This I Believe
….that for everyone, the holidays have different traditions and meaning. When I was growing up in the back woods of Canada, one of our family traditions was to go cut down our own tree. My Dad believed that the cutting of the tree was something we should do as a family and that all the “good” trees were many miles from civilization. So we would bundle up the week before Christmas in our snowsuits, hats, mitts, boots and scarves to ride our snow mobiles (ski-doos) into the wilderness. Dad had built a trailer for the back of his ski-doo in the work shop at the community college and had painted it yellow with “Happy Trails from the Batstones” stenciled on the back in big black letters.
This experience for me over the years has had all the elements of Chevy Chase as Clark Griswald, going out to cut down the family tree. Every time we watch that movie – the kids now know to say…that was just like you and Poppa Mun – wasn’t it? I did not enjoy the hunt for the tree, in the freezing cold. I also did not like the tree we got. No matter how good the tree looked in its natural environment, it always resembled a Charlie Brown twig went it arrived in our living room.
I...on the other hand...had a different vision for our tree…one that resembled the front of a Christmas Card. My Dad,every year, would try his best to make the best of the tree. He would get extra boughs...drill holes in the trunk and would try to glue extra branches so it would look fuller. The tree represented Christmas for me and was always a big disappointment which is why in my adult years I ensure we have a monster, full, real tree in our living room. The tree is one of the most important parts of the Christmas tradition and can really make or break the holiday for me.
It is because of this symbolism and meaning that I now come to a leadership lesson from a few years ago.
It was October when our company went through its seasonal “cost cutting exercises (in anticipation of the next year’s budget). We informed six teammates that their positions would be ending on Dec 31st. but we had a plan to shuffle things around and ensure we had a role to offer them (we were cutting their unfunded positions and creating funded positions from rate increases to the partners – WIN/WIN). My fellow VPs and I had many discussions on this topic to come up with a solution over the course of the fall. We got busy…couldn’t agree….and now it was mid-December with no concrete plan in place...but we were going to take care of it before the New Year. To say that it was like running it water would be an understatement. We expended a lot of energy but had gotten nowhere fast.
As I made my rounds to say hi to the team on the 11th of December – I learned that one of the teammates told his wife she could not buy a Christmas tree for the family because he had not locked in a position and they needed every penny to provide for the kids once the holidays were over. I already had a sense of urgency about finalizing positions for these teammates but when I heard that he would not be buying a tree – it really hit home and I took it as my personal mission to ramp up the intensity of opening job requisitions and meeting with Human Resources. Heck – I was ready to go buy him a tree and deliver it myself. In the end – we called him (and the others) a couple of days later and told him we wanted him to “interview” for a position the following week and that we felt confident it was going to work out so he should go buy his tree. You could hear the relief in his voice as the weight of the world was being lifted off of him.
The lesson learned for me was….
As leaders we can sometimes be too comfortable with our own timelines & good intentions and not enough on the timelines & needs of our team.
So...as we packed up all the ornaments this year and prepared to say good bye to our biggest tree yet (a 14 ft Noble Fir)...I reflected on all the warmth and tradition we experienced...and also...how I was able to help another family get theirs at a time when they weren’t sure if they would.
…that paying attention…listening…and taking action speaks louder than words and should be our goal all year round…not just during the holiday season. Agree?
Leadership Questions of the Week for YOU:
- Can you think of a time you got wrapped up in your own priorities and didn’t take action as fast as you could have to fix something for a teammate? What reminded you to kick into high gear?
- How can we communicate better and rally others towards a common effort to do what is best for the company and the team earlier in the year…not just at “budget season”?
- As you reflect on YOUR Christmas traditions and how they connect to what the spirit of the season symbolizes for you…what is YOUR “I Believe” story as you head into the New Year?
Thanks for reading….and remember…YOU make a difference!
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