Monday, December 19, 2011

...from Santa Claus

Every year, on December 25th the world celebrates Christmas. And on that special night many traditions involve the story of a jolly, plump man dressed in red bringing gifts to every home.

So tonight with your children
When you read by their bed
Don’t read them a carol
Read them this blog instead.

The Ten Things I Learned from Santa Claus

1. Have a list and check it twice
It’s well-known that Santa Claus has a list of people he’ll visit that magical night. American tradition, expressed through classic songs, claims that he checks it “twice to find out who is naughty or nice” If you thought your job was overwhelming, image bringing gifts to more than 7 billion people in one night. Stay organized by writing down a list of things to do and check them off as you complete them.  

2. Work hard when needed
In the weeks leading to Christmas, Santa spends an enormous amount of hours getting ready for the special delivery. It seems everywhere I go Santa Claus is there. From my nearest mall to the Holiday Parade on TV, he’ll even drop in to parties I’m at. During November and December, the man also known as Saint Nicholas is working his hardest to deliver on time that holiday joy. Spend the extra hours when needed to get your job done, but make sure that, like Santa, you also take that offseason break.  

3. Listen to others
For years we’ve read business lessons on listening to others, but no one exemplifies this skill as gracefully as Old Saint Nick. In every store and every mall Santa is there listening to millions of kids share their wish list, more importantly, without interrupting and with a smile. And if that weren’t enough, he sits through millions of letters and “listens” to what people say. At work, make a conscious effort to hear others - like the popular Christmas song “sleigh bells ring, are you listening? 

4. Don’t procrastinate
If I had to critique a man that brings so much joy to so many kids in the world, it would be his time-management skills. Why leave it all for the last minute? Isn’t there an easier way than the 24hr global sprint? But then again, I understand - if we paced out Christmas throughout the year, we wouldn’t have that enchanted morning opening gifts next to the evergreen tree. We should be able to pace ourselves better and not leave everything for the last minute.  

5. Staff appropriately
The secret behind Santa is his workshop and all the wonderful elves that work there to make the toys you and I get every year. Without them, there wouldn’t be much to gift every December 25th. And let’s not forget his nine flying reindeer; including the gifted one who leads the way each foggy night - without them, he’d be lost, literally. So much of your success will depend on the team around you, or the one you put together. Make every effort to staff and hire appropriately so that each job is filled with the best candidate.  

6. Providing constructive feedback
Older traditions tell a story of Santa Claus leaving behind a lump of coal in kids’ stockings if they hadn’t been nice all year around – but I can’t say I’ve witnessed it myself. It’s an interesting spin on providing feedback. It would only get better if it came with a list of what we did wrong and how to improve it. Not that I endorse leaving coal to employees and co-workers, but I do encourage you to provide constructive feedback when somebody hasn’t been nice.

7. Give
The history of Saint Nicolas dates back as far as Greek tradition, modernized later by the Dutch as Sinterklass, caricaturized by the American cartoonist Thomas Nast, and more recently marketed by just about everyone, including Coca Cola. But throughout the years, the cultures and traditions remain the same: he represents the spirit of giving. Make sure, every season, you give to those less fortunate.

8. Be jolly
References to a jolly Saint Nicolas began in a satirical fiction called Knickerbockers’ History of New York written in 1809. In 1823, the now famous poem “The Night before Christmas” describes him a little better “He was a chubby, and plump, a right jolly old elf…” This image is what brings so much joy to so many around the world. By following Santa’s jovial and cheerful good-humor you too could have a positive impact on your corporate world.

9. Provide a status on where you are
Not even Santa Claus can escape technology these days. I wonder if he’ll “check in” on his Facebook mobile app this year. In the meantime, you can track him on numerous sites including the North America Air Defense Command (NORAD) As you progress with your work, you might want to check in with your boss, your peers, your direct reports on where you are at. Providing that checkpoint lets everyone know, like with Santa, when the job will get done.

10. Keep traditions alive.
It’s interesting to read how each country celebrates the arrival of Saint Nicholas differently. From the British and Americans (and more) welcoming him to their homes on Christmas Eve, to Hungary, Slovenia (and more) receiving him on December 6th. Some leave cookies, others pies, porridge, and pudding or milk. Despite the differences in customs, all share the century long effort to keep their traditions alive. At your work, it’s your responsibility to keep your corporate culture alive from your prior generation to the one who’s following you.

Santa Claus has given us comfort and joy for many years. His historical good deeds and his recent magical ways make him a role model in generosity, kindness, and simply put humanity.

And although his seasonal marketing might distract us from the true celebration that occurs in Christmas, he still reminds us of a universal religious message “be good and you will get rewarded”

Happy Holidays to all.