In our lives and in our work, we tend to delay our celebrations until the last moment. Projects that take weeks to complete are recognized only at their full completion. The individual days that lead up to a culmination often evaporate rather quickly from our memory.

Why don’t we place more emphasis on the day in and day out of our working lives? The small victories we experience on the road to success may not be actively recognized in our work culture, but studies show that both small wins– as well as small losses– have a larger impact than we realize. 

The Progress Principle

“It’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey,”– as it turns out, that famous phrase rings true. A journey consists of countless small moments of progress and setback that ultimately lead to a final destination or ongoing goal. The component we often overlook is the power that each small win and loss has on us while we are pursuing our main objective. 

With work that relies on knowledge and creativity, progress in any size has been proven to have a significant impact. To be more specific, Harvard Business Review states, “Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.”

Leaders can focus their efforts to boost team motivation, positivity, and well-being by acknowledging and supporting progress. 

Key Word: Meaningful

Leaders seeking to utilize employee progress to help increase productivity and creativity in team members are on the right track, but they must focus on a key component– the progress must come from meaningful work. 

Meaningful is subjective and completely personal. What one employee may consider meaningful may differ from another employee’s interpretation. According to HBR, “Whether the goals are lofty or modest, as long as they are meaningful to the worker and it is clear how his or her efforts contribute to them, progress toward them can galvanize inner work life.”

Leaders are tasked with both discovering what provides meaning to each employee as well as connecting meaning to employees’ work. Many workers are already self-motivated and driven by the work they do, so assigning a purpose to their work isn’t necessarily a difficult task. Leaders can learn to continually explain to employees how their work is contributing to the larger picture. They can also seek opportunities to eliminate habits that strip the value out of employee work– such as dismissing employee ideas or failing to update an employee on project/customer changes. 

What Can Leaders Do?

To instill a culture of dedication and efficiency, the best way for leaders to support employee progress is by utilizing catalysts and nourishers. Catalysts are actions that support work, like creating clear goals and providing resources and autonomy. Nourishers are used for interpersonal support, such as offering emotional support and respecting other employees. 

By checking in on team members and asking how you can be a resource, you’re recognizing that their work is important and you want to help create meaning. When recognizing a team member for their effort, or perhaps showing respect for an opposing opinion, you’re showing the employee that you value their contribution. 

While catalysts and nourishers should be common and second nature, they’re often neglected. In time-pressed moments or high-stress situations, managers could hurt employee performance and creativity by lashing out, dismissing important progress, or ignoring employee emotions. Just as supporting meaningful progress everyday reaps a myriad of positive benefits, hindering or discouraging progress results in a lack of motivation and wellbeing for employees. 


Small progress steps have an impact on employee mood, motivation, and creativity in the workplace. As a leader tries to create and nourish a team capable of high performance and innovation, supporting employee progress should be a top priority. 

Knowted is focused on enhancing leadership skills and work culture, which creates positive inner work life experiences and drives productivity. For more information, contact Knowted directly or read about our products and services online.

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