As a financial life planner running my own firm, I take the holidays as my signal to pause, take a breath and reflect on the year, celebrating successes and learning from challenges.
From personal experience, I'll tell you it's impossible to give this the proper attention sitting at your desk on a hectic workday afternoon. In order to have the most impactful outcome, give yourself the time, the space and the mindset to eliminate day-to-day distractions and get in touch with your thoughts.
Once I've cleared the decks, the first thing I do is ask myself a series of questions related to the important people in my life -- family, friends, clients, colleagues and extended teammates.
- What went right?
- What can I celebrate?
- Who can I celebrate and appreciate?
- How have I improved my game?
- What could I have done differently?
- What did I learn?
- How did I help others--not only clients, but my coworkers and outside team members?
- How did I show proper appreciation? Or did I at all?
- Are any apologies in order? If so, why, to whom, and how do I make it right?
The answers serve as my guide as I work to help make the holidays meaningful for the important people in my life and to shed light on anything that might otherwise fester and taint the New Year.
I suggest creating special holiday moments where you as a servant leader give to your clients/customers and colleagues your time, genuine care, and concern. Draw from your 'inside' time to know what is needed for each person in your circle.
For example, at my firm, Financial Life Focus, we host an annual lunch where all employees contribute something to the table. We spend the afternoon sharing, celebrating, and acknowledging the good stuff, accomplishments, and the challenges (both personal and professional) we faced during the year. And believe me, we've had the challenges (death, divorce, illness) as well as the joys (children, adventures, and new experiences).
This is important to do with people in your extended circle who add value to your business throughout the year. Take our firm's technology consultant -- our conversation to review tech needs for next year begins with me expressing gratitude for his expertise and then shifts to a check in of his highlights. I discover what he's most proud of and what his meaningful experiences included during the year.
I am also interested in his perspective as a fellow business owner on how he navigates challenges. The end of our discussion centers around how my expertise can help him. The exchange is a two-way gift. He feels appreciated, heard, and that our relationship has mutual value. It isn't just about fixing our machines and keeping our software and systems working -- he's an integral part of the firm and our success.
This approach is universally applicable with everyone with whom you work.
A word of caution: In the process of sharing, you might be tempted to offer advice. Resist! You're there to listen deeply and be there for the other person; not to be counselor, therapist or advice giver. If you're specifically asked for counsel, then be sure to take the time to consider the situation and schedule a time to get back with them. This shows authentic concern by not shooting from the hip.
Asking questions and letting others pilot a course to do something interesting, different, or meaningful is the ultimate reward. What would bring them joy? What would make a difference? And for the people on your corporate gift list, these conversations will help you understand what they truly value.
By approaching the holiday this way, you are actually promoting the next conversation, which is about the future. How do we move forward, what should we be doing better, and how and what will bring us all more success?