How to Celebrate Accomplishments
Using Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages to Celebrate Your Teams
You want to thank your team for their hard work on a special project. Should you throw a party? Give gift cards? A day off? Different people receive acts of appreciation differently. The way to maximize the impact of your recognition is to know your team and know what they like. Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages spells out 5 simple ways people feel appreciated and can help reveal how to reward and motivate your team. His context is family relationships, but his lessons translate well to the work environment. Chapman identifies the love languages as Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. The latter two, of course, require careful consideration when adapting to the work environment. Some of these create the best impact when combined, as you will see.
1. Acts of Service
Acts of service include doing tasks for someone that alleviates their burden, even if lightly. For these people, bringing them a cup of coffee, or bringing their mail to them warms their heart. They might provide acts of service to others to show their gratitude (unless they are just savvy at identifying Acts of Service as another’s love language), and will show genuine pleasure when you or others perform acts of service for them.
If your team worked hard providing financial data needed to close a merger but their regular end of month data is still to be compiled, any steps you can personally take to facilitate that effort is helpful and meaningful to the Acts of Service crowd. Note: simply hiring someone else to relieve them of their work is nice, and a gift on its own, but lacks the same meaning to this group of people as if you did it yourself. It is the personal extension of your own time and effort that has meaning for them.
Say your juicing store held an event that kept your team outside serving customers. Starting on what would normally be their inside cleanup shows your gratitude for their effort, and means the world to Acts of Service types. As they wrap up their big project outside, you can share a thank you and share they news that you cleaned up inside so they are free to go. Be sure to communicate that you did that as a thank you to them to get the full impact (otherwise they might think that your cleaning up inside is the new normal for big events).
Other acts of service include:
Basically, doing any work you might think is beneath you will bolster the morale of your team and is considered an act of service.
Hosting a dinner that you prepare and serve (perhaps you like to BBQ?) can mean the world to your Acts of Service team members. Putting personal thought and effort into creating an experience for your team means much. Make sure your act of service is an act of service rather than an act of indulgence. The point of your focus should be not on your ego but on your team’s sense of feeling appreciated and celebrated.
2. Receiving Gifts
Token gifts of gratitude demonstrate thoughtfulness and are often stored like trophies. The Receiving Gifts lover is easy to identify as their desk or office is likely full of memorabilia with associated stories eagerly shared when asked; they might wear necklaces, lapel pins, or cufflinks that are mementos from special events or people. Plaques, photos, or photo frames recognizing effort or participation in company events are proudly displayed. Things carry the importance of the giver and the story behind them. The more personal the gift, the more meaning it carries.
If your team is small, or you are thanking just one person for their effort, an individual gift will easily suit that person. Keeping consistency among team members though, helps to reinforce the team identity.
Gifts can be delivered in a way to give them greater meaning. A public speech when granting a gift, or a personal note accompanying it will deepen the meaning for the recipient. When coupled with another Love Language (Words of Affirmation or Quality Time), the impact of the gift can be quite powerful.
3. Words of Affirmation
Affirmation or praise can powerfully impact this group. If you see someone smile, blush, or express deep gratitude in response to praise, this might be someone whose love language is Words of Affirmation. Words of affirmation take two forms: private and public.
Public affirmations make the person you are recognizing feel appreciated, and shows the team how you value that person. This helps the team learn to see additional value in each other. The award of most valuable player is a public recognition at the close of a game or season. The award helps other players identify what it takes to become the most valuable player. Granting the award comes with a description of why the person won it, with concrete examples of their behavior that made them valuable. For people who cherish Words of Affirmation, creating their moment in the sun gives them a boost for years to come. Combining words of affirmation with a physical gift of a plaque or other memento helps to memorialize the valued words.
Private affirmations are helpful to reinforce what you have shared in public, and not all words of praise need or should be shared publicly. A quick one-on-one chat in passing can include a brief expression of appreciation that will motivate this worker for time to come. A reply to any report or communication that includes appreciate for the effort your team member contributed goes a long way to their feeling appreciated.
