This has been a week for birthdays. Canada Day was July 1, the U.S. Independence Day was yesterday, a birthday shared with my friend Pietro. And my birthday is today. More than 20 years ago Pietro and I worked together at United Way of Greater Toronto. We stay in touch via Facebook. He reminded me yesterday that our marketing team at United Way used to celebrate birthdays regularly.
Which started me thinking about the value of celebration for teams. I’m sure that there is some great research on this topic, but it is just too hot to look it up. At United Way we celebrated birthdays, weddings, new babies, we celebrated reaching goals, we even turned own fundraising campaign for United Way into a celebration. Yes, we had a United Way campaign where the employees of United Way donated to United Way. (How can you ask someone to give if you haven’t given yourself?) The upshot of all this celebration is that people at that organization knew each other well, had strong personal ties and were willing to go the extra mile for each other.
Celebration became part of the culture. An interesting aspect of celebration at United Way was the lack of money. Yup. We had no budget to celebrate, or in fact to invest in just about anything else, like training, off site planning meetings or rewards. So we figured out how to do it anyway. Once we had an off site planning meeting in the community room at my condo (well, it was free!).
These celebrations made a difference. We were in a high pressure job, working lots of hours, not badly paid, but not particularly well paid. It was important to know that we were all in it together. Not just for the purpose of the work, but for each other.
And for the same reason, rituals like Canada Day and Independence Day also matter. They remind us of our shared beliefs. They remind us of the opportunities that we are blessed with. They remind us of the great things that we have accomplished. And when we see all that remains to be accomplished, when we disagree about what should be done next, these rituals remind us that it is worth it, because of all the great people we work with.
Happy Birthday, Canada, U.S.A, and Pietro!