At this year’s annual Multicultural Women’s Conference, Level Up, Subha Barry, President of Working Mother Media (and a mentor of mine), kicked off the conference by sharing her guiding career principles. Subha spoke to the over 600 attendees at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan, most of who identified as women of color, on how she has able to navigate the corporate landscape and built an incredibly successful career.
One of the key guiding principles she shared with us: don’t forget to celebrate the small wins.
From my college days, I had been conditioned to focus on my areas of opportunity — where I could improve. Strategic thinking. Public speaking. Stakeholder management. The art of storytelling with data. Negotiating capabilities (I'm still behind on this one; my 4-year-old and 6-year-old negotiate more Boss Baby time on Netflix almost every other day).
I was always so focused on what I needed to work on instead of stopping and saying, "Hey, I am actually really good at a whole bunch of stuff. I am actually doing a bunch of stuff really well and making change."
No one ever really asked me: "what are you really good at? What do your friends and family say you are good at? How are you making an impact?" And honestly, I never asked myself.
Boastful. Arrogant. Loves the spotlight. Narcissistic. This is what comes to mind when we think of celebrating our own wins. What will others think of us? How we will be perceived? How we will be misjudged, mischaracterized, misunderstood?
The women I work with — the ones I have grown up with as we have supported each other in our journeys in corporate America — they seem hesitant, reluctant and embarrassed to share wins. It doesn’t seem ever seem good enough or big enough or important enough.
Subha’s powerful insight on “don’t forget to celebrate the small wins” can have significant impact on our careers. Celebrating small wins helps build our personal brand. After all, no great brand — not Nike, not Apple, not Google — became great overnight. Small wins show the impact we have over time, what we deliver for the organization. Small wins show others the importance of how small wins lead to change, because small wins snowball into a big win. Small wins can inspire us all to do more.
No one ever sat me down early on in my career and coached me to understand that I should be celebrating the smalls wins. It’s a guiding principal I wish I had discovered early on.
Don’t forget to celebrate the small wins. This doesn’t mean we have to jump up and down on our desks with a megaphone and shout: "Look at me, Look at me, Look at me! Look at how amazing I am. Look at all my wins. Yes, yes, I am amazing. Simply amazing!" How do we celebrate? Share your wins with your boss, with your peers and with your team. Share your wins in an email, in a team meeting or in a larger community meeting. Celebrate with a cupcake, with a pizza party, with a happy hour. Celebrate visibly. Please don’t hide in the corner, covertly eating that cupcake. Celebrate that small win with pride.
And celebrate each other. Give each other a boost, give each other a shout out. Share a colleague’s win on their behalf. Email their boss, email their leaders, tell people the impact they made. Share it on LinkedIn. Give them a handwritten card. Buy them Starbucks, buy them lunch. Buy them a cupcake. Buy them a balloon. Celebrate that small win visibly.
Don’t forget to celebrate the small wins. Let’s celebrate ourselves. Let’s celebrate each other. Take a moment to celebrate the impact — no matter how small it is — someone has made in your organization today.