Holiday Gifts

December 20, 2014

happy mature business man with santa hat  is giving you a presenThis time of year, we naturally think of giving gifts. Whether with family or friends or in the work environment, we want to show our affection for each other with tangible presents.

At work, we often see some kind of bonus or financial benefit that has been baked into the compensation package long ago.  It arrives during the holiday season by design. While welcome, if the bonus is expected and predictable, the impact as a gift is muted.

How can leaders combine the habit of giving gifts with a resolution to do things better in the future. Do you have a way to figuratively place “gifts” for the people who you interface with on a daily basis? I am not thinking of the tangible gifts, but rather presents of a different kind. Here are a few of the gifts you might consider giving more often to people at work, or at home.


The most precious thing for all people is really time. Reason: scarcity and value are what make something precious. Time is scarce because it is fixed (24/7), and it is valuable because we are all habitually short of adequate time.

You can give time to people by thinking through how you can be more considerate of theirs. For example, you can have shorter meetings, cut out some Mickey Mouse work, reduce conflict, lower the e-mail load, prioritize better, eliminate redundancy, communicate more clearly, and so forth. There is a never ending supply of ideas to save people time at work.

The other way we give time to people is to make ourselves more available to them. We are all pulled too many ways and find it difficult to balance our own needs with those of others.

People do recognize and appreciate when you take time for them if they need it. Giving the gift of time means demonstrating with your calendar that you are accessible.


When you give people the gift of your trust, it multiplies and then comes back to you with more trust. Real trust is essential for people to function as they were designed to do.

So many people dwell in an environment of extremely low trust at work every day. In most environments, the extension of more trust is the most effective way to uplift the culture and improve the work experience. For example, reducing the tendency to micromanage is a great way to demonstrate higher trust.


In the rush of daily activity, it is easy to take people for granted. We get wrapped up in the stresses that consume our day and forget to acknowledge other individuals who are striving to do their best. See them work, and recognize their effort and dedication.


Empathy for what others are experiencing is the best way to have people realize you care about them. If you show an interest in their challenges and triumphs in life, they will see that love and reflect it back to you. The visceral feeling of being cared for is part of the human condition that is essential: like the air we breathe or the food we eat.


Strongly linked to care is the notion of support. We all need help from time to time, and the gift of our physical or emotional support can make a huge difference in the quality of another person’s day. Be proactive with your support. Be more like Santa and less like Scrooge.


Reinforcing people in an appropriate and thoughtful way when they do good work helps improve their self esteem, and is always a welcome gift. Recognition triggers their intrinsic motivation to do more good things. It enables empowerment and is kind of a liberating force that encourages people. Thus, recognition is a force multiplier.

This list could get very long if I let it, but I will keep it short to give readers the gift of brevity. My present to you this holiday season is the idea that with very little time and effort, you can have the wonderful spirit of giving gifts  every day in your work and home life.

What Are You putting in Their Stockings This Year

December 23, 2012

Christmas StockingLast year, I wrote an article entitled “What’s Under Your Tree” that turned out to be very popular. The concept was, in a organizational setting, what gifts are we bringing to our co-workers. I’m not talking about physical gifts here, rather I am referring to things like the gift of our time, our attention, recognition, encouragement, and many other intangible gifts that make a huge difference in the relationships between people.

This year I thought of a variant of the same theme around the image of a Christmas Stocking. When I was growing up, we opened the stockings first thing in the morning on Christmas Day. In fact, us kids would be first up, jumping up and down on our parents’ bed to make them get up so that we could go down and see what was in our stockings.

Everyone knew that the presents in the stockings were more of an entertainment nature. They were small in value, but they kept us occupied and intrigued during the early morning hours until the adults got ready to open the bigger presents under the tree.

My analogy for things we might put in the stockings of others at work might include the following items:

Being cheerful toward the other person. Just because we are having a hard day, that’s no reason we have to project negativity onto our co-workers. We can show a positive demeanor in most situations and brighten their day considerably.

Doing small favors. Getting a cup of coffee for the other person is a small gesture, but at times it can be a big deal. Sharing office supplies rather than hoarding them would be another example of a small favor. Just saying thank you for anything done by someone else that is helpful to you is a kind gesture that promotes goodwill.

Do not gossip. Try to not participate in negative conversations about other people, especially when they are not around to defend themselves. Just remembering the Golden Rule is a good way to prevent negativity from permeating side conversations. If someone is sharing some dirt about another individual simply say, “I would rather not discuss this unless he is here to participate.”

Help lighten the load of the other person. The habitual time pressure seems to be getting worse each year. Even though you have significant time pressure yourself, there will be opportunities for you to extend a little time to help other people lighten their own load. Those little favors add up to significant goodwill in the long run.

Put in a good word. Mentioning something positive about another person to an individual, such as his supervisor, can create a pattern of support that helps people help each other through some of the difficult times. You do not need to go overboard with false flattery or praise; just simply reflect on the good efforts and work by other people. This will serve you in good stead, as they will often return the favor.

Provide a shoulder to cry on. People need to vent sometimes just to maintain sanity. If you allow them to get some of the poison out with a rant, it can help lighten their load. This is a delicate area, because it can be a trap if you become the habitual dumping ground for all of the small annoyances of life. You need to find a balance where people view you as being empathetic to their situation but not a time consuming source of hearing confessions.

Be polite. Simply extend the common courtesies of a professional atmosphere in every interface, if possible. These are small gestures such as answering email requests promptly, respecting the need for a quiet atmosphere in which to work, or being punctual to meetings or events.

The analogy of a stocking full of gifts at work is all about helping other people in little ways that form an important pattern that improves their working life. Do these things, and people will respond in very positive ways to you.