Ho, ho, ho – Christmas is near and your year as a manager will end soon. Time to have a critical look at your managerial capacities: what is the one leadership skill you evolved with in 2012, what was your biggest success this year and what is your greatest deficiency as a people manager?
How do you compare to Santa Claus? After all, he is a charismatic leader, respected authority, he manages a stable team of top performers (and if one of the elves or reindeers left, he managed well because we did not notice anything), the client experience is excellent and he gets the job done year after year by respecting a strict deadline and staying calm, reassuring and positive.
Here come the 5 key success factors that make Ol’ Santa a better manager than you:
- Have a clear personal branding: Everybody knows what Santa stands for, there are no bad surprises with him, people can rely on him and feel secured. And foremost, he is consistent which is a major characteristic followers look for in a manager (and I look for in my candidates in my job as a headhunter by the way). Consistency will be interpreted as something positive whilst inconsistency will often be seen as a sign of either insincerity or weakness. Like every good manager, Santa is predictable and has a clear communication (“Be good for 12 months and you will get the bonus by the end of the year. Be nasty and you won’t”). People know what Santa expects from them and what they can expect from Santa. Full stop.
- Be an early mover: No discrimination here but Santa looks pretty much like a 50+ to me (and just to make sure as this is public: I do not have a problem with this). The thing we can learn from him is that he always comes up with the newest inventions, gifts and gadgets and thus adopts new technologies fast. There is no “it worked fine the old way so why should we change?” Santa has a natural curiosity, tries new things out and embraces change with open arms. Successful people adapt fast, especially in today’s challenging business world. What got you here won’t get you there. Ask yourself regularly if a decision or direction you took 12 months ago is still valid today. Reassess and correct your decisions if appropriate; upgrade yourself (e.g. through executive education) if you risk running out-of-style
- Follow-through, respect your promises and deadlines: Santa Claus is working quietly for 10 months, the communication flow increases by the end of the project launch and whatever happens, we can be sure that he and his team will deliver on Christmas Eve. One of the biggest evils of management is to start too many new incentives, projects or action plans and fail on the follow-through and follow-up. Make sure you can deliver and have the energy and resources to go to the end. Followers are very sensitive to this and will see it almost always as a weakness if you stop an initiative half-way through without any explanation. There can be exceptions when a project is abandoned, but if this happens, inform your team of the reasons if you want to remain credible and be respected.
- Do what needs to be done: Santa Claus and his team have a clear mission to achieve: ‘Get the presents ready on Christmas Eve’. How can this story help you if your job is private banking? Peter Drucker answers: “Successful leaders don’t ask ‘What do I want to do?’ They ask, ‘What needs to be done?’” Follow Peter Drucker’s advice, don’t complain or complicate things. Do not lose energy on things you cannot change or waste time with things that are off-core. Most jobs consist of a limited set of skills, focus on these and become better every day. Change things you can change, accept those you cannot and move forward to the goal you have set.
- Be good: Mr. Christmas does not cheat, bully or lie. We have never heard of any sex or financial scandals or any other snafu that we read about in the corporate world daily. Nobody can blame Santa for unfair behavior towards his teams, his customers or – as far as we know – his shareholders. Not only is he 100% ethical, at the same time, he is positive, caring, smiling and protective. He breathes respect and gives people security when he is around. All this gives him natural authority, not one implemented through title or hierarchy. Make this philosophy yours, help the world to become a better place and at the same time, ensure that your teams will work hard for you and make everyone inveolved happy. Got the message?
Season’s greetings to all of you, may you believe in Santa Claus or not. There is some lesson to be learned for all of us. May 2013 be an even better year for your teams but most of all your families and yourself.