It's the season to dust off your gratitude-giving chops and show your employees just how valued and appreciated they are. You know the standard moves: a holiday party, town halls in December to close out the year right, appreciative comments in your next one-on-one.
All good. But there are other options for you to roll up your sleeves and wear your heart on them. I offer eight not-so-obvious but oh-so-powerful ways to show gratitude to all your elves this holiday season. Or anytime for that matter, because showing gratitude is always in season.
1. Have someone in your family give an employee a gift.
Let me explain. I'd invite some key employees to a small, intimate holiday dinner. Unannounced, my wife and daughter would show up at the restaurant and give the employees gifts (from us three) and thank them. I'd let my guests know that having great employees like them is a true gift to me because of the impact they have on my home life. I'm able to be more present when I'm home. I'm less stressed out. I'm a better dad and husband because I can leave work at work. Why? Because of these amazing employees sitting across from me at dinner.
It always came from the heart because it was true--having great employees really does affect the quality of your home life. I recently had an employee tell me they remember such a dinner and gift giving, 20 years ago.
2. Write letters to their families.
Write a note to an employee's family, letting them know what an amazing person and employee they are. Family members rarely get a glimpse into how their at-home-hero is perceived at work. Of course, wish the family a joyous holiday season, or any sentiment depending on the time of year.
3. Include family members in important employee announcements.
This comes from the spirit of the previous idea; it's another powerful way to give the family of the employee a glimpse into what a big deal their loved one is at work. If you're announcing a promotion, award, or anything announcement-worthy involving an employee, arrange to have his or her family members on the phone (speaker phone or even FaceTime or Skype).
Letting the family be a part of a special moment so they can see how valued the employee is in a different context is memorable and appreciated by all.
4. Write a heartfelt note to an employee.
Before you say "that's obvious," I disagree. Nobody does this anymore. Over a 30-year corporate career, I got such a letter (at any time, let alone the holidays) a grand total of once. But I never forgot that one time and so made it a habit of my own. Employees always fed back to me how much they appreciated it.
5. Conduct drive-by sharings.
This is as opposed to the drive-by shootings too many get from their bosses (in which the boss stops by an employee's desk and does something demotivating). This is where you drop by an employee's desk or pull them into your office to share with them, out of context, why you appreciate them so much. It doesn't have to be spurred by any recent particular event; in fact, it's more powerful if it isn't. It should just come from the heart.
6. Create an appreciation station.
One company I keynoted for had their leaders create 12 days of appreciation for their employees (like 12 days of Christmas--accommodating for multiple denominations as well). In the case of the Christmas crowd, they set up plastic stands shaped like a tree and each day would put envelopes with the employees' names on them in the tree (containing a gift certificate one day, a warm note the next, etc.). You get the idea--and your employees will get the warm and fuzzies.
7. Be on time 10 times in a row, and give employees back the time.
If you struggle with being on time for meetings, announce you're going to change the habit by being on time 10 times in row. Then deliver on that. Then tell the employees that the time of theirs you would have previously wasted can go toward their leaving an hour early each day during the holiday season.
8. Create "reflection pools."
No, not koi ponds. These are little pools of time you create in which you call small groups of employees or teams together to reflect on the year gone by, and the accomplishments and contributions of each person. Like a small reflection pool, this is a small circle of people (not a big town hall). You can thus spend more time recognizing each individual.
While these tips are not-so-obvious, remember one that is: It's always time to show gratitude.