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Take a cue from awards season: Make your customers and employees feel like winners

What makes awards season so memorable? Is it the designer duds? The awesome outfits? Actually, what we seem to remember more than anything is the winners’ over-the-top, unscripted elation when their names are called. When we tune in, isn’t that what we’re hoping to see?

The joy is palpable as the nominees realize they’ve won. So it may come as no surprise to you that even small, everyday victories matter a lot to those around you. In fact, recognizing and celebrating these triumphs can make a tremendous difference in how your employees and your customers feel about you.

One study cited in the Harvard Business Review offers tremendous insight into why winning matters. When people rated their day as productive, either because they made progress on an endeavor or they overcame a “hump,” they also reported feeling happy. (On the flip side, days that involved a setback or insurmountable obstacle ended with feelings of frustration, fear, and sadness.) Not surprisingly, the state of one’s “inner work life” is also tied to job performance and employee engagement.

So winning isn’t just a grab at fame. It’s about feeling like you’re getting somewhere and are being recognized for it. Here’s how to help your customers and workers achieve that positive and productive frame of mind.

Make winning a part of workplace culture

Recast your role: From now on, you’re chief of the recognition committee. When an employee overcomes a challenge, such as transforming a rocky client relationship into a positive one, you can be sure he’s doing an inner happy dance, complete with fist pumps and hashtags. (#winning!). Validate his feelings. Take time to congratulate him, and make his achievement memorable by handing him a small gift.

Next, build a sense of progress across the entire team by setting goals and milestones throughout a project or quarter. Stock a closet with prizes for those employees who make the big assists to move things forward. They’ll feel even more special if you take photos of them with their prizes, and circulate their pictures in company-wide emails with a few words of praise.

Put your customers in the winner’s circle

How do you give customers a sense of accomplishment and victory? Take a look at the rewards programs offered by big restaurants, retailers, and even banks. The best ones offer compelling, meaningful incentives to customers, with higher-value freebies and even VIP treatment for the most loyal and engaged patrons. Along the way, customers can see their progress and work toward ever-bigger goals. That in itself is a powerful motivator.

You can easily adapt these ideas for your small business. Create a winner’s circle and give people a way to earn a spot. Make it fun by holding a small ceremony, complete with a photo op and a swag bag with logoed gifts. If you publicize it in your waiting room, the winner’s circle will become the perfect vehicle to highlight the many benefits of doing business with your company.

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