Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years compress a lot of holiday activity into one period. It is a unique time for any organization or company, with its own benefits and challenges. Here are some ways to be the right sort of leader to your people during this time.
Keep a work hard-play hard ethic. The holidays are special to those you lead, at many levels. It is a season that matters to them, and one in which you can show them that they matter to you as well. Leaders have a tendency to get out of balance in two ways. On one hand, they relax the standards and “can-do” culture they are building, and the season becomes a party, in effect, creating a great deal of wasted work time. This doesn’t bear good fruit. On the other hand, some leaders are insensitive to the needs and experiences of their people during this time, which can alienate their connections at work. The best stance is “work hard-play hard.” That is, be whole hearted in providing whatever time off, whatever gifts and whatever party scenario you think best shows your appreciation. Do it well and thoroughly. At the same time, however, when it’s time to work, everyone hunkers down and gives it 110%: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23).
Keep the main thing the main thing, always. Err on the side of grace. It might sound contradictory to the last point, but it isn’t. Remember that holidays are often times of great struggle and sadness for those you lead, for example:
-Family of origin issues that emerge because of memories
-Family of origin issues that emerge because they are going to parties with toxic people that they have not healed from yet
-Undergoing great financial struggle during this time
-Being aware that a marriage or dating relationship is struggling during a happy time
-Comparing the idealized wishes for the Christmas they desired, or had in the past, with the realities of this Christmas
In fact, you yourself may be familiar with something on this list in your own life, so you can have compassion for your people. Be especially aware of what your people might be struggling with during the holidays: listen to them, encourage them, and give them a “grace pass” for some mistake or performance problem if it is warranted. If you have to err between grace and truth, always err graceward: “One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend”. (Proverbs 22:11).
Affirm that which matters. The holidays tend to bring out our more reflective sides, and that is a good thing. This is a time to make sure that before the New Year rolls around, you have told each key person something you deeply appreciate about them. You have no idea how much impact your words, as a leader, have. They penetrate to interior levels within your people: “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver (Proverbs 25:11)”. Don’t be lazy and do a turnkey affirmation that is universal: “Sam, you are just so special.” Do some homework, and make it unique to that person: “Sam, you went the extra mile this year and it shows.” I suggest you do the affirmations only now, and do the challenges when it gets close to the new year, and it’s action time. Holidays are technically “holy days”, in the original meaning of the term. When something is holy, it is set apart for service to God. Use your relationships with your people in ways that let them know you have set them apart, and how useful and meaningful they are to you.