How Could You Celebrate the Outcomes You Seek?

By Jim Cathcart

Things that are acknowledged tend to repeat. People crave feedback. They want to know they are seen or heard. They want to feel their opinions count and that, if they do well, someone will acknowledge them for it. If you praise a behavior, people will seek to repeat it. However, if you criticize an act, you will tend to build resentment. Not fair, is it? Besides, some things need to be corrected or stopped. So, what’s a leader to do?

The Value of Celebrations

How about building some celebrations into your plan? I recently participated in a big awards ceremony in Hollywood where more than 60 people received trophies for their work and were interviewed on camera on the “red carpet.” It was elegant and fun, and it felt really important. Families and friends were there to add to the joy and preserve every moment on their smartphones. The recipients definitely left that event with a strong desire to “do it again” and earn yet another celebration.

In martial arts training, there are belts – white, red, black, etc. – to acknowledge each level of skill improvement. In Toastmasters International, there is a celebration of sorts at every level of advancement in public speaking. In Scouting there are merit badges. People are motivated to earn the next certificate, badge, patch, or pin. This is not trivial. It is symbolic and meaningful. And…it works!

Reward the Outcomes You Want

How can you use this concept to stimulate higher performance, deeper learning, better discipline, and personal initiative? I say, structure your awards and celebrations around the outcomes you want and the behaviors that lead to those outcomes. Don’t reward meaningless actions; wait till someone does something that has been proven to produce the results you’re seeking. Then celebrate that!  

You don’t wait to praise your infant only after they can walk and run. You celebrate every attempt to stand or walk – at least at first. But, once they can navigate on two feet, you shift your praise to the next level of skill development. The same should be true in sales training.

At first, you can celebrate learning the sales presentation, knowing the products well, or making enough new calls on good prospects. Then, as folks progress, you can celebrate improved call-to-interview ratios, presentations-to-purchases percentages, and innovative sales techniques that pay off.

The Smart Way to Celebrate

The key is to first list the outcomes you want; then, find appropriate ways to acknowledge, reward, or celebrate each new step.

Be wary of celebrating too early. Our office once had a big bell that could be rung with every new sale. One day an agent rang the bell and three of us nearby came out to praise the salesperson. But we learned the application didn’t have a check to go with it. The sale was probable, but it was not official. We then withdrew our praise and almost scolded the agent for premature bell-ringing. It became an embarrassment for the agent instead of a win. After that, nobody in the agency ever rang the bell without a check in hand.

Start today. List the outcomes you want and the many little and large ways you could make them moments of magic for the participants. Business can be much more fun when you look for ways to, as Ken Blanchard once said, “Catch people doing something right!”

Jim Cathcart is a long-time contributor to Selling Power and one of the world’s leading professional speakers. He is the original author of Relationship Selling plus 18 other books. helps organizations increase sales engagement and self-motivation. Contact him at

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