Why Small Victories Set Up Big Wins (& How To Do Just That)

I've gained weight. I am 12# fatter from when I left my 9-5 job. It’s one of the costs associated with leaving an active job for creating a business. 

About a month ago, I finally had it. I became determined to get back into my workout routine and stop the madness. Just this week, as May-grey/June-gloom left Orange County we had our first break of 70 degrees, I was quite nervous as I went to the dreaded ‘shorts’ drawer. (I hate the first weeks of wearing shorts, I am self-conscious and feel like a pasty white stuffed sausage.) I held my breath as I pulled shorts up, voíla…button-able. (Insert victory dance). 

Time + effort = progress (validated by my shorts)

Those of you who are prefer the video version!! Here you go:

Sweet, sweet victory. 
Now, since the first pair I tried on buttoned, I decided to get cocky and grabbed the pair of shorts that are only wearable when I am in full summer shape. They were immediately stuffed back into the drawer with a teeny slam as I went back to feeling good that the others were a go. Still needed time + effort for that pair.

But…it sure was nice having a small victory. 

You can create the same for your employees. 

If I didn’t lose a single pound along the way to my 12# goal, I’d have to wait 6 weeks before a hint of progress! Talk about falling off the wagon to wallow in cookie dough…what would be the point of all my effort?

This is a human reaction. Not a personal life response vs work life response. 

We all need the following equation interwoven in life and work: 

**time + effort = progress (some kind of progress), validated**

Expecting people to crank out effort, effort, effort…day after day after day and not see progress is a recipe for indifference and giving up. Your basically describing a chain gang at that point. Your employees cannot thrive without something to fuel them, some validation…it is vital for employee morale, sustained strong performance, and motivation (which all further contribute to decreasing turnover, customer satisfaction, and on and on).

Most people get so caught up in the day to day, in the end result, or just don’t think acknowledgement is warranted. Or, they just forget. When you are a leader and ‘in the know’, you forget that others aren’t privy to progress and how they contributed to it.

“Of all the things that can boost inner work life, the most important is making progress in meaningful work.”
— HBR https://hbr.org/2011/05/the-power-of-small-wins

Here are some ideas to getting this right:

  • Get yourself a system: I read about a CEO who rated at the bottom 6% of recognition/caring of his employees, he needed to fix that asap. He created a list of people he cared about, home and at work. Every Wednesday and Friday, he would pause and give himself 15 minutes to think if anyone did something he wanted to congratulate them on, that he was proud of them for. One year later, he was in the top 94% in the category of recognition of efforts.

  • Walk the floor: Preferably, first thing in the morning before the day gets away from you and so you have a pulse on the day. It’s 2 birds here. First, it’s just polite to greet everyone when you get there, 2nd…you can acknowledge what you see and hear. The same should happen at the end of the day. As the leader…say your goodbyes.
  • Thoughtful gestures: I used to work for two ladies who would always celebrate your birthday with whatever food you wanted and your work anniversary with a thoughtful card and a small gesture.  I loved reaping the benefits of birthdays. And whenever I got my anniversary card, I was always so happy about it. They gave time + effort that I really appreciated.  If you are not good at this, find a way to make it enjoyable for yourself or have someone help you…it makes that much of a difference. 

Benefit of the benefit: Taking steps to validate efforts and promote progress also shows that you care. How nice is it to hear ‘thank you’ when you make someone a cup of coffee? Or hold the door open? It’s an acknowledgement that says they care that you gave your time and effort for their sake.