Volume 5, August 2001: Spirit at Work

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2001 ISSN # 1545-8873

“I believe that the ultimate in self-actualization is when a person is confused about the difference between employment and recreation.” — Ken Blanchard

“The deepest craving in human nature is the need to be appreciated.” — William James

“Festivity, like play, contemplation, and making love, is an end in itself. It is not instrumental.” — Harvey Cox

“It is impossible to have stellar performance in an organization without collective spirit.” — Terrence Deal & M. K. Key


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Meetings and Courses Online
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Tapping the human and organizational need for celebration.
  • Releasing the human spirit as opposed to “motivating.”
  • Becoming managers of meaning – people come to work for meaning.
  • Attending to the non-rational qualities that people possess – i.e. feelings. Leaders want whole people, not role people at work.

Frequently Asked Questions

“I am not the party type. How can I do this?”
Fine, put your endorsement on the event and give it to a culture committee, like SouthwestAirlines and Disney have done, to design and execute the festivities. Let the event self-organize, but be a big participant, front and center!
“When times are tight, should I be hosting parties?”
When everything is going well, celebration allows us to revel in our glory. But in tough times, celebration is more important than ever, drawing people together, rekindling faith and hope that better times lie ahead. There is clear evidence that Play Pays in terms of productivity, retention, morale and even stock market performance.
“My Board/Investors would raise eyebrows at using funds for play at work.”
If they do not see the business benefits, then opt for something like: (a) honoring your customers and external players, (b) recognizing teams for performance and asking them to teach their strategy to others, or (c) doing something altruistic for the community. Who could argue with the bond that comes through the common purpose of serving humanity?
“Cost is always an issue. How do I get around this?”
The best times are often spontaneous gatherings, with food (covered dish?) and story-telling. Provide the external sanction for bonding in this way. Model it yourself. One CEO gave a banana as recognition for a job well done. Another had the last recipient pick the next and make the award. A hospital conducted an Easter parade with make-shift hats from available materials (bedpans, surgical gloves, flower pots, etc.). Another honored a departing colleague with a circle of storytelling and presentation of memorabilia for a scrapbook. The list of simple ceremonies is endless. See Deal & Key (1999) for ideas: Corporate Celebration: Play, Purpose, and Profit at Work.

Meetings and Courses Online

Here are some of the principles from Deal & Key (1999),  taught in our Celebration workshops and developed further in the book:

  • Capitalize on the infinite reasons and occasions to celebrate.
  • Use this medium to weave people into a cohesive culture.
  • Design for the customers – the celebrants – and their environment.
  • Provide opportunities for individualism as well as collective spirit – a chance to be Apart and A Part.
  • Touch their hearts in some way.
  • Provide a forum for their creative expression.
  • Balance the planned and spontaneous elements.
  • Recognize that every detail speaks – food, place, etc.
  • Celebrate well with frequent, focused and authentic celebrations.
  • Call up the celebration from within. It cannot be manufactured or forced.

Useful Websites & Newsletters

For a business book summary of Corporate Celebration: Play, Purpose, and Profit at Work, see Organizing Work and People. For a study guide and ordering information for the book, go to BKPub.

See Documenting Celebrations for ideas about documenting celebrations.

Trustee leadership development centers around celebration. For books, videos and education, review TLD Resources.

Celebration success seen as part of the cycle of organization change, at The Circle of Organizational Change


  • Autry, James. Life and Work: A Manager’s Search for Meaning. New York: Avon Books, 1995.
  • Collins, James C. & Jerry I. Porras. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. New York: Harper Business, 1994.
  • Fox, Matthew. The Reinvention of Work. San Francisco: Harper-Collins, 1994.

  • Feieberg, Kevin & Jackie Frieberg. NUTS: Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success. Austin, Texas: Bard, 1996.
  • Fulgum, Robert. From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Lives. New York: Ivy Books, 1995.
  • Glanz, Barbara. Care Packages: Dozens of Little Things You Can Do To Regenerate Spirit at Work. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996.
  • Hemsath, Dave & Leslie Yerkes. 301 Ways to Have Fun at Work. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 1996.
  • Nelson, Bob. 1001 Ways to Reward Employees. New York: Putnam, 1994.
  • Weinstein, Matt. Managing to Have Fun. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.
  • Yerkes, Leslie. Fun Works. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2001.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

Recall a celebration event at work where you truly felt significant – full of emotion and meaning. Dissect this experience, then check your recent past for moments where you did this for other people. Use these elements as design criteria for your next celebration.


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