[Life Back West] June 2009 – Step Up Day

Transition markers for the big things in life abound: diplomas from schools, birth certificates of children, employee of the year plaques and deal tombstones . All of them shout out “big step” congratulations.

But what marks the in-betweens – the minor and important accomplishments that put you in a position for those bigger deeds and accomplishments? How do you mark task well done , knowing that it makes you able to do job done well ? How do you know to take that moment, smell the roses, and savor the accomplishment of the present?

I thought about those in-between milestones as I sat under the big tent that had been set up for family and friends, and the kids for my son’s grade school “Step Up Day”. The day is a big moment for the graduating eighth graders, all of whom carried flowers in their hand or on their jacket, and carried with them the stride and pose of someone who was moving forward into a new, strange, and promising world of high school.

The 72 eighth graders “step up” in the ceremony by moving from their row (stage right, the top row of bleachers this year, normally the top row of railroad ties set into a hillside) to chairs set up on stage left and to lots of applause.

Step-Up Day continues as each grade in turn follows the 8th graders and in succession “steps up” one level in synchronized turn to the next row up, marking not so much the big graduation accomplishment, but the smaller and significant move to the next grade. Cheers continue, and grow loudest until finally the kindergarten cohort to which Traylor belongs – all 54 of the big little kids – take that step up, signaling the completion of the first leg of what for most is a nine year grade school journey.

Organizations, teams and individuals have similar opportunities to mark and celebrate those small steps. And research into performance tells us that marking accomplishments – part of visualizing success – is a key to higher performance. James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner work “Encouraging the Heart: A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others” suggests ways to celebrate and affirm the people who work with and for them:

  • Schedule celebrations
  • Be creative about rewards
  • Foster positive expectations
  • Say thank you
  • Find people who are doing things right
  • Honor exemplary actions
  • Demonstrate caring by walking around
  • Show passion and compassion
  • Have fun
  • Set the example

All of us have those moments of opportunity to pause, relish in the small steps that take you up to the big accomplishment, and continue to move forward. There are many ways to celebrate life – here are fifty of them you personally can deploy.