‘Tis The Season To Celebrate The Team| Ideas and Tips

It’s that time of year for celebrations of all kinds. It’s also the time of year that can get us in the spirit of reflection as we think about the year ending and the next one beginning. Reflection often brings gratitude for all that we’ve been able to make happen, and all we’ve learned from the challenges that showed up along the way. And… that gets a lot of leaders wondering how they can celebrate the team this year. 

There are the usuals: 

  • holiday lunches, happy hours and parties 
  • gift cards and cookies 
  • white elephant gifts and secret santas 

There’s nothing wrong with any of those, in fact they’re great. We’re big fans of any excuse to get people connecting and talking outside of normal work contexts. That only builds trust and belonging, with the exceptions of the all too familiar drunken holiday party stories when Steve got up on the table and sang old Journey songs. I digress… 

Here’s the breakdown so you can do something awesome with the team this year:  

  1. Get clear on your intention for celebrating: Do you want to celebrate to show gratitude, to shake off some challenges, to build connections on the team? Something else? Your intention will help shape what you do. 
  2. Do something “sticky”. While that may sound weird at first, hear me out. Most people aren’t motivated by external things- meaning the gift cards and material gifts = nice gesture but easily forgotten. People will remember meaningful moments, moments when they felt truly appreciated and moments when they were able to help someone else have a special moment. We have to get to that intrinsic/ internal part of people. That’s what’s sticky. 
  3. Choose meaning over extravagant. Most of us have tight budgets for the team anyways, but even if you had a great year and some cash to throw around, most people would actually prefer doing something more modest but meaningful and no one ever complained about a bonus with the extra cash.
  4. Remember what meaning is at work: people show up to work everyday to do something that matters. Creating a meaningful moment means you showing them they matter. 

Okay, so what can I do here? 

Right. Here are some of our favorite ways of getting to those meaningful moments at the end of the year: 

Team gatherings with a twist: Gather the team either at the office or go for lunch or happy hour but give it a twist this year. Assign everyone 3-4 people on the team (adjust the numbers as necessary) and have them write down the following about each person: 

  • What they have appreciated about them this year 
  • What strengths they’ve brought to the team 
  • How they’ve noticed them learning or growing (if applicable) 
  • A wish for them in the new year 

Wrap up with your own reflections as a leader of what you’re especially proud of this year, what you’ve learned together and what your hopes are for next year. 

Be of service: There are few things that generate more happiness than generosity. Getting the team together to take care of others not only makes for great team bonding and connection, but you’ll get all the happiness chemicals going in everyone’s brains as you figure out how to give to something bigger. We have clients who have adopted a family for the holidays and gotten everything on the kids’ Christmas lists, gotten donations from other businesses and made their holidays special. We know teams who pick an organization they all care about and go spend a day doing whatever it is that organization needs and get in a happy hour after. 

Give gifts that matter: If you’re giving gifts, try gifting from a place of meaning: like a few hours off to go relax and if the holidays are bananas for your team, gift them a few hours off when things settle down. Learning on the house is a really awesome gift. Treat your staff to a free training of their choice.  

Random acts of celebration: Take a couple weeks toward the end of the year or the beginning of the new year after the holiday craziness dies down and get everyone on the team in pairs. Each pair gets one person’s name. Sometime in the next two weeks everyone has to get with their partner and surprise their “person” with an act of kindness or celebration (choose a $5-$10 budget). It could be that their favorite coffee shows up on their desk in the morning, or a batch of cookies or that their workspace gets decorated with appreciation. The team gets to be creative in doing something nice for each other and the benefits are way worth it. 

Template for the best end of year team celebration meeting ever: 

We’ve done this as a way to kick off team retreats over the years and it never fails. It would be a great way to have an awesome end of year team celebration meeting. 

Send out the following “6 things” ahead of time (give yourself a good week ahead of time). 

One song that makes me happy:  

A favorite thing to do or place to go in my city:  

To get inspired, creative or re-energized, I:  

One thing I love about working at (insert organization name)

I have always wanted to learn: 

Favorite treat: 

Collect the responses, print them out one per page. 

Then… get everyone’s favorite treat and have it ready for the meeting.

At the meeting, give everyone someone else’s responses and have each person introduce the person who’s responses they received, reading out loud their answers. As they get to the treat, give them their treat. 

If feasible in your budget, gift everyone the opportunity to take a lesson in whatever they said they wanted to learn, valid for one year. For instance if someone said they always wanted to learn how to ride a horse, they now can get reimbursed X amount of money to go sign up for a horseback riding lesson. 

Happy Holidays to you and may you and your team shine bright as you move into a brand new year. 

Jen Margolis

About Jen Margolis

My passion is helping people find and use their strengths to move toward their biggest vision. My career began as a community organizer with refugees and grew to designing and facilitating programs for international professionals including grassroots women leaders in Egypt. These experiences led me to management consulting focusing on strategic planning, leadership development, community and education based program development and executive coaching.

Leave a Reply