5 Ways to Lead Down the Stretch


Now we head down the stretch with that strange admixture of tugs and pulls: Thanksgiving, Advent, collecting from clients, Hanukkah, year-end reviews, New Year’s, bonuses, gift-giving, planning for 2017, and . . . shopping. Let me add one more strange pairing and that is leadership and happiness.

Here’s an example of neither leadership nor happiness. A typical holiday season commercial shows two guys in the driveway. One has bruises all over his face, but he proclaims that he got all kinds of Bargains on Black Friday. The second one smiles and points in his driveway and says he got a deal too. He got a great Buick.  So, this is the Christmas season. Where the market rules, and the market is all about the deal.  The Invisible Hand doing what it does well.  The subtext of the ads is that somebody got just what they wanted for Christmas. And that somebody is . . . Meeeeeeeeee!

If we really want happiness, we remember (or we read the growing reams of research, e.g., at www.greatergoodberkeley.edu) that it’s giving that brings us joy. Especially for those of us fortunate to be in the first world position, where our basic needs are quite fully met.  Giving brings Joy. Giving is also what’s at the heart of great leadership. I can all but guarantee that every great leader in your life shows care for their people, naturally has a sense of looking to what others need, and builds based on how everyone (employees, customers, students, etc.) will have the best chance at success.  Not True?

So, as you head down the stretch of this schizo season, here are five ways to give, largely aimed at work situations, but not too hard to translate to the home setting:
1. The most counter-intuitive and counter-cultural of all: give your people the extreme honor of giving you feedback. Treat them as adults. Ask them to tell you how you can be a better boss, how you’ve done in the past year.

2. Give them honest feedback. Be kind enough to give it as a gift. Want for it to help them, rather than to judge or diminish them. Set them up so that they’re best able to hear it as a gift. Give the gift and let it go. Don’t force it upon them, just as you wouldn’t say, “no, you’ll really love this sweater! I know what you need better than you do!”

3. Give old fashioned gifts.  I know, “who has the time to even think about that?”  (See #4 below.)  Well, try the car ride home to think about it. Dictate an email to focus yourself. Ask a co-worker at lunch what another might like.  Stop in an employee’s or a co-worker’s office for 90 seconds to look at their books, their desk, their bracelets.  Just notice what they like. Even if it’s just a store that they like. But see them. The most amazing Christmas gifts, or Hanukkah or whatever your tradition, are those that speak to you personally. Give them a “coupon” for a “morning off” with a Starbucks card attached.

4.  Give them the gift of a vision of their success in the year ahead. Let them know that you hope it will be great for them. Invite them to think about what would make it great. Invite them to talk to you about how you can support them to make it great. Remember what it feels like when someone believes in you and takes the time to care about your future!

5. Give them the gift of their attention. Each of us seems to labor under the illusion that “I don’t have enough time.” We certainly and indisputably have all the time we have. And we always have the present moment (as Tolle and others have argued, that’s all you ever have).  What if you (over and over) asked yourself:  What if I reject the idea that I don’t have enough time and instead wonder, “What if I have all the time I need?”*  If you do that, you can spend some of that time being focused, giving your people your best mind. Start by giving your eyes.  Give your ears.  Try not to hurry to “get” them (and prove how smart you are and “save” time), but instead give them your ignorance, your curiosity, and your patience.  Give them your kindness.

These gifts can slow everyone down just enough. It can help them to think clearer and better to get their work done, and simultaneously allow them to remember the spirit of the times that we’re in….when the long nights invite us to slow down and savor a warm cup of joe and friend who is also a co-worker.

Each moment is a time in which with attention and kindness we can

lead with our best selves.

* This line, “you have all the time you need” is duplicated from a wonderful 9-minute video meditation with which I start most days.  I highly recommend it.  It is written and narrated by Linda Hall and you can find it here.