Are you stuttering in the elevator as you try to decide how to wish your employees a happy holiday season without offending them? Believe me, you’re not alone. If you’ve done a great job in leadership so far, you probably have a healthy amount of diversity in your work environment, but it’s hard to know how to respect the varying beliefs as a leader.
As an executive leadership coach with approximately 20 years of experience coaching leaders like you, here are my top tips for safely navigating the holiday season without offending anyone on your team, and making them more loyal to your leadership than ever before.
- Delegate the Decorating. Seriously, don’t get too hung up on getting the right holidays appropriately referenced with your company’s lobby decorations this year. Nothing is more pitiful than a giant Christmas tree and a random plastic menorah thrown on the side table next to the visitor chairs in the foyer. Let your associates take ownership of the decorating because it gives them the opportunity to set the office up how they want it, and it takes the pressure off you. Having a collaborative holiday season will show your employees that they are respected and have freedom to express who they are during the holidays.
- Speak for Yourself. Since you’ll likely be the host at the company holiday party, you’ll likely be urged to give a speech to the team. Don’t feel obligated to give a generalized holiday speech in an effort to make everyone happy. Remember, the holidays at work should be about inclusivity and free expression. The fact that you’ve made this clear to the team beforehand by allowing open decorating means that you can speak for yourself. The team wants to hear from YOU as their leader, and it’s okay to speak from your heart. Be genuine and express yourself. Don’t try to conform to beliefs or generalizations that aren’t your own in an effort to please the majority. Go ahead and tell that memory of your favorite Hanukkah dinner celebration, or about the time your dog ate the bottom string of popcorn off your childhood Christmas tree. This is called CONNECTION!
- Check In. Reach out to your employees during the holiday season to check in without having ulterior motives. This means don’t ask them how their deadline is coming along, sales targets, or recent client issues. Simply call them and be genuine (not through email), and make sure they are doing well during this stressful and busy time of year. Your employees need to know that you care for them as people, and that your care goes beyond the work they produce for you. You will be amazed at how much respect your employees will gain for you when they feel your honest care for them!
- Participate in Fun. Yes, you have to play the silly holiday games with your team, and wear the ugly Christmas sweater! Your participation and willingness to look foolish at the party is the secret sauce of executive success stories. Successful leadership succeeds by giving an example. When you play, you give others permission to play. Ask your administrative assistant to keep all employee activities listed on your calendar so you won’t forget to join. Keep that ugly sweater stored away at the office, too, so you are always prepared. Your willing participation will help keep you approachable and personable, and your team will respect and love you for it!
- Be a Charismatic Captain. Executive presence during the holiday season needs to be calm, cool and collected with a bit of strategic personality thrown in where needed. No matter how together everyone seems on the outside, remember that people are often juggling parties, gift lists, children’s events, family gatherings, and more during this time of year. In addition to personal stuff, your team might also have many work-related goals and projects that need to be met or completed. Your team needs your calm and support more than ever during this time of year! When you make your rounds throughout the office, be sure to listen closely to the needs of the team. Discover new ways you can show support.
I hope these tips help you navigate this holiday season. Remember, leaders who authentically show care and concern for their employees will maintain strong loyalty among them. A healthy team is imperative to the success of any leader, and without your team, you’d have no one to lead.