Expectations, Celebrations & Realizations

This weekend I escaped for a few hours to watch the French Open Women’s Final.  You all know I love tennis but I’m particularly a sucker for the awards presentation ceremonies that follow any major event.  Even if I don’t enjoy the sport,  I love watching the winner celebrate their victory and be honored by the sponsoring agencies and adoring fans.  Not much brings me to tears, but seeing someone honored for their accomplishment does it every time!

Maria Sharapova‘s win Saturday was no different.  In fact this calculated, focused, deliberate player gave into her emotions at the close of the final point.  From falling to her knees with hands in her face full of tears to leaps of joy while blowing kisses to the stadium, her joy was contagious.

For a brief minute I was a bit envious of her and dreamed of quitting my day job to become a tennis pro to experience a moment like that.  Then of course reality reminded me that that is not even remotely a possibility.  (My unpredictable forehand still baffles my tennis coach!)

We all long for our moment in the spotlight and the applause of a stadium full of fans screaming our name… I don’t know if it’s our culture or if it’s just a part of our human nature.

This whole idea got me thinking about the fact that very rarely do some of our biggest accomplishments in leadership get the praise and recognition that we hope for or maybe even deserve.

I believe that’s because the truly great moments of your leadership rarely happen in the spotlight.

Recently I completed a project that I had been working on for over a year.  A small team of our leaders have been inching away at this goal and finally realized a significant moment of completion.  I hadn’t really thought ahead of time what that moment would feel like but apparently I had some subconscious expectations because I realized very quickly that those expectations were not being met.  After a year’s worth of grueling decision making the final moment was really quite lack luster.

I had subconsciously expected a major ceremony of celebration but the situation didn’t call for that.  It wasn’t anyone’s fault.  No one had failed me.  I got a few appropriate “congratulations” and high fives, but the celebration certainly didn’t feel equal to the work it took to accomplish it.

I learned a few things in all of this:

1) Be tuned into your emotions and expectations.  My 6-year-old self wanted to be celebrated while my 36-year-old self needed to put her big girl pants and remember it’s not all about me.

2) Make your own trophy.  While you must be careful of having an expectation that everyone will celebrate you, it’s okay and actually probably healthy to create some ways to celebrate yourself.  Strategically plan a vacation after a major project, take an extra day off that week, treat yourself to an indulgence (ice cream, round of golf, manicure, massage, a night out with friends).  Whatever it is, mark the moment and let yourself celebrate it.

3) Create celebrations for others.  If you are in a position of leadership, look for opportunities to create celebrations for others.  Create a culture where celebration is part of your pace.

So just for fun… what’s the best celebration you’ve ever received?

For me, it was our third grade track meet where I won 2 first place and 1 second place.  I wore those medals with pride! 🙂


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  • Dawn Nicole Baldwin June 11, 2012  

    Great post, Jenni 🙂 And you know… honestly… I’m not sure. I think it was when Brad Abare gave me a Kindle at the end of the first Cultivate Conference many moons ago on behalf of the Center for Church Communications. Was totally unexpected & I was so incredibly grateful. 

    But I think you’re right–especially in the ministry arena we don’t really recognize accomplishments as much as it seems to happen in the corporate world. There really aren’t any Oscars, sales trophies or guest-of-honor types of things for the everyday leader. I think Catalyst does a great job commemorating legacy leaders & Brad Lomenick does a great job of recognizing young leaders, but I don’t know of many others. 

    And it’s crazy because the majority of us aren’t in it for the money (otherwise we’d be working somewhere else) and oftentimes get removed from the warm fuzzy moments when lives are changed or seeds are planted. So, why can’t we be more intentional about making an effort to recognize our leaders and our peers? Reminding folks their labor DOES matter & is making a difference, even if it’s not always visible. (Not ranting, as I’m just as much at fault)

    Who’s with me? 🙂

    • Jenni Catron June 11, 2012  

      Dawn Nicole, I agree with your thoughts. I think ministry people wrestle with taking credit for what God is doing so figuring out how to celebrate people gets clumsy. I’d love to hear stories from ministries that do this well.

  • Traceepersiko June 11, 2012  

    Love this Jenni! I struggle with the tension of celebration and expectations. It’s hard to not want to be celebrated and acknowledged. I also struggle with believing that the accomplishment still matters regardless of anyone one seeing.

    I will always remember my “Rudy” moment. I scored the winning soccer goal for our team in over time. My team lifted me up on their shoulders and carried me off. Awesome.

    • Jenni Catron June 11, 2012  

      “I also struggle with believing that the accomplishment still matters regardless of anyone one seeing.” Tracee, this is so true! Thanks for putting that to words for us. It’s a really difficult tension.

  • timthurman June 11, 2012  

    Jenni, I was a tennis coach for 5 years.  I bet I can fix your forehand.  Here is a promise for a free tennis lesson if I ever get to meet you in person.

  • Janice S June 12, 2012  

    The first celebration that comes to mind actually fits with your post. It was related to my senior recital in college. I paid for and my family hosted a reception immediately following.  I can still remember the glow of hearing so many complimentary things from friends and loved ones during the reception.