A Manager’s Guide to Survival: The Month of December

It’s officially holiday season time. There’s the good: helping your kids create childhood memories, spending time with loved ones, and watching the snow fall. And then there’s the bad: hanging lights in the freezing cold, shopping crowds, and an ambush of holiday music everywhere you turn.

Well, not to sound like Scrooge or the Grinch of leadership blogs, but there’s another reason the holiday season might stress you out – in spite of all the distractions, there’s still work to do at the office.

It’s no secret that during the holidays, we all are faced with increased pressure.  Deadlines are still very real and not only do workers have their day-to-day tasks, there’s usually end-of-the-year projects that must be accomplished as well. This is on top of shopping for holiday gifts, getting ready for family visits, and the list goes on and on.
No wonder most people view holiday season with overwhelming feelings of stress and concern. But here’s something that works to your advantage; as the manager you set the tone for your entire team.

If you don’t want December to be considered a wasted month, you must work to get the most out of your direct reports during holiday season. Here are some tips to get you on the right track.

Craft a priority list and then delegate

Okay, so there’s not a lot of time left before the New Year so it’s imperative that you put together a list and put an emphasis on crucial tasks. Ask yourself a series of questions to organize your thoughts and the answers will actually become the essence of your planning document. But choose your battles carefully, you can’t possibly accomplish everything, so be sure and decide how to best spend your time and energy.

Here are some sample questions to ask yourself as you make a list:

  • What needs to be accomplished before the end of the year? What is the desired result?
  • What are the main tasks?
  • What specific action steps are required for each main task?
  • Who will be responsible for each step?

Once your list is drafted, meet with team members and let me know what exactly is expected of them. Don’t procrastinate on this, make sure you delegate and reinforce to your team their duties and responsibilities.

But be sure to listen to any objections and make modifications, if possible. You need to know the extent to which others can handle these assignments.

Meet frequently

Make it a point of emphasis to meet regularly with team members before the holiday break. You want to make sure that your team isn’t “checked out” and are actually completing the work they are responsible for.

At the same time, make sure you are meeting your own performance expectations. When people see you working hard and meeting your expectations, they are more likely to use you as a role model.

As you meet with your team, if you notice things aren’t going as planned and projects are not being accomplished in a timely manner, identify the critical path to your desired results and then remove the obstacles that get in the way. Make sure you communicate the appropriate sense of urgency. If everything is urgent, people can’t prioritize. If nothing is urgent, deadlines are often not achieved.

Meeting with your employees on a regular basis will give you a barometer on the effectiveness toward project completion; along with ensuring people understand the goals they are achieving.

Reward employees

No matter what time of year it is, one sure fire way to motivate people is to give them incentives and rewards. Perhaps you can’t submit promotions, but you can offer appreciation and acknowledgment for the good work of others, as well as your willingness to share the credit for achieving the goals you have set.

Maybe you can throw a little holiday party for your team before everyone leaves on holiday break or you can take your employees out to lunch or happy hour. Or if you and your team have delivered the expected outputs, let your team leave early or even give them an extra day of vacation, if you can swing it. While you’re at it, maybe you can take some extra time off as well.

With a little planning, hard work, and tons of communication, you and your team can have a successful month in December and go into 2013 feeling pretty good about the work you all have accomplished.

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