Let’s face it Santa is the ultimate servant leader. Here are seven ways to supervise – and, ideally, serve – with the same spirit as the man in the red suit.
- BE JOLLY
Even when you’ve been up all night. Attitude is everything and you have to inspire others to have a positive attitude. No one likes a skinny Santa. You have simply got to walk the talk.
One thing that astounds me about Debby is that she walks in everyday upbeat. Most entrepreneurs and many managers, just like old St. Nick himself, burn the midnight oil. You owe it to yourself, your staff and your clients to embrace each day as your best self. I had a manager who no matter what was happening – sick with the flu, fight with her boyfriend, it mattered not, when you said, “Good morning, how are you?” she always replied with an enthusiastic “Great! How are you?” and turned the tables and the attention back to you. Ultimately, she steered the conversation back to work and what was on your plate that day or shared a compliment from the day before.
Never forget you set the tone. Which brings me to my next point.
- LEARN IT, KNOW IT, LIVE IT.
Okay, that’s actually from Fast Times at Ridgemont High (dating myself) and, surely, most of them are on the naughty list, BUT, if you don’t know your own policies and procedures then how can you truly trouble shoot? And how can your employees really respect you? At one point as a small business owner you were likely the one and only elf. When Santa started out he was THE toy maker. He built, prepped and delivered each and every toy himself. And, I’ve gotta believe if the wheels fell off a toy train en route from the sleigh to a chimney the old guy could still save the day and fix it himself.
There is something that is so admirable about a manager who can roll up his sleeves and get the job done – any of the jobs done – when needed. It is both reassuring and motivating knowing that the top dog is willing and able to help and doesn’t ask anything of his team that he wouldn’t ask of himself. Sometimes that alone can inspire the team to keep pushing to reach that deadline.
- YOU’VE GOT TO BELIEVE
If Santa doesn’t believe in himself, who will? When the going gets tough – the lean times, the frightening times – you just have to put one foot in front of the other. That’s right, and soon you will be walking out the door! Believe you can do it and you can, even when you have your own doubts and fears about your ability to do so. Believe you can turn around the naysayers and you likely will. That difficult Winter Warlock? He’s your new champion.
To be an entrepreneur requires that you take risks and sometimes it means you have to break the rules. Especially when you know you are right and that there truly is a demand for your product, a need for your service. No more toy makers to the king? Pish Posh. You believe in yourself and your business and no one can stop you. They’ll try, of course. The Burgermeister Meisterburgers of the world will pull out all the stops to thwart you, but for the creative and talented problem solver every obstacle is an opportunity to refine your processes and to win people over. New challenges can lead to new innovations. Imagine Christmas without stockings!
4. EMBRACE THE MISFIT TOYS
This is so important when hiring. When you work with a bunch of little elves it’s tempting to hire a bunch of other little elves all of whom produce the exact same outcome. Hiring only in your comfort zone can be a mistake. While being a good fit for a company’s culture certainly matters, ultimately, you want people who fit the job description and can demonstrate they have the required skill set. Not people who just look and seem like they fit. Think Buddy the Elf. On the surface – by first impressions – he didn’t fit, but he sure was the best damn elf. And, at the end of the day, he turned out to be the very best representative of the corporate culture and mission. Keep an open mind.
- FIND YOUR SHINING STARS BUT KNOW WHEN TO TAKE THE REIGNS
Everyone has talents. It takes a leader who knowingly facilitates an environment to draw out skills, and either intentionally creates opportunities for people to flourish, or seizes the moment when they arise. Unique people often have unique minds. A third of all entrepreneurs have dyslexia – a neurological difference that can make learning in a standard school environment challenging but allows for big picture thinking and connecting the dots to envision new ideas and products in ways that others simple don’t see. So allow people to let their freak flag fly. Let their noses shine bright. Find the people in your organization with strong and unique talents and nurture them to develop your management team. Particularly those with a talent you don’t have. You need to let them guide the sleigh for you.
But, likewise, know when no one but you can handle the toughest tasks, the jobs that require the finesse and experience that make you the leader you are. Because, frankly, sometimes two elves and a baby reindeer just don’t have what it takes to handle the Heat Misers of the world. Know when you need to step in and step up. This is what makes a leader great. Knowing when to let go and when to take the reigns.
- IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU
Let’s face it there is no Christmas without Mr. Claus. When it’s the day after the big deadline, and like Santa you are ready crash by the fire, remind yourself you live for this. It is your raison d’etre! You and you alone have a unique gift and talent, a special product or service that makes a difference in the world.
Give yourself the occasional day of rest but then slam that hot chocolate and get ready to do it again. As Simon Sinek says, “Leadership is not a rank or a position. Leadership is a service to be given.”
And, finally, don’t forget to laugh – especially at yourself. We all know nobody likes a Scrooge. If all you are doing is counting your pennies and bitching about how hard it is to find good help, there’s a good chance you have lost your magic. Work doesn’t have to be drudgery. You got into this because it is your passion and you found it fun. Never forget that (see No. 1). Skip the ghosts of Christmas past and embrace the blessings of being a business owner and a leader. Enjoy your work. Enjoy yourself. And enjoy the riches all year long.
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