What “the holidays” can teach us about leadership

Peace on Earth, good will toward men.

‘Tis the season to be jolly.

Be nice to your sister, it’s Christmas!

It never fails.  When we get to “the holidays” time year, there is palpable feeling in the air of hope, good will, family togetherness and kindness for those less fortunate.  “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”, states one classic song, and most everyone buys into it.

But why?  Why at this time of year do we all of a sudden turn on the compassion and caring and treat our neighbors (and even foes) with the respect and dignity they deserve?

It could be tradition, a time of celebration, or the desire to not end up on Santa’s naughty list… to me it doesn’t matter why we do it for a month in December, so much as it matters why we don’t do it the rest of the year.  Whatever the reason, we choose to act differently.  In many cases, we choose to give.

From a leadership point of view, this is a huge opportunity.  If you notice that people are a little more kind and cooperative around the holidays because more people are in a giving mood (including you), then why wouldn’t they react that way the rest of the year?

So what are we giving (beyond the obvious tangible “things”) that people are responding to?

  • Our time – the holidays are about slowing down and appreciating the people around you.  Why wait?  This is not the only time of year that people need attention and appreciation.  And it doesn’t have to be a lot… a little of your time and sincere attention will go a long way.
  • Our patience – Unless it’s 4 am on Black Friday, there is usually a little more patience granted during the holidays.  People learn, understand and develop at very different paces.  Allowing someone the opportunity to learn and grow on their own timetable makes them much more comfortable with the task or concept you are trying to teach them.
  • Our understanding – Employees are people.  Leaders and managers are people.  And people need encouragement, guidance and support.  Sometimes that just means listening to them about what they are going through.  Maybe a little compassion or a little empathy to show that you really care about them as individuals.

Walt Disney said it best, “You can design and create and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

And it takes time, patience and understanding to keep the people around you feeling like they want to give you their best effort.

Happy Holidays!

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