4. Quality Time (use with caution)
We have all seen it. The favorite associate being taken to lunch by the V.P.; casual conversations in the boss office where there is laughter and storytelling – clear bonding. These interactions can smack of favoritism for reasons other than performance, but also create opportunities for the boss to learn from the team.
Thus, such time is helpful when shared equally. At an event, take time to interact with each team member (when possible). At least visit each table, making eye contact and interacting with each person present at the table. If the event is too big to meet with everyone in a meaningful manner, add smaller team events where you can interact more closely. In a public space, you can still create one-on-one conversations with good eye contact and respectful posture to build connection. If shared over a meal, all the better. Including different team members in your golf round at the annual retreat works, too. Ensure that your behavior and circumstances are strictly professional and not misinterpreted. Quality Time folks see such time as proof that they are important and are valued.
Know your team before launching expensive celebrations. Company-wide parties are sometimes perceived as wasteful, being so broadly shared that they lack personal gratitude. Ensure any large group gathering serves the purpose of celebrating those team members you want to feel appreciated, and does not appear to be your personal party for your own friend circle.
If you want to treat team members to special outings, follow these tips to keep Quality Time effective and professional:
If you only take individual team members of your own gender on one-on-one events, you risk creating resentment or subjecting yourself to hostile environment claims. Ensure the access you create for some is appropriate for all, and then provide it to all.
5. Physical touch (use with extreme caution)
People who respond to physical touch do so because this creates connection and bonding for them. When they are connecting with someone else, they feel a sense of belonging and appreciation. This love language is most often addressed in romantic relationships, making it a sensitive topic for the professional environment.
Professionally, handshakes are the safest and most effective method of communicating gratitude through touch. A hearty handshake with good eye contact and words of appreciation will carry great weight with those who value physical touch. At the close of a big project, handshakes all around are a great idea. Be sure to make the most of that moment by making eye contact, smiling, and expressing your gratitude and congratulations. With people we see daily in the office, we rarely use gestures in our greetings, which can give them greater significance at the close of a project.
Avoid the temptation of saying “I’m a hugger,” and expecting others to welcome your hugs. Handshakes are the safest form of touching in a professional environment. If someone responds to your attempt to shake hands by presenting a fist bump, high five, hand-on-heart, or other, more limited gesture, respect that gesture and respond in kind. If your goal is to express gratitude and create a bond, responding to their gesture will be most effective at reaching that goal.
Combine Love Languages for Effect
As you learn your team’s love languages, you can create moments of celebration that check off everyone’s need to be appreciated. Margaret Thatcher used to cook dinner for her ministers in her home. I know other leaders who BBQ dinner for their teams, donning an apron to serve others. But acts of service can include making something specific for team members, personally arranging something they would appreciate. You can include a public toast recognizing each team member, individual conversations throughout the night, and send people home with a special thank you gift and heartfelt handshake, and you will have touched every team member’s needs in some form. The better you know your team’s love languages, the more closely you can tailor the event to making them feel appreciated.
Once you recognize the need to celebrate your team, Identifying the love languages of your team members will help you celebrate and motivate them. Creating moments where several languages can be combined to express gratitude and appreciation, as part of a team celebration, improves talent retention through bonding.dentifying the love languages of your team members helps you celebrate and motivate them. Creating moments where several languages can be combined to express gratitude and appreciation, as part of a team celebration, improves talent retention through bonding.
Celebrating the close of a successful year with a team lunch - the first time the team had met in person due to the pandemic. I treated them to a lunch where they shared reflections on the year and I shared special contributions each member brought to the team. Throughout the year, I sent gifts in the mail to team members, such as a box of gingerbread mix, since they could not meet in person. Gifts of sunscreen might have been nice for this lunch! I also gave public recognition for their contributions throughout the year. A volunteer group (not an employment relationship), everyone hugged as we departed.