The political thriller film Argo portrays the successful rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Iran during the 1979-1981 Iran hostage crisis. With the leadership of the Canadian ambassador and support from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the escapees left Iran with agent Tony Mendez under cover of a fake movie production.
When Mendez returns to the United States with the American hostages, his success is celebrated with the CIA Intelligence Star. But there’s no fanfare and no official recognition. In one of the last scenes in the film, Mendez’ CIA handler, Jack O’Donnell, explains:
O’Donnell: You’re getting the highest award of merit of the Clandestine Services of these United States. Ceremony’s two weeks from today.
Mendez: If they push it a week, I can bring [my son] Ian. That’s his winter break.
O’Donnell: The op was classified so the ceremony’s classified. He can’t know about it. Nobody can know about it.
Mendez: They’re gonna hand me an award, then they’re gonna take it back?
O’Donnell: If we wanted applause, we would have joined the circus.
Mendez and his team had accomplished something no one thought possible, but they didn’t receive the credit and they couldn’t celebrate the win.
Celebrating success in many organizations feels a lot like a secret CIA operation. We don’t celebrate as publicly or as often as we should. But just like Tony Mendez, we have an emotional need to revel in our accomplishments.
So what should we celebrate? Celebrate team success. Praise individual accomplishment. Mark important victories. Celebrate the small things. Celebrate the big things. Find something to celebrate!
Consider a few ideas to get the ball rolling:
- Create a culture of sharing. Your staff team should feel the freedom to share when something is working. Encourage that in volunteer leaders and staff. If needed, prompt your team to start sharing with your own stories. Then, go around the table and ask them to share a win with the group.
- Share wins or stories in weekend services. Do it on video or in person. Focus on vision-aligned, values-focused stories that reinforce who you are and where you’re going.
- Celebrate success in one paragraph (or less). Attention spans are shorter than ever, and you have to contextualize for that when you celebrate the win. Practice the art of casting vision and celebrating success in one or two sentences. Provide links to the full story for those who want it, but summarize the win concisely.
- Celebrate success frequently. Frequency beats length any day of the week. Share less content more frequently to capture the attention of more eyes and ears.
- Recognize wins in weekly communication. This is usually some kind of digital or printed newsletter or weekly bulletin. Make that piece about more than announcements. Use it to tell short stories or report a significant accomplishment.
- Use your website to tell the story. Use video, blog posts and stories to keep everyone in the loop about your success. Link back to your site in social media posts.
- Use social media to celebrate the win. Be creative in the images and words you use. Remember that photos, videos, web links and hashtags increase engagement.
- Use photographs to celebrate success. Show people living out the organization’s strategic vision. Show them working, serving and preparing. Highlight volunteers and celebrate their service as they live out the organization’s vision and values.
So what’s the Big Idea?
We all have an emotional need to celebrate the win. Celebrate the small things. Celebrate the big things. Find something to celebrate!
- 7 Practices of Effective Ministry by Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner and Lane Jones
- “Clarify the Win” on Serve. Grow. Lead.
- “6 Steps to Better Staff Meetings” on Serve. Grow. Lead.
Terrio, Chris, Argo, Directed by Ben Affleck, Los Angeles: Warner Brothers Pictures, 2012.