Tis the season…of shopping lists, Elf on the Shelf, and hours in the kitchen cooking up goodies. But what does this holiday frenzy have to do with leadership? This special time of year provides leaders a chance to shine, or be the Grinch, and trust me being labeled the Grinch not only hurts personally, it impacts the bottom line!
Since the end of October, the Christmas decorations and kiosks of holiday treats have been creeping into stores and offices around the country. It seems that the commercialization of Christmas continues to grow every year, but it wasn’t always like this. In the mid-19th century, Americans returned to the practice of celebrating Christmas, but it was re-invented as “a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia.” Let’s pick apart why you need to keep this in mind as you lead people through the season.
Followers constantly watch leaders; what you say and do will no doubt have second and third order effects on your team. During this holiday season there are opportunities for you to help your teams get back to the original meaning of Christmas, and to become a stronger team through the process. In his article on “History Today,” Penne Restad said, “It is in the brief December season that Americans, using the language and objects of their culture, recapture ideals and act according to their better selves.” Here are a few ideas to help us get back to our “better selves” during this holiday season.
1. Less Receiving, More Giving. As a leader, reach out to the community and find a worthwhile organization to partner with throughout the year. Corporate social responsibility improves public image and increases employee engagement. Set aside time during the work week for employees to provide support to a partner organization. For example, maybe your local library needs volunteers to assist with children’s reading programs. Another option is to find a local shelter or food bank and donate either time or non-perishable goods to assist that organization with accomplishing its mission. Few things bring people together like serving others!
2. Downsize the Christmas Party. Do you really need turkey and ham at the party? Do you need those fancy decorations to make the party great? Rather than spending all of that money on the Christmas Party, downsize the fanfare and donate the cost difference to a charitable organization. Or skip the party concept all together and donate time and effort to serve dinner at a local soup kitchen as your holiday event! Whether you choose to have a party or not, make a conscious decision about the amount of money spent on extravagance and look for ways to ensure the money goes to good use. Google “holiday party team building activities” – there’s no shortage of ideas out there!
3. Handmade vs. Store-Bought. One of my favorite activities during past office Christmas parties was the “White Elephant Gift Exchange.” In most offices, a price limit is set and everyone buys little trinkets that will be forgotten before the car engine cools down after the drive home from the party. This Christmas, if your organization is doing a gift exchange, change it up – all gifts have to be handmade! This is a fantastic way to learn about your team and each person’s unique skills. You likely have some very creative individuals with hidden talents!
4. Focus on Team Building. The holidays are about spending time with those we care about and showing them that they are important to us, which most definitely includes people on our work teams. Spend a few hours or an entire day during the holiday season developing camaraderie amongst your team. This could even be a great tax write off! Relationships are important in every facet of life and the holidays help remind us that developing relationships takes time! Seize the opportunity, and get your people together while get togethers are the seasonal norm.
This Christmas, as a leader, I’m committed to downsizing the materialism, slowing down a bit, and finding creative ways to be more of my “better self.” Throughout the year we, as leaders, are presented with opportunities to choose a path that brings our teams together, an opportunity to “be better.” During this holiday season, I encourage you to look for ideas to reach out to your community, identify creative skills within your team, and do more with less. What ideas do you, as a leader, have for your organization?