On Your Mission… To Seek Small Wins

by Tim Rinaldi
2 min read

Does your team go from highly motivated at the onset of a new project to dismayed when faced with setbacks? 

Is your instinct (or your boss’s) to micromanage in an attempt to prevent these setbacks?

Do you love the thrill of achieving goals at work but wish it happened more often?

In Teresa Amibile and Steven Kramer’s article in the Harvard Business Review, The Power of Small Wins, they introduced the progress principle and how supporting progress, even with just small wins, can provide major motivation to employees. They studied nearly 12,000 diary entries from 238 individuals to determine what led to their ups (feeling intrinsically motivated by their work and having positive perceptions of their company and colleagues) and downs. In short, they found that the individuals’ best days at work resulted from achieving progress, no matter how seemingly major or minor, and the worst days resulted from experiencing setbacks. 

So how do we help our teams to achieve the progress that leads to enhanced motivation and sense of accomplishment and avoid the frustration and angst that result from setbacks? First, similar to what I covered in my post on Switch, we need to seek out the small/quick wins. As long as we’re confident the work we’re doing is meaningful, then any steps towards that goal can and should be celebrated. Our managers should enable this by:

  • Setting clear goals
  • Promoting a positive environment
  • Providing us with autonomy and the necessary resources
  • Recognizing our efforts
  • Supporting us in any way they can without micromanaging

Then, once we’ve identified and promoted this progress, we should strive to achieve the progress loop, when more progress leads to more intrinsic motivation, which leads to more progress and so on. As they wrote, “… if you facilitate their steady progress in meaningful work, make that progress salient to them, and treat them well, they will experience the emotions, motivations, and perceptions necessary for great performance.”

At Raincatcher, we implemented a new practice to celebrate our small wins because of this article, and it’s had a great effect – rather than waiting until our deals close, which can take 6-9 months, we celebrate any small wins by our colleagues to give each other the sense of purpose and progress to keep us motivated until and long after the deals close.

This is a very short summary, so I highly recommend reading The Power of Small Wins to determine how you can leverage their Daily Progress Checklist and learn more about how seeking small wins can have a profound impact on your team and entire company. Then ask yourself – how can you be on your mission to not just seek but promote these small wins, and what impact will that have on your career?

How can I get better?

My mission is to impact as many people as I can from what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown in my career. If you have any feedback on how I can do that better (about my writing style, other books/articles/videos I should check out, etc.), I’d love to hear it!

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