Each year at Christmas, my employer goes to great lengths to gather everyone together for a formal sit down dinner and party to celebrate the values and victories of our organization (Johnson, 2014, slide 6) throughout the year. This tradition started back in 1960 when my employer, North Huntingdon EMS/Rescue was first founded. Our founding members set of core values were simple, service above self and humility at all times. With the passing of time, these traditions and values have been managed to be passed on to generation after generation of both career and volunteer employees.
While we continue to celebrate those core values and the many positive changes that have occurred in our profession, we also take the time to acknowledge the difficulties and failures so we can learn and change. This gathering truly is not just a party, but a period of reflection; although this celebration focuses on the overall accomplishments of the company, personal accomplishments are not overlooked and are acknowledged just the same. Ask anyone in my profession and they will tell you flat out they are overworked and underpaid, our jobs are difficult, but most are not in it for the money, they see it as a true calling. My employer realizes this difficulty, and in effort to stay on target and accomplish organizational goals (Johnson, 2014, slide 5) personal acknowledgement of others is also priority.Order now
What is unique about our celebration is that it is done in the spirit of community (Johnson, 2014, slide 6) and is open to everyone. Our celebration is also attended by other professionals in public safety and elected officials, this serves as our way of exposing them to our difficulties, and present as an organization that is credible with a clear and common vision (Kouzes & Posner, 2008, p. 151) of helping others.
Lastly, this celebration creates a sense of fun and joy (Johnson, 2014, slide 6) among the staff; this is a greatly needed release for everyone when encountering the suffering and death of others on a continual basis. This celebration is also a time for story telling (Johnson, 2014, slide 6), and I cannot help myself from mingling with the retired leaders of the organization and hear their stories of triumph and sorrow from years gone by. They were in love (Kouzes & Posner, 2008, p. 156) with what they did, and although they no longer lead the organization and have turned it over to others, it is evident they remain in love with they did and the way they lead.
Why has my employer been successful in surviving when others have failed? Our leaders have always stuck to our basic core values and simply have encouraged the heart of others in everything they have ever done and continue to do. Longevity of our career staff is apparent of that.
Dangers of Celebrations
Celebrations are good things and truly they need to occur, but I would like to take the time to point out a pitfall of celebrations. All too many celebrations focus on success and I believe they can create a condition called overconfidence-bias (Gino & Pisano, 2011, para. 4) whereby success creates an over abundance of self assurance. Faith is certainly a good thing, but it can be detrimental when it clouds our vision of the need to change (Gino & Pisano, 2011, para. 4).
Celebrations also need to be used to provide stakeholders a strong dose or realism and hope (Ford, 1991, location 3372) for overcoming difficulty, and a time for learning. All too often celebrations are focused on winning (Gino & Pisano, 2011, para. 8) when they also could be used as a method of collecting data of what is wrong with an organization (Gino & Pisano, 2011, para. 8). Leaders do not look at data when they are winning (Gino & Pisano, 2011, para. 8) and not all stakeholders are happy with an organization during a celebration, why not use this as a tool to acknowledge and learn from them as well? It only seems logical to take the good with the bad; what a perfect time to do both. This may seem contradictory, but on one hand the celebration acknowledges positive attitudes for the future and on the other hand it acknowledges the fact that the future is not easy and not everyone is happy (Ford, 1991, location 3378) thus taking the overconfidence-bias (Gino & Pisano, 2011, para. 4) and danger out of the celebration.
Before moving onto leadership celebrations I wanted to find out more information on situational leadership. It was mentioned in the text Transforming Leadership that Jesus was a situational leader (Ford, 1991, location 3359), I was curious as to who were the situational leaders? After several fruitless searches on Google I came up with very little, but I did stumble upon a document titled The Situational Leadership Model (Blanchard & Hersey, 1996, p. 1). The document states that situational leadership is a one size fits all approach to leadership and is dependent (Blanchard & Hersey, 1996, para. 1) upon the various levels of leadership and management that are necessary.
The document also states that leaders must first identify the most important tasks and priorities to be handled and secondly, analyze the readiness of followers and their ability and willingness to follow through on the leader’s direction (Blanchard & Hersey, 1996, para. 1). This is accomplished through: directing, supporting, coaching and delegating (Blanchard & Hersey, 1996, para. 1). It became clear that in just this first paragraph that situational leadership is a ton of work and explains why my search for a situational leader other than Christ was fruitless. The only situational leader that I could remotely find besides Christ was General George Patton and his philosophy of war, which was centered on flexibility and changing plans according to the circumstance (Ice, 2008, para. 1). No wonder there are so few situational leaders.
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, a famous online retailer, was cited as being one of America’s Best Companies to work for by Fortune Magazine (http://about.zappos.com/meet-our-monkeys/tony-hsieh-ceo), and Hsieh, is best known for his work in creating a culture of happiness with his employees (Hsieh & Ratner, 2009, para. 7)
Zappos chooses to celebrate their employees on a companywide, departmental, and individual basis, furthermore, Zappos believes there is great value in celebrating the accomplishments of both the company and individual (Hsieh & Ratner, 2009, para. 12). The recognition provided is both big and small, but no matter the size of the recognition, the principle of the recognition is to reinforce the behaviors and achievements so as to maintain that culture of happiness among the employees (Hsieh & Ratner, 2009, para. 18).
