Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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Leading through the Holidays

~ 10 Ways to Enjoy the Joy with a Stress-Free Holiday ~

Leadership is not just a position at work. Leadership also means taking responsibility at home, and that means ringing in theholiday with as much joy, and as little stress, as possible.

The holidays mean wonder, joy and a celebration of abundance, but it can also mean moments of frustration, anger and irritation at friends and family. Every year there is an unrealized expectation that the mere appearance of the holidays also brings with it a metamorphosis that those closest to us will transform into something else. Seriously, is it realistic to expect that our family will all become characters from a made-for-TV Christmas special just because we all decided to get together for the holidays? It is not. Yet these expectations remain, and whenever there are unrealized expectations, there is disappointment, leading to frustration and anger.

So how do we enjoy all of this togetherness time?

  1. Keep the big picture. Who really cares of Aunt Thelma wants to contribute her horrible green beans for the Christmas feast? Smile, say thank you, and move on to something important.
  2. Let go of other people’s problems. Their problems are not yours, much as they might try to share them. If you can’t solve their personal problems, then those are not your problems. You can listen, you can empathize, you can sympathize, but if you cannot solve them, then you need to give up the emotional anxiety associated with them. Move on. (I am a big fan of the Move On idea.)
  3. Be the grown up. I recommend this a lot, especially when your partner, the person you love, drives you crazy. Be the mature person in the relationship. Be the first to try to see the other person’s perspectives, and try to find a reason for their behavior. It is more important to be together and appreciative than to be right. So overlook the stories that are not told t, the imperfect recall of an event, or a missed promise. Other people are going to complain, act out, and behave badly, ect. When they irritate you, they give you an option. You have a choice – either be the grown up and act accordingly, or not. I recommend the high road. Why? Fewer regrets later. And it makes the decisions easier. Or you can just smile and move on to something important.
  4. Focus on the important. Great leaders differentiate between problems and inconveniences. Problems are real. Inconveniences may be unpleasant, but they are hardly life threatening. Many people blur the difference and forget to focus on the important. As a result, those little matters start to take over. By staying focused on the important, the little inconveniences will fall away.
  5. Buy a goat. Nothing provides focus more than the knowledge that your $ 75 goat could save an entire family’s life. Think about the benefit you could provide for the price of a month’s worth of mocha lattes. It is a great way to celebrate your own abundance while helping out someone else. Go to www. or . And save a family.
  6. Give Uncle Harold the goat.You know Uncle Harold, who hates everything he gets for any occasion? Even better. Buy a goat or a pig or 5 ducks (a bargain at just $30) in his name and send him the card. (That will teach him to criticize last year’s cookie basket!) Well, it may not teach him to think twice about complaining, but at leastsomebody will be grateful for your gift.
  7. Take 5. Take just 5 minutes to go for a walk, and try to get the family to go with you. (I realize that could take 45 minutes.) Try to have activities that encourage healthy behavior, even if it is just for 5 minutes.
  8. Clarify the expectations.Frustrations and unrealized expectations often occur because people don’t know what is expected. As my New York grandma used to say, “If they don’t know better, you tell them.” So open the dialogue early and let people discuss activities, meals, and presents. Generally, people at work do better when they know what is expected of them. Why do we think that our families might be different? Agree on a few guidelines and make sure everyone knows.
  9. Communicate, communicate, and communicate. Holidays can be tough because sometimes one family’s tradition or rules merge with another’s morays. For example, one holiday meal was being cooked by an in-law, whose family’s ideas of meal promptness made the military pale by comparison. When he cooked for my family, whose idea of a mealtimes falls into the “when we all get to the table” he was upset and chagrined that some people showed up “late” not realizing that it is impossible to be “late” to a meal in my family. If something is important, let people know. If they don’t understand the importance that is your fault for failing to effectively communicate. The onus of the communication is on the communicator, so make sure that you take responsibility for the message you want received.
  10. Breathe. Accept people for who they are and what they are not. Sometimes, despite all of our diplomacy, plans go awry, people get upset, and there is a lack of gratitude and appreciation. Honestly, it would be terrific if we all became that person our dogs think we are, but few people have the forgiving nature common to most dogs. But that doesn’t mean the effort is wasted. This year, let’s try practicing acceptance and forgiveness.

Let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear how your holidays go!


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