Regardless of the size of the business or organisation, there is much work which goes into an audit. From addressing compliance as well as opportunities for improvement, making sure the systems do what they are supposed to do, and making sure internal as well as external customers are satisfied with what the organisation or business provides. I often see people looking jolly during the audit. I also see exhausted people. It makes sense, after all, what I’m reviewing and assessing during the audit is the culmination of a considerable volume of work by an individual, teams of people and sometimes the entire organisation before I have even arrived.

As we are heading into the closing meeting, people may be exhausted, but they are often looking relieved that the audit is nearly at an end, whether there may still be actions to address. Towards the end of closing meetings, I often take the time to encourage the people in the room to take time after the closing meeting to celebrate. Making an effort and taking the time to celebrate sounds simple, doesn’t it? But you would be surprised how often people look surprised when I make that suggestion and, quite often, they will also look embarrassed. When I see these sorts of reactions, I hope they do take up that suggestion – but I don’t always feel hopeful that they will.

Of course, there have been a few times when people have laughingly said, ‘We are just waiting for you to leave before we crack open the champagne. So how about you do us a favour and leave now!’ To which I then say, ‘How about a glass for your poor exhausted auditor?!’

No, I haven’t stayed on in situations like that, but as I walk away from the site, I think that they are really on the right track to celebrate what they have been through.

When researching the point of celebrations, whether for events such as an audit or for seemingly small achievements we all experience in life, I found it fascinating how much they can help us, to reflect not only where we have been but encourage us to look forward before taking the next step. Celebrations are like a breather of sorts, giving us a snapshot of time to bask in what we have achieved. According to social psychology researcher Fred Bryant and others, taking time to stop and savour a good situation or outcome helps us to buffer ourselves against the tough times by building resilience.

Researchers like Fred have found that even mini-celebrations can help to build up our positive emotions which make it easier to manage the daily challenges that cause significant stress. When we downplay or don’t bother with celebrations, we are telling ourselves, and others that we haven’t done enough or we aren’t good enough. And there are certainly enough factors in our everyday life that result in stress and impact on our mental health – so why not take the time to celebrate?

Celebrations are essential not only for individuals but also for teams. While pats on the back and positively worded emails thanking everyone for their contributions to the audit might make people feel good in the moment, these are rarely sufficient to encourage sustainable motivation over time. Taking time to celebrate in a meaningful way can help to bolster people’s morale and encourage a deeper sense of meaning and positivity at the same time.

I think celebrations add some fun and excitement into our life – and I like to see people have fun after their audit is completed. Celebrations help us to feel connected to one another and help us to relish what we have learned and achieved together. I think there are some ways we can encourage this in our lives:

  1. Disrupt the usual routine and unexpectedly celebrate someone’s birthday / pick a random international day no-one knows about / make something up!
  2. Set the scene – perhaps organise a specially written invitation and post it.
  3. When people have been working solidly on a goal and one step has been achieved, celebrate that. Don’t leave it just for the conclusion.

Celebrations are all about the positive magnification of the good times in our life. Wise people say that what we focus on, expands, so when we are celebrating, we are encouraging more of the good times to happen. Sounds good to me!

Thinking ahead:

  1. Think about a situation that might benefit from celebrating. What benefits can you imagine might come out of a celebration?
  2. How do people in your life respond to celebrations? Is this a positive experience all the time? If it is, what makes your celebrations stand out?
  3. What strategies do you have in place to celebrate with your team? How do you make sure the celebration is genuine?