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Ring the Bell!

Ship's bell colorA few years ago I discussed some organizational challenges with my former CEO, and I noted the employees in our company rarely took time to enjoy their successes. People were always working hard and they never seemed to celebrate the things that went well. I suggested that maybe we should have a big bell in the office, so that we could ring it whenever there was something to celebrate. The idea of a bell came to my mind because I wanted something that would be visible, inviting, and impossible to ignore when used.

One week later, to my big surprise, the CEO brought me a copper ship’s bell and said, “Here’s your bell. Now do something useful with it.” I convinced the office police manager to hang it in the middle of our big open office space, and I let everyone in the company know that every employee was allowed to ring the bell, if they had something to celebrate.

From that moment, every few weeks or so, someone would enthusiastically yank on the rope, for signing a government contract, deploying a .NET web application, or for something less strenuous, such as running a marathon, or birthing a baby. Any reason was valid. (I once rang the bell for having more visitors on my blog than the company had on its website. It was just my excuse to enjoy another celebration.)

When the sound of the ship’s bell blared through the office, all employees immediately got together for a 10-minute celebration. Our people knew that the bell was often a signal for free cake or cookies, which probably contributed to the quick and easy gathering of the entire work force around the coffee machine. The person who rang the bell then usually took a few minutes to explain what was being celebrated. There was enthusiastic applause. Yay! And then the eating started. The last time I heard the bell was when the CEO announced my departure from the company.

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