It’s that time of year again! Get ready for all of the year-end lists, advice, and wrap-ups. Every year, we soak that stuff up, but this year, I’m focusing on something different: my team.
Over the years, I’ve noticed a few things as the holidays roll around.
Naturally, people want to take time off with their friends and family. They should. And they should also prepare accordingly by managing client expectations so they can enjoy their time away.
This is also prime time for folks to reevaluate their lives and career goals. As a boss, that means lots of hand-holding and long conversations with employees around career trajectory and promotion possibilities.
At my company, we’re slammed in the fourth quarter. It’s a good problem to have, but because we work with a lot of clients who cash in big time in Q4, client demands are often last-minute, which can drain already strained resources.
All of these factors can seem like a perfect storm. But with a little bit of planning, everyone can have a great holiday season.
Depending on your business, challenges can come from a variety of directions.
We have multiple clients that want to sign on and immediately kick off work and projects, often within 48 hours. They are revving up for the holiday season, too, and it’s a big money-making time for them.
Last year, a client wanted to deploy everything within four days of signing a contract. They signed in the fourth quarter and wanted immediate results. That can be overwhelming.
We’ve had to put some rules in place around seniority and tenure to ensure we aren’t left short-staffed at peak times. Employees can still take time off around the holidays, but they might need to move days off to accommodate client needs.
With so much at play, it’s important for leaders to help clients and staff prepare for the challenges. This means communicating expectations ahead of time and setting everyone up for success.
Personally, I was surprised by the “reevaluation” of life around the holidays and new year. It’s healthy and good, but I couldn’t have predicted how many personal discussions I would be having with my team in Q4 and early Q1.
This seems to be especially true for younger employees. They are often less focused in their careers overall, not sure yet where their trajectory is heading. They also struggle more when coming back in January. But I never experience any dread because it’s always a fun coaching opportunity.
It’s good to have candid conversations about life, work, opportunity, and values. These are really important questions about purpose, contribution, and the meaning of work. This is true for anyone, but it’s especially true for younger people. They don’t typically have as much ownership over their career trajectory and livelihood yet, so it’s a nice change to be a manager who works with them to own that.
I like to initiate these important conversations throughout the year so they don’t all come up halfway through Q4 when we’re at our busiest. I want my employees to know that I’m here, I’m supportive, and their growth is important to me, too.
Last year, we did a good job of scheduling those conversations throughout the year. This year, we are working on end-of-the-year reviews early so we have time to touch on these things instead of scrambling mid-December.
When people feel heard year-round, they are more likely to work with the company to hustle in Q4 and around the holidays. Fewer employees feel connected to their jobs these days. But when they can clearly see how much you care about their growth, they tend to care more about the company’s growth and success as a whole.
Let people know in advance that you’re there for them and want them to take much-needed time off throughout the year but that December probably isn’t the most ideal time. Help them find a time that works best for them and you, and don’t drop that bomb on them at the last minute.
Managers should serve as positive forces in the workplace. You should cultivate enthusiasm and make the culture as exciting as it can be. Make your employees want to work hard and hang around. Your attitude has a huge impact on theirs.
Really, it all comes down to this: Be proactive about career development and mapping all year long to avoid big cultural swings. The great news around the holidays is that everyone is in pretty good spirits. The trick is matching that personal enthusiasm with enthusiasm for work, clients, and career growth.
Tony Delmercado is the COO at Hawke Media. He's a passionately curious entrepreneur, and all-around solid dude who enjoys building businesses, playing golf, improving his Krav Maga and jiujitsu game, writing, studying business tax loopholes, and eating Mexican food. He spends his weekends at the T&A Bungalow in Santa Monica hanging with his wife, Anthea; his sons, Onyx and Fox; and his dog, Naz.