The holiday season presents some different challenges for leaders. Here is some advice I’ve found can help you to get the most out of this special time.
Get in the holiday spirit. It’s important for leaders to get into the holiday spirit. It’s a wonderful time of the year when people want to feel good and connected to each other. It is a time to capitalize on team building and allow workers to get to know each other better. Yet often managers end up acting like Scrooge by being too busy or demanding of themselves and of their people. Bosses can really ruin the holidays by being grumpy, under stress and too demanding. Try to be a little more lenient, supportive and willing to “go with the flow” in appreciating the time you have and the people you have to work with.
Focus on what has to be done. It’s important during the holidays to be clear with everybody on their key goals. What are the significant things that really have to get done during the holiday season to keep business running as usual? It’s good to write down these goals so that people are better able to work harder earlier in the season if they are going to be less focused later on. This is especially true if, for your business, the holiday season is one of the busiest time of the year.
Be flexible with employees. Be more flexible in terms of the hours your people work, depending on their needs. Is there a way they can have a couple of hours off so they can get some of their shopping done and make the time up later? A lot of people have family and friends fly in and would love to have flexible work hours to accommodate them. How could the company help employees save time? For example, at our company, we have people fill out a form that allows them to mail their packages from our company.
Avoid negative news. Don’t use the holiday season to give employees negative news. It is not a time of the year to catch people doing things wrong, nor it is a time to accent the negative. Instead, do your best to redirect employees without being punitive. Save more substantive performance issues for after the new year. And don’t turn what should be good news into bad news by poor timing. For example, if you are planning to give employees extra days off between Christmas and New Year’s Day, tell them far enough in advance so that they can make plans for that time. Otherwise, they might end up at home watching television and griping about you.
Be sensitive to different religions. Be sensitive to those who don’t celebrate Christmas. You might set aside some time when people could share information about their religious or cultural celebrations. For example, one of our Jewish employees had people who wanted to find out more about the meaning of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights celebration, meet him for lunch.
Be creative about celebrating the season. Your celebration doesn’t have to be lavish for it to be effective. You might want to do an activity rather than hosting a party where everyone just sits around and drinks. It might even allow for more bonding to do something like caroling that allows for a shared experience away from the office. Another fun group activity that we’ve done is to take the time for our work group to read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol together, giving each employee a role to read. Activities such as these can help you avoid getting into the position where you have to worry about serving alcohol to people and having them drive home.
Whenever possible, include families in holiday activities. We had an artist come to our company one year during the holidays to teach everybody how to paint landscapes. There were four sessions and everyone could bring their spouses, kids, and parents. The artist dressed everybody up in French berets and artist aprons. At the end of the activity she touched up the pictures and then we had them framed. It was really a lot of fun.
Have fun with celebrations. Think of fun ways to celebrate the season. I love those parties where everyone buys a three-to-five dollar gift, numbers the gift, and then people pick numbers and open the gifts one at a time. The person opening the gift has the option of keeping what they open or trading it for one of the already opened gifts. That can turn into a pretty lively time! You can also have people exchange funny cards that they have either bought or made. You could even set somebody up to be a “Secret Santa,” leaving anonymous gifts for random employees.
Make the spirit last all year long. A few years ago, after the holiday season had ended, several of our employees at The Ken Blanchard Companies asked, “Why does the spirit have to end at the end of the year?” From that question sprang an employee-run program called “Blanchard for Others” which sponsors local charities and hosts all kinds of fundraising events through the year. Each year they raise tens of thousands of dollars for charity. We now have the holiday spirit year round.
So get in the holiday spirit this year! Go with the flow, lighten up, and enjoy this special time with your employees and with your families.