Celebrating Wins

The world has a dwindling natural resource that’s been overlooked—it’s the skill of appreciation. You’ve probably noticed the difference in yourself when you’re around a leader who habitually appreciates the “wins” on your team, not merely camps on the “fixes.” New York Times columnist David Brooks, author of How to Know a Person, calls these people “Illuminators”—they are persistently “fixing their thoughts” on what the Apostle Paul describes as “true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable” (Philippians 4:8). In contrast to Illuminators, says Brooks, “Diminishers… make people feel small and unseen.”

Let’s translate this into a typical church setting. Effective ministry leaders know how to identify short-term goals for their congregation and persistently highlight the progress they’re making. This is why we develop written lists of 30-day, 60-day and 90-day goals—they help us not only track our progress, but give us plenty of potential wins to notice, appreciate, and celebrate. In addition to honoring short-term wins on your team, you can use these “appreciation markers” to help people grow, using questions such as these as leverage:

  • What led to the successful completion of the goal?
  • How do we do more of what made us successful?
  • What slowed down our progress?
  • What might we do differently in the future?

When working with congregations, I often encourage session moderators and council chairs to maintain a “celebrations” list, which is included at the bottom of every meeting agenda and is reviewed and updated at every meeting. By reviewing the celebrations monthly, leaders are reminded that progress is being made, that God is at work through our efforts, and that attending to results and next steps are important. During this time of reviewing the celebration list, I’ll ask three questions:

  • What has been accomplished since we last met that needs to be added to this list?
  • How will we inform the congregation about the progress we’re making?
  • What do we hope to accomplish before we meet again?

Appreciating and celebrating short-term wins accesses the power of the Illuminator—metaphorically, it’s the same power that propels the rocket off the launch pad. Illiminators remind people of their capacity to make a difference and energize others to “get on board.” As we look over the horizon into a new year, how might you make appreciating short-term wins part of your regular patterns?

Jim LaDoux is the longtime Director of Coaching Services for Vibrant Faith. Jim lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife—he has two adult sons. He’s been a coach since 1992, and has a Master of Management Arts and is a certified PCC (Professional Certified Coach).


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