14th April 2017

On celebration

I’m all for celebrating fantastic achievements and well-earned successes. But if we celebrate something (or someone) everyday, we devalue that which we are celebrating. Whenever we create winners, we also create losers. For every award-winner, there are countless colleagues going un-rewarded; under the radar.

The Learning from Excellence movement is not concerned with celebrating success. In fact a key feature of the initiative is that the positive feedback from each report is privately shared with the staff member who has been reported for excellence. There is no overt celebration. No league-tables or performance charting. Learning from Excellence is a way to show appreciation. Appreciation is more subtle than celebration. It is not a reward. It is not a prize. It is noticing the good. Showing our colleagues that we have noticed their good work is a powerful motivator, because it shows that they are valued in their work.

Thoughts on “On celebration

  1. Timely article Adrian. As you know our LfE launch week has been very successful, but your right in suggesting that we need to ensure appreciation is not confused with celebration. As this initiative settles and hopefully becomes integral we will be able to acknowledge and appreciate excellence and acquire great knowledge that support better ways of working.
    Thanks for reminding us about the true purpose of LfE.

  2. Hi Adrian,

    A pithy and well thought out post. Where I would respectfully diverge is that in recognising, and celebrating and showing gratitude, about good things on a daily basis appears to be positive for both the recogniser and the recognisee (I’m guessing I’ve just invented at least one word). But we don’t seem to do it.

    On a daily basis I find myself surrounded by people who give above and beyond, who think up smart new ways to do things and who subtly improve upon what has gone before. I see far more of the good stuff than the bad stuff, yet I hear far more negativity than positivity. This may just be a function of my work place, but I suspect that the ratio of positivity to negativity I see is similarly low in many other healthcare environments (in particular, I’m thinking about the number of downtrodden nurses in nursing home documentaries I’ve seen recently right now). When we celebrate someone every day, we recognise them, we acknowledge their contribution and we shine a light on the role models.

    This next comment is controversial, but where people feel aggrieved at not having been recognised I would say we should look at what good we have hitherto failed to recognise in them. In my experience, humans who want to be “bad” are in a vanishing minority- though people in whom it is difficult to see good are significantly more common.

    I’m not sure we devalue celebration of good stuff when we do it more often, though we certainly run the risk of normalising it. But I kind of like the idea of a workplace where it is normal to appreciate each other.

    Knowing you, I suspect you won’t disagree with much of what I have said and I’m certainly not looking to pick a fight (I respect/like you far too much for that), however I’d hate your well thought out words to become a reason why we might not appreciate/celebrate the contributions that staff make.

    with very best wishes,


    A little of the evidence in easily digestible format (thank goodness for journalists).


    and thank you if you have got this far. I appreciate your time.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Chris. Great to get some debate / discussion going on here. I think we are very much on the same page here. Entirely agree about gratitude and recognition of our colleagues’ contributions. I think the only hair-splitting comes down to what we really mean by “celebration”. My main caution around celebration is the risk of creating resentment amongst those who have not been recognised. Let’s discuss more at the RCEM meeting in May!

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