It’s a statistic that can keep even the most positive entrepreneur up at night: About 50% of all startups fail by their fifth year. So, it’s not surprising that in today’s cutthroat business world, many leaders are hyper-focused on their performance. We’re moving so fast to stay ahead of the pack that we eschew reflection in favor of a grinding march toward the next benchmark: What has the competition accomplished that we haven’t? Where does this leave us in the pecking order? How are we going to shift gears or push harder to meet our next goal?
Before long, this constant evolution and analysis — trying to discern if we are successful or struggling — infects both our professional and personal lives. It shows up in how we interact with our team, and whether we come home to our family encouraged from a good day or mired in frustration.
I know this because I’ve been there. As the CEO of a digital agency for almost 15 years, I’ve learned many lessons. One of the most meaningful has been that “all rev and no review” is not a recipe for success. As a result, over the past few years, I’ve been making a conscious effort to celebrate wins — both personal achievements and the collaborative triumphs of my team. Here’s what I’ve gleaned about the downside of an unyielding entrepreneurial drive, why I finally decided to get off the treadmill, and some tips for how you can do some celebrating at your own organization:
Struggling With The Entrepreneur’s ‘Inner Voice’
If you’ve ever led a company or managed a team, then you’re most likely familiar with “the voice.” You know, the one inside your head that gets going and is hard to put to rest. It’s in Monday morning quarterbacking mode, asking why your company didn’t win its last sales deal, or why the team is only achieving two-thirds of its goals. The competition is gaining on us, it warns.
Soon enough, you’re doubting if you have the skills to accomplish what you set out to do. Whether it’s successfully running a company or just showing up for your family enough, this insidious judgment leads you to question the significance of everything you’ve accomplished to date.
You’re not alone. A study found that entrepreneurs are more than four times more likely to struggle with depression than the general population. “Running a startup is like chewing glass and staring into the abyss,” said Elon Musk of Tesla. “After a while, you stop staring, but the glass chewing never ends.” I’d compare it to running sprints daily but feeling like you’re never getting across the finish line. Everyone around you is running faster, while you stay in place. I, for one, decided to get off the treadmill.
Swapping The Rat Race To Celebrate Wins
The treadmill cycle that many entrepreneurs fall prey to is not only unenjoyable, but it’s also ultimately unhealthy for both the leader and their team. How could it be? The goals we’ve been working on for six months come to fruition and we barely acknowledge them because we’re already moving on to the next thing. How, over the course of six months, did an initiative go from being job No. 1 to a nice-to-have? What does this kind of attitude say about the culture of your company? In the long run, how does it impact the morale and productivity of your team?
I jumped off the treadmill a few years ago because I realized there is no race. I’m not saying you shouldn’t pay attention to the actions you need to take as a company leader. But consider changing your mindset about where your agency is and where it’s going. I simply decided to celebrate the wins, to be thankful for everything I’ve accomplished — small or large — with the help of my friends, family and co-workers.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “It’s not that simple! My mind constantly nags me all the time about what I haven’t done yet!”, I hear you. That’s your creativity at work. We’re always learning and growing as humans, so once we accomplish something, “what’s next?” is nudging for our attention. My take? This nudge doesn’t have to be listened to right away, and certainly not at the expense of celebrating what you just achieved.
You don’t have to dismiss your current success in order to realize your future goals. As John Ruskin once wrote, “The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it.” Isn’t it better to get up every day and embrace your accomplishments as a whole?
Five Tips For Acknowledging What Went Right
A study published in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science reported that organizations founded on positive practices excel when it comes to productivity. I know the buck starts and stops with me to lead my team in this fashion, and I have used the following techniques to celebrate wins, both personal and professional:
• Write it down. During the week, make it a habit to journal about your gratitude.
• Give props, pronto. Congratulate yourself and others for wins as they occur, both verbally and in writing.
• Encourage shoutouts. At my agency, we give kudos during our all-company meetings, and prompt others to recognize successes and acknowledge others.
• Ditch the downplays. Stop downplaying your achieved goals. Instead, host a celebratory dinner or event to make a big deal out of them. If someone congratulates me, I say “thank you” and admire their support.
• Kick comparisons to the curb. Comparing your performance to that of others is a waste of time. While you can be happy for what others have achieved, recognize that their wins are no reflection on your progress.
I encourage you to take the challenge: Celebrate your wins and those of your team. Cultivate a culture of thankfulness for all that’s been accomplished. It will give you the strength — and perseverance — to creatively embark on whatever’s up next.