As you head into the holiday weekend and eat turkey and watch football with family and friends, I'd like to ask you to do one thing before reading further: Reflect back on the things that you're grateful for this year -- the things that have brought you happiness and a smile to your face, even as you read this. What was it?
Every time the holiday season rolls around, I can't help but confirm in my mind and my heart that the thing that matters most is the difference I make in people's lives. It's usually something I give to someone that made them better human beings. That's what I'm most grateful for every year.
What gift have you given to your employees, peers and co-workers this year?
The good news is that the principle of giving isn't attached to how much money is in your checking account. Giving means choosing to live a practical and creative lifestyle of "paying it forward" in service to others.
Here are six ways to do it well in the workplace:
1. Give by helping others succeed.
Organizational psychologist and Wharton professor Adam Grant says, "The most meaningful way to succeed is to help other people succeed." Having studied thousands of leaders, Grant observed that great leaders think beyond themselves. He adds, "The ones that I admire the most, who also tend to produce the best results, are the ones who are givers not takers -- who say 'look, it's not all about me.'"
2. Give the gift of freedom to your employees.
Great leaders let their employees decide how to do their jobs, according to their strengths and talents and how they're naturally wired. Then they allow them the room to make decisions and own their work with entrepreneurial rights.
3. Give your time and attention.
Good co-workers and managers give the precious gift of time to others -- listening attentively to another person's idea, opinion, concern, interest, and personal needs. In healthy and collaborative cultures, people invest time in each other to learn who they really are, what's important to them, what values they share, and how best to work together.
4. Give your respect.
Respect is in short supply these days. But you'll find that good leaders and employees respect one another by listening more than speaking. They allow each other the freedom to provide input and share thoughts and ideas. In truly inclusive and entrepreneurial work environments where respect is a shared value, people ask each other curious questions -- lots of questions -- about how and why things work and what could be done better.
5. Give appreciation.
In a culture of gratitude and recognition, people express appreciation for peers and co-workers in various ways. The old-fashioned hand-written "thank you" note is extremely effective to this day. More elaborate means of showing appreciation include celebrations and parties to recognize specific individuals, or awarding individuals for a specific performance with a paid personal day off or work-from-home privileges for an entire week. These acts of giving will clearly communicate to valued employees, "I appreciate you and the work that you do."
6. Give direction.
High performing leaders responsibly give guidance, direction, and feedback on their employees' work and performance on a consistent basis. This is crucial gift with human and emotional impact because people naturally want to know how they're doing and what's going on. It should be a top priority because the second most-common mistake that leads to turnover, according to research by Gallup, is lack of communication. Specifically, unclear goals and expectations, especially during times of change and transition.