The Best Gift a Manager Can Give an Employee
By
December 2007

As we approach Christmas, it is natural for us to think of giving, though all too often in material terms.

Well, if you're a manager, and you'd like to give your employees something that will outlast any cookie basket or gift certificate or desk accessory you can order on-line, then I have just the thing for you.

It is remarkably simple and requires no money. It costs only a little time, and perhaps a bit more courage and vulnerability than managers are sometimes prepared to spend. But trust me, it's worth it. Here's what you need to do.

First, get to know your people better than you know them today. Take an interest in what is going on in their lives and find out what their dreams and passions are, both professionally and personally. The only caveat is that you have to be genuinely interested. If you haven't done this much before and you're afraid that it will feel weird to start now, do it anyway. Your employees want it, need it and will thank you for it.

Second, talk to them about how their job impacts the lives of others — customers, vendors, colleagues, even you! — in some way, large or small. Help them understand that their work matters, to someone, and that without them, others would suffer.

Finally, help them figure out how to best measure and gauge how effectively they are doing their jobs, especially in terms of the impact they have on others. Give them the ability to determine for themselves whether they are succeeding or not, and free them from depending on your subjective opinion for a sense of accomplishment or esteem.

Now, any one of these things alone would make a nice management gift, but together they become the most important quality any person yearns for in their jobs: fulfillment. Without them, employees cannot help but become miserable.

If all of this sounds a bit easy, or even touchy-feely, let me reassure you that neither is true. First, it will require a great deal of courage and selflessness on the part of a manager who will at times feel disingenuous, embarrassed or incompetent. And the only way to work through this is to do it anyway, knowing that those feelings are bound to arise and that you are going to endure them for the sake of your employees.

As for this being touchy-feely, ask yourself if productivity, morale and retention are touchy-feely. And more importantly, ask yourself whether tolerating a little touchy-feeliness&mdashlif that were the case—would be a reasonable price to pay for giving your employees a sense of appreciation, fulfillment and meaning at work.

By beginning the process—and it is certainly a process—of removing anonymity, irrelevance and immeasurement from the work lives of your employees, you will be giving your people a gift that will last far beyond this wonderful season, and that will impact their families and friends in profound, life-changing ways.

To make this easier, we're attaching our own little gift for you, a downloadable worksheet that will help streamline the process with your employees. We hope you find it helpful.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

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