The Power of Small Wins: Celebrating Your Nonprofit's To Dones | Beth's Blog

The Power of Small Wins: Celebrating Your Nonprofit’s To Dones

Personal Productivity, Resilience, Workplace Culture

Working as a nonprofit consultant can sometimes feel isolating.  That’s why it important to have networking opportunities to connect with professional colleagues face-to-face beyond online groups.    I try to make an effort to do this regularly.

This past week, I met up with nonprofit consultant Carrie Rice. We met in a nonprofit conference space of another colleague, Corey Newhouse, executive director of PublicProfit.   Her organization helps youth organizations do program evaluation using data. (If you are a trainer and looking for interactive ways to teach about using data for improvement, be sure to download their free guide “Dabbling in Data” or their train the trainers workshop.)

While we were using PublicProfit’s conference room, I happen to notice the “Wall of Accomplishments” (see above) It was dated July, 2017 and filled with sticky notes about the small wins that the team has accomplished. According to Corey, it is used a staff meetings to celebrate accomplishments and helps motivate and inspire everyone.

There is a lot of science and research behind this simple idea of celebrating accomplishments.  One the best known researchers is Teresa Amabile, a professor at Harvard Business School and whose research focuses on what makes people creative, productive, happy, and motivated at work.

For nearly 20 years, she has studied the psychological experiences and the performance of people doing complex work inside organizations. Early on, she discovered that a central driver of creative, productive performance was the quality of a person’s inner work life—the mix of emotions, motivations, and perceptions over the course of a workday.

The research involved having participants track their daily workdays (overall mood, specific emotions, and motivation levels.)  In analyzing these work journals, she discovered that there are predictable triggers that inflate or deflate inner work life, and, even accounting for variation among individuals, they are pretty much the same for everyone.

One finding is something that she calls “The Progress Principle.”   If a person is motivated and happy at the end of the workday, it’s a good bet that he or she made some progress. If the person leaves the office disengaged and joyless, a setback is most likely to blame.

The simple act of making progress visible can help support motivation.  And that’s exactly how PublicProfit uses its “Wall of Accomplishment.”   This is a wonderful low tech way of applying the progress principle and of course, there are also apps, like “IdoneThis”

How does your nonprofit motivate its staff and improve productivity?

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