Achieving Small Wins During Times of Change


June 21, 2023

In a previous article, we presented how individuals might cope with change and the stages they go through before engaging. Progress in the form of small wins could speed up change.

Meaningful progress is critical in boosting motivation and morale for individuals and teams. It is human nature to desire to move forward, achieve goals, and make a difference. Even small increments of progress can create a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. It’s a true force multiplier. Completing tasks, overcoming challenges, or reaching milestones can fuel a positive mindset and reinforce a sense of competence and productivity.

So, a lack of progress can demoralise, leading to frustration and stagnation. Recognising and celebrating progress is crucial for leaders to cultivate a motivated and engaged workforce, foster a positive work environment, and drive individuals to strive for continuous improvement. This article discusses the power of small wins and how to enable progress as a tremendous force for achieving organisational change.

Why small wins matter

Workers engaged in innovative work need creative productivity every day. The diaries of this type of employee are the subject of an analysis referenced in a 2011 HBR article. The results highlight that the most significant positive impact on inner work life is making progress in meaningful work. Inner work life is a mix of emotions, motivations, and perceptions critical to performance. For most of these workers, personal satisfaction and motivation come from completing tasks and reaping the rewards.

Imagine that instead of clearing your inbox, you spend time at a client site and facilitate a workshop that impacts the attendees. They expressed how much clearer their vision was and how much of a difference it would make for their business. The feeling of making meaningful progress was truly exhilarating, and it had a ripple effect on your mood and outlook. This type of progress is a force multiplier beyond personal satisfaction. It positively influences those around you and can lift the morale and spirit of an entire team.

Achieving progress with purpose has a broader effect across the business and can influence others in ways we may not even realise.

Boosting team morale

During times of change, boosting team morale is crucial. It may seem daunting initially, but small wins psychologically uplift your team. They create a sense of progress and achievement that instils confidence, optimism, and a positive outlook within the team. Small milestones are essential in keeping your team engaged and motivated.

As teams gain the satisfaction of accomplishing smaller tasks, their motivation grows, leading to increased productivity and a willingness to take on more considerable challenges associated with the change. Even though every change initiative encounters obstacles and setbacks, small wins act as resilience-building moments, an opportunity to celebrate progress.

Celebrating small wins together reinforces a culture of collaboration and fosters a positive team spirit, enhancing team morale. It creates a shared sense of achievement, strengthening the bond among team members and encouraging them to support each other. Change may take time to materialise fully, but small wins provide psychological reinforcement, motivation, and momentum, build resilience, foster collaboration and support, and shape the perception of progress.

The greatest impact on change implementation is organisation-wide ownership and commitment across all levels. By recognising and celebrating small wins, leaders can create a positive and resilient team environment that navigates change more effectively and maintains high morale and commitment throughout the process.

The progress principle

So, how can leaders leverage the power of small wins and make progress? In the 2011 book, The Progress Principle, the authors, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, explain that leaders can foster progress by removing obstacles, meaningless tasks and toxic relationships. Here are nine keys to applying the progress principle during times of change.

Set clear goals

Leaders should establish specific goals aligning with the overall change objectives. Clear goals give the team a sense of direction and purpose, allowing them to focus their efforts and track progress.

Make support available

Leaders should ensure that their teams have what they need to succeed. This includes providing training, removing obstacles, and offering guidance when required.

Celebrate small wins

Recognise and celebrate the achievement of small milestones along the way. You could do this as a leader through verbal recognition, team acknowledgements, or even small rewards.

Foster a learning culture

Encourage a growth mindset within the team, emphasising the importance of reflection and continuous learning. Staff should learn from their experiences and apply new insights to future tasks.

Empower autonomy

Provide team members with autonomy and decision-making authority over their tasks. Allowing them to take ownership and make decisions empowers them to drive their progress and boosts motivation.

Encourage collaboration

Cultivate a work environment where team members support and learn from each other. Sharing best practices, project collaboration, and cross-functional teamwork should be the norm.

Provide regular feedback

Offer timely and constructive feedback to team members about their progress. Feedback helps them understand how and what’s working and where to improve for continuous growth.

Remove barriers

Identify and address any obstacles or challenges that may hinder progress. Show commitment by providing help, removing barriers, and offering support when team members encounter difficulties.

Communicate purpose and impact

Share often the purpose behind the change and how the team’s progress impacts the outcomes. This helps team members understand the significance of their contribution to the overall objectives, fostering a sense of purpose and motivation.

By leveraging the progress principle and implementing these strategies, leaders can harness the power of small wins, boost team morale, and drive successful outcomes during times of change. To tell us about your ongoing or planned change initiatives, email us at [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Quirk Solutions have a reputation for working with large and medium sized businesses across the world to maximise the internal team and empower positive change.