Unleashing the full capacity of your people

Holiday Employee Gifts that Cost Little More Than a Bit of Your Time

...and don't forget to say "thank you!"

…and don’t forget to say “thank you!”

Darmesh Shah got us thinking again, with a post on LinkedIn about the “Holiday Gifts Employee Secretly Want.” They are not really much of a secret, but his point is a good one: If you give your employees these personal “gifts” all year long, there is no real need to gin up extra, less meaningful gifts for the holiday season. Here are the six gifts from Shah, and a seventh we threw in ourselves:

Dignity: Public acclaim for successes. Private counseling for failures.

“Disdain, cynicism, eye rolling, or dismissive comments…shift the focus away from performance and onto the person… and in the process slowly destroys that person’s level of confidence.”

Inclusion: Value to the enterprise can come from every person within it, and you cannot predict the source or timing of those contributions. When you put barriers up that block suggestions or the chance to weigh in on decisions, you lose valuable input that could either change your plan or reinforce it. Inclusion also spreads ownership and passion for obtaining results that are supposed to flow from the decision.

“Make it difficult for employees to make suggestions and reflexively disregard their input without consideration and employees feel excluded from what matters most: Making a difference.”

Connection: Get to know the people with whom you work beyond their role within the organization. Do not consider brief personal chats about their lives outside of work unproductive. If it builds a personal connection, it fosters greater engagement within the team. And it allows you to make recognition and other thoughtful gestures (see below) more meaningful, and therefore more powerful.

Support: OK, we added this one ourselves. But it is important. Find out how you can assist your employees in getting their jobs done faster and better. Work on removing organizational hurdles that hinder them. Bridge siloes that stymie them.

Recognition: This is pretty obvious, but the key is to “de-institutionalize” recognition, and break it up into smaller, more frequently delivered bits. Give it real value to the employee by making it specific and timely. And do it publicly (as noted in dignity above.)

“Look closely, find something even the poorest performer does well, and express a few words of praise and recognition. You may find that few simple words of praise may be just the confidence boost a struggling employee needs to turn their performance around.”

Thoughtfulness: Think about your minute to minute, day to day actions. How are they going to be received by your team? What actions or gestures can you do to foster higher engagement and connection between you and each team member?

As Shah points out, if you don’t know your staff well on a personal level, you cannot connect your thoughtful gestures to what matters to them. Stop guessing about what is important to them. Take the time to find out (pursue the truth!!!) That inquisitiveness is a thoughtful gesture all by itself.

“Thoughtfulness requires more than going through the motions. Thoughtfulness requires, first and foremost, caring – and knowing what to care about.”

Hope. Your mission as a leader is to make the lives of your followers better, however you together choose to define that (or each follower defines their own measure of “better.”) By engaging your employees more actively, you raise their influence on achievement of outcomes, which raises hopes for that better life!

Let’s repeat the main point: These are not secrets, just hard to deliver consistently in a culture that does not support them. You as a leader, however, have the freedom to apply all of them within your own area of responsibility. You can also apply them to your peers and bosses. No sense keeping these gifts to yourself! They deliver a much higher return to you if you share them freely and liberally.

Do you make an effort to keep these gifts an “evergreen” part of your leadership mindset? Do you find that they make your life easier, because your team is more engaged and productive? How do you keep this mindset in place, if your organizational culture is less supportive of engagement than you are?

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