feeds the positive emotion in the group and enhances the spirit of the tribe.

3. Be interestED in their Plans outside of Work

Rather than the habitual, “have a great weekend”, consider finding out what your people are going to be up to and show a genuine interest. This also gives you the opportunity to help a team member who may not be looking forward to the weekend for some reason and show them empathy and understanding.

A physical touch can also go a long way to building trust and rapport as the connection sparks the release of the hormone oxytocin, the hormone of trust (and love).

Horses for Courses

Of course each team member will have differing levels of need for privacy and personal space. When it comes to physical contact, a high five might be most appropriate leaving them feeling energised, for others a hand on the shoulder will feel reassuring or a hug for those who are more tactile. Even a simple handshake facilitates bonding.

However you finish your Friday, I wish you a weekend filled with whatever motivates you, de-stresses you or builds your levels of wellbeing.