On a companywide basis Zappos celebrations are through parties, carnivals, employee bonuses, and thank you gifts for everyone (Hsieh & Ratner, 2009, para. 19), additionally Zappos will celebrate by sharing news articles and external recognition around the company for all to read (Hsieh & Ratner, 2009, para. 19). On a more individual basis bell ringing occurs in various departments by managers when someone is promoted or a goal is met (Hsieh & Ratner, 2009, bullet point 2), additionally, prop e-mails are sent to personnel who have achieved ultimate customer satisfaction when dealing in customer service (Hsieh & Ratner, 2009, bullet point 3).
Those are just a few examples of the way Zappos celebrates their employees, but overall Zappos believes that celebrations are essential, meant to be fun, and are one of the best motivators to achieve results from employees (Hsieh & Ratner, 2009, para. 20). Price tags from these celebrations can be costly, but Zappos believes their return of investment comes in the form of way above average employee engagement (Hsieh & Ratner, 2009, para. 20).
When analyzing Hsieh’s celebration strategy, I envision a sort of Kingdom Strategy that Christ used in transforming others (Ford, 1991, location 3420). Hsieh’s culture of happiness began with his single idea and belief in others that is essentially transferred through the way Zappos celebrates their employees. Hsieh’s culture of happiness is maintained through them similar to Christ’s legacy of the new spirit (Ford, 1991, location 3420). It is a radical thought on my behalf, but I cannot help but seeing this association between the two.
When continuing my search of leader celebration strategies I had difficulty finding any other particular individual who had a proven method of celebrating their employees. Instead, I ran across the New York based company Con-Edison who has a unique way of celebrating their employees through an annual breakfast (“con-edison,” 2012, para. 2).
The breakfast is termed the EH&S Excellence Awards and is the highest honor the company bestows on its employees and stakeholders (“con-edison,” 2012, para. 2). Awards are given for achievements in advancing the environmental mission of the company, safety, and both individual and team accomplishments (“con-edison,” 2012, para. 2). The categories for the awards are then broken down into five distinctive objectives: improve safety performance, strengthen environment, health and safety compliance, enhancing relationships with stakeholders, identification and reduction of risk, and promotion of the wise and effective use of natural resources (“con-edison,” 2012, para. 2).
Employees who have earned three or more EH&S Excellence Awards are then appointed into the company’s Circle of Excellence (“con-edison,” 2012, para. 2). Con-Edison also distributes Team Awards (“con-edison,” 2012, para. 2) twice a year to teams who make positive contributions to corporate values, and lastly they distribute only six Living Our Values Awards (“con-edison,” 2012, para. 3) to individuals who physically demonstrate the ability to live out Con-Edison’s values in their everyday work.
When studying Con-Edison’s celebration strategy it is clear that all employees are given opportunities to be peak performers (Ford, 1991, location 3364) and that leadership and upholding the values of the company is everyone’s business (Kouzes & Posner, 2008, p. 141). Evidence of employee buy in into this strategy is unmistakable, as nearly 200 names are posted as various award recipients on the Con-Edison website.
I took some time earlier to examine situational leadership as I had a notion that celebration strategies were tied into this brand of leadership. As I continued my research, I had discovered that celebrations themselves are situational and that all leaders in both the clergy and business world are indeed, in some form, a situational leader.
I can also conclude there is no right or wrong way to celebrate employees and accomplishments, celebrations are truly up to the imagination of the leader. One other takeaway from this lesson is that leaders are constantly learning, (Kouzes & Posner, 2008, p. 147) and celebrations should be included in the leader’s toolbox to increase their situational awareness on the health or their company and the morale of their employees.
As I also stated earlier, there is danger in celebrations and that danger is in the treachery of hubris (Kouzes & Posner, 2008, p. 152). Celebrations can inflate both the ego of the leader and the employee and as such be counterproductive in the fact that it causes one to lose sight of the vision and values of the company (Kouzes & Posner, 2008, p. 152). Approach everything, including celebrations with humility (Kouzes & Posner, 2008, p. 153) and grace. After all humility is the way of the Lord and indeed, it is the only way.
Blanchard, K., & Hersey, P. (1996). The situational leadership model. Management of Organizational Behavior. http://greeks.cofc.edu/documents/The%20Situational%20Leadership%20Model.pdf.
Celebrating the success of the employee. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.conedison.com/ehs/2012-sustainability-report/engaging-stakeholders/our-workforce/celebrating-the-success-of-the-employee/index.html#gsc.tab=0
Ford, L. (1991). Transforming Leadership: Jesus’ Way of Creating Vision, Shaping Values and Empowering Change ( ed.). . Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Transforming-Leadership-Creating-Shaping-Empowering-ebook/dp/B00EQVFP2C/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1391377115&sr=1-1&keywords=transforming+leadership+jesus%27+way+of+creating+vision+shaping+values+and+empowering+change
Gino, F., & Pisano, G. (2011). Why leaders don’t learn from success. Retrieved from http://hbr.org/2011/04/why-leaders-dont-learn-from-success/ar/1
Hsieh, T., & Ratner, R. (2009). Culture Lessons From Leaders of Zappos.com (Samantha Whitehorne, Interviewer) . Available from The Center For Association Leadership.
Ice. (2008, February). Is there a famous leader who used the situational approach to leadership . Retrieved from http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080623145538AAcbOp4
Johnson, S. (2014). Encouraging the heart . Retrieved from http://carolinabiblecollege.mrooms3.net/mod/resource/view.php?id=3732
Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2008). The student leadership challenge: Five practices for exemplary leaders. . Retrieved from www.josseybass.com