4 Gifts Your Team Actually Wants for Christmas

It’s that time of year again. Leaders everywhere are debating if squeezing in an obligatory annual holiday party is worth it. Some employees can’t wait to celebrate. Others are preparing to endure it. And still others are ready to RSVP with their usual cut-and-pasted “With regrets” email.

Since it’s hard to please everyone, let’s play Scrooge for a moment. Maybe going through with a feel-good gathering isn’t the best way to wrap up your year with a bow. It’s a big investment of time, money, and emotional energy that generally has a 50-50 success rate. Making a case to skip the holiday hoopla at work doesn’t take much, does it?

Being a “bah humbug” leader isn’t the answer to building up morale around the office. But before you simply throw another end-of-year shindig, maybe you can give your team what they really need from you this season in ways they don’t see coming a mile away.

The 4 Gifts Your Team Wants Most

It turns out there are four gifts your team actually wants for Christmas from you (and they’re all holiday party optional). According to Gallup research, in the bestselling book Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barrie Conchie, employees desire four things from their leaders: trust, compassion, stability, and hope. Engagement levels increase wherever these attributes are present, at work and home. Your team needs these four gifts, and no holiday soiree is going to make up for their absence the rest of the year.

So, instead of cobbling together a Christmas party, here are twelve ways to start giving people you lead the four gifts of trust, compassion, stability, and hope they actually want this season.

1. Show Up on Time

You’ve heard the old adage, “Early is on time. On time is late.” Commit to showing up at least five minutes early this season. You’ll be more present and model integrity as a leader.

2. Remind Your Face to Smile

The end of the year is taxing on leaders. Their minds get preoccupied, they wonder who’s working as hard as them, and they easily come across as grumpy throughout December. Be mindful of your demeanor as you walk the halls. Cheer up and connect with people by starting with a smile.

3. Welcome Interruptions

Leaders often hustle from meeting to meeting, especially if something might sabotage their agenda. Pay attention to your pace and availability to your team. They need time with you for more reasons than getting approval to spend money.

4. Practice Listening

Just because leaders have two ears doesn’t mean they use them well. Listening to understand and empathize takes practice. When your team knows you care, it lays a foundation to do your best work together.

5. Send People Home Early

Fact check: your team isn’t always trying to duck out of work. Many of them stay connected via smartphone to work after work. Surprise them by letting them leave early on a day that’s not Friday.

6. Hide $5 Gift Cards

Confuse Christmas with Easter. Buy a bunch of $5 gift cards, write team member’s names on them, and put them around the office.

7. Cater a Memorable Meal

Resolve not to order pizza or subs this season. Ask someone to search Yelp.com for a local restaurant with food your team enjoys but has never tried at the office.

8. Invite Teams to Speak Candidly

People want to participate not just get “word from on high” about what their organizational future holds. Schedule an open boardroom meeting where any employee can listen, ask questions, and give input.

9. Give Open Development Days

The best companies invest in people so they can grow in areas that benefit everyone. Rather than limit development to direct job skills, fund personally creative learning opportunities that enhance team members on multiple levels.

10. Serve a Local Non-Profit

Rally the team around a cause that’s important to you or your organization. Take time to help a food pantry or nearby school together as a team.

11. Talk About Everyone’s “Why” Together

Host a casual meeting where everyone can publicly share why their role on the team matters to them. Wrap up with a five-minute summary about why your company exists and why each person is invaluable to you.

12. (Maybe) Ask Your Team to Throw a Holiday Party

If you’ve tried the eleven ideas above and seen trust, compassion, stability, and hope levels increase across your team… it’s definitely time to host a party!

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