You’ll Need Some Skills for a Griswold Holiday

I’ve decided that Clark Griswold and I have more in common than I’d like to admit. I have visions of that perfect Christmas with family all around ~ the house decorated beautifully, my Christmas playlist 24/7 and lots and lots of lights.

One big problem. This vision takes time and I don’t have much of it. My busyness collides with my perfect holiday vision about this time every year. The truth is, I think we could pull out some of our leadership skills we use every day at work and start using them at home.  It may be my only hope.

1) Project Planning: Let’s be clear – the holidays require very sophisticated project planning & management skills.  It covers the gambit – from buying the office Secret Santa gift, knowing the absolute last day to mail packages without paying $85 in overnight fees and staying off the naughty list with your incredible teacher gift.  And, it’s essential to visit Santa in time for Santa to have time to react before the elves have already made the gifts.  This is all highly complicated and with far-reaching impacts.  Upfront planning, proper sequencing and precision priority setting are the key to the most wonderful time of the year.  You can do this at the work – it’s time to really use your skills.  Have a plan, prioritize and manage to it daily.  It really helps if you make this plan sometime before December 20.

2) Stakeholder Management– Even the closest families & relatives bring stress at the holiday.  Did you get the right gifts?  Will your aunt bring her four dogs?  Is your sister still mad at your Mom over Thanksgiving’s political debate?  You better have a stakeholder engagement plan to keep everyone happy.  Honestly, these people just want to feel special and have their needs met.  If Aunt Susie isn’t going to be happy unless she serves the fruitcake – give her a beautiful platter and ask her when she’d like to dazzle the group.  Let your brother keep the remote control in his back packet if that will make him happy. Or, if your kids really just want to play Pictionary after dinner – stand up on the chair and shout at the top of your lungs, “Pictionary at the dining room table in 5!!”  Your kids will be totally engaged and committed to the family gathering – for at least the next few hours.  Just know that there are some little things that matter to your guests and embrace it!  They’ll leave thanking you for the best holiday ever.

3) Listening Skills – We always talk about listening to our teams and co-workers to build influence and trust.  Well, you can build up a lot of trust and influence with Grandma if you will sit with her for an hour and ask her about the Christmas of 1959 when she and Grandpa were first married.  Or, ask her what Christmas morning was like when their kids were little.  And, listen.  You will have her eating fruitcake out of your hand – and it will probably be the best present she receives all Christmas.

4) Delegate – Don’t get me wrong, I can delegate at work, but it’s a little harder over the holidays.  If you have a vision of the Martha Stewart table next to the tree they featured on HGTV – then you may have to lower your standards of perfection.  Remember that 80/20 rule??  If your vision is “it’ll nearly be like a picture print of Currier & Ives?” – time to reset expectations.  If you can relate to this – then try your delegation skills and be happy with what your family can pitch in and do.   Ask ‘do I really need to do this” and if it’s a no – then ask ‘who else can help?’

5) Know Your Desired Outcomes – What do we say at the start of every project or meeting?  “What are the desired outcomes?’  Why can’t we do that with the holidays?  There is a pretty good chance that if you did this it wouldn’t be the present that you want or that your new boots were stunning at the holiday party….well, actually this may in fact be Kristi’s holiday nirvana.   But, probably not for most.  Remember the reason for the season and relax!  Don’t be that guy at work who obsesses over the chart on slide 45, but doesn’t really think about the purpose of the presentation.  Remember the reason for the season!

So, when the holidays seem overwhelming, embrace those leadership skills and make them work for you when you need it the most.  You get it.  After all, how often is there ‘much mistletoeing when your hearts are a glowing’??  Exactly.

Patti Johnson is the CEO of PeopleResults.  You can follow her on twitter @PattiBJohnson.