December offers leaders a good opportunity to pause and reflect on the well-being of their people. The context is perfect. Whatever their faith, almost everyone regards the Christmas period as a time for reconnecting with what really matters in life. Many consider the achievements, failures and learnings of the past year. They make decisions about what they will do in the year ahead. Actually, the best decisions will be about what they will no longer do in the New Year.
Last week I heard an entrepreneurial CEO tell our Amalgam Leadership Programme participants that he uses the year-end to improve his delegation. “I look at what I’ve done, and decide what was a good use of my time. The rest delegate to the right people. It develops them, and frees me up for more of what I should be doing – thinking ahead of the business.”
Recruiters tell me that January always brings them a fresh crop of candidates to add to their inventory. These are the good people – the ones who have decided to move on and test themselves with fresh challenges. Not the 85% of staff who are happy to stick like limpets to their current employment contract. These ones (increasing in numbers each year as the Millennial Mindset takes root) have taken stock of their experience and decided to roll the dice again. What a rich hunting ground for new employers.
So at year end, the organisational leader actually has two opportunities to refresh relationships with staff. With high performers, who may be on the verge of departure; to recognise the strong contribution and identify exciting new opportunities for them. And with the rump of the business, to engage with staff whose residual value is high, but whose motivation may be waning. The people who will never be on the Dream Team; but nonetheless are needed for sustainability. With this group, your challenge is to reassure them that their decision to hang around was valid. That you appreciate them and notice the contribution they make. Make them feel valued afresh.
It’s time to re-articulate the Company narrative and celebrate the good things. Time to give a little lift to the people upon whom your success depends. Yes, that might be the Christmas party – despite the longstanding patronising tradition it has become. But how much better for a leader to be spontaneous. Short personal conversations, handwritten notes. Informal chats with departments. Small, thoughtful gifts and unexpected allowances (more time for travel, help with a medical bill). At Christmas time a little more fellow feeling can produce dividends in the New Year.
Chris Harrison leads The Brand Inside in Africa