There’s Enough “Success Pie” to Go Around

Even when we know all the benefits that come with congratulating others on their successes (both publicly and privately), sometimes we still hang back.

Are we afraid that there isn’t enough success to go around? Maybe we think of Success like a plate of cookies or a pie with only so many servings, and if someone else gets one, there might not be enough for us.

Or maybe you’re afraid that every success is a comparison, and if someone else is good then you aren’t also good. Sometimes, we feel jealous or angry when someone else gets the limelight, or we feel as if congratulating someone else takes something away from our own accomplishments.

Relax. The truth is, helping others celebrate their successes isn’t a win/lose proposition. There is enough of the “Success Pie” to go around, and just because one person is in the spotlight today doesn’t mean you won’t be basking in the glow of achievement yourself tomorrow.

Truly confident people know that they aren’t diminished by acknowledging when someone else does a good job. And while a twinge or two of envy can be normal, don’t let it blow up into anger or resentfulness.  Life is too short for that. When it’s your turn to get accolades, you’ll want people to be happy for you, so why not share that happiness when it’s their special day?

There are lots of reasons why congratulating others can feel uncomfortable. Maybe you grew up with parents who told you not to be “proud”, and so it’s awkward for you to give or accept praise. Arrogance is never good, but honest pride (as in satisfaction) for a goal accomplished is healthy and positive. Or maybe you experienced a toxic corporate culture where ruthless rankings made every situation a job-threatening comparison. If past experiences have made you wary of praising and acknowledging your colleagues, it’s time to let go of those old memories and see how good it feels to give others their due.

The truth is, not acknowledging and congratulating those around you comes with a hefty cost. When you don’t recognize the accomplishments of your colleagues and co-workers, clients and vendors, you are telling them that they don’t matter to you. If your reason for staying silent is jealousy, your silence won’t make their achievements go away or be less noticed. But refusing to praise and celebrate does make someone look like a sore loser and a poor team player. Taking the high road and being generous with praise shows that you are confident and empowered. How would you rather be seen?

A lack of response to someone else’s accomplishment sends a message—and it’s not a good one. The next time you see that person, will you feel uncomfortable because you didn’t acknowledge their win? Or think about it this way. You probably are quick to send a note of congratulations to a client who has a big achievement, because you want future business or referrals. You want a good working relationship and support from your colleagues, so why not warm them up with sincere praise when they’ve earned a win?

When it comes to praise, a quick, timely note, email or call is better than a greeting card or lengthy letter that happens late. Dash off a sentence or two when you first hear about their success, because it’s too easy to forget as the day goes on.

How you acknowledge the success depends on your relationship `with the person who is being recognized. If you are good friends, a phone call (even if it goes to voice mail) adds a personal touch. For colleagues to whom you are connected via social media, maybe a post on LinkedIn or Facebook is sufficient, and it adds a public dimension to help the recipient bask a little longer in the acclaim. Email is usually a good option, since it gives you the chance to be formal or casual depending on the relationship—you can even send an online congratulations card if you like. If it’s a truly monumental win, consider a handwritten note, greeting card or a floral arrangement.

What kinds of achievements merit your congratulations? Here are just a few ideas: Receiving an award; Getting a new job or promotion; Being interviewed or having an article published; Closing a big deal; Being mentioned in the news (in a good way). Feel free to be creative. One of the big payoffs from being active on LinkedIn and Facebook is how easy social media makes it to know when one of our colleagues has hit a milestone or accomplished something noteworthy. So long as your congratulations are sincere, it’s hard to overdo this—and it’s free!

What kind of reaction can you expect when you congratulate someone?  Sometimes, the person is surprised because no one else has called (or perhaps you’re the first). They’ll remember you in a very good way! Usually, the person is pleased—congratulations are a no-strings gift. Your contact may prompt a conversation that is more relaxed and open than before. Praise is a great ice-breaker, and it gives you a reason to talk again in the future to follow up. It’s great to ask for more details about the achievement—your colleague will be happy to elaborate! Acknowledge the effort it took, the notability of coming to the fore among other entries, and the special skills required. You can even segue into asking how the person is doing and exchanging information and updates.  Even if the person you congratulate is awkward or uncomfortable receiving your congratulations, you’ve sent the message that you acknowledge them and that you’re a team player.

Congratulating someone else also opens the door for you to learn from their success.  If the person won an award you’d like to win someday, ask how they approached the nomination and submission process. Find out what steps they took or who helped them make it happen. Don’t be afraid to ask for tips or what made their entry stand out. Take the opportunity to learn everything you can, so that you can up your game next time around.

When it’s your turn in the limelight, be willing to share your insights with others. Accept praise modestly, but there’s no need to downplay your accomplishments. If you’re not sure what to say, a simple “thank you” will do. If others were involved, acknowledge the team effort. Allowing others to congratulate you may feel awkward at first, but with practice you’d discover it can feel really good to be appreciated.


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