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By Chad Harris, CAE
KCSAE President 2017-2018

The world is full of stresses – global events, political disagreements, financial hardships, personal relationships, career transitions, family caregiving and countless others that likely account for a good portion of our day’s thoughts. And while we have control over some and may worry about others, amidst the chatter of news headlines and social posts are often snippets of good news that do not rise to the surface. But should.

Personal, professional, societal, community, business and organizational success occurs around us every day, but when we collectively do not take time to give pause and celebrate these successes, the world instead seems a very worrisome and stressful place. We are fortunate that next month KCSAE takes time to offer such pause and celebrate our community, our profession, our colleagues and our connections at our Annual Celebration. To be held Tuesday, September 19, at Arrowhead Stadium, this annual event marks a reflection on the year that was and launches a new membership and professional development year of education and networking for our association community in Kansas City.

Time will always be in short supply and the to do list always seems to replenish. But taking time to celebrate and note progress is a best practice in organizations that thrive. And there’s research to prove it!

The KCSAE Annual Celebration is a great example of what researchers call the “progress principle.” A study conducted by Harvard University researchers, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, analyzed over 12,000 end of day work journal entries from 238 staff members across 26 work teams from seven different organizations over four months. Their goal was to identify the inner working dynamics of teams and how they felt about their work, what they call the “inner work life.”

In a dramatic rebuttal of the commonplace assumption that high pressure and fear drive achievement and performance success, their analysis revealed that output success and performance accelerated when staff feel happy, are intrinsically motivated by the work itself, and have positive perceptions of their colleagues and the organization. Moreover, in those positive states, people are more committed to the work and more collegial toward those around them.

One of the key elements identified that creates such a positive culture, was what Amabile and Kramer called the progress principle. Of all the things that can boost staff morale or membership emotions, motivation and perceptions, the single most important element is showing that progress is being made in meaningful work on a regular basis.

Two tools used to help instill the progress principle in an organization was the use of catalysts, actions that directly support work, including help from a person or group, and nourishers, events such as shows of respect and words of encouragement and congratulations.

Those organizations that utilized and had in place the progress principle using catalysts and nourishers, had staff who reported 76% “good days” over a four-month period, compared to those organizations not practicing progress principles, whose staff reported only 42% of “good days” over the same period.

The powerful use of these tools to provide small wins over time is a reminder that celebrating successes – big and small – is not boastful or bragging, but is a best practice of team development and management. It builds rapport and respect within colleagues. It helps share ideas and encourage participation across our membership. It celebrates individual and collective achievement in meaningful ways that reinforces our decision to work in our respective fields and industry.

At our Annual Celebration we will thank Crystal O’Halloran for her leadership this last year as our President. We will celebrate the contributions of our colleagues and partners with our annual awards. And we will note the progress we’ve collectively made for our respective associations and our local professional community through our annual report. It is one night out of many, but is a meaningful way we can say thank you to the many who make the work of KCSAE possible each year and the progress we continue to make as a professional development association.

How does your organization mark progress? What ways do you create catalysts and nourish staff contributions on a regular basis? In a world full of stress, let us take time to celebrate our craft, our colleagues and association community, through our own principle of progress, the KCSAE Annual Celebration! See you September 19 at Arrowhead!

NOTE: The work of Amabile and Kramer is available in the May 2011 issue of The Harvard Business Review series on leadership, “The Power of Small Wins.”

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