Every December, leaders in many organizations face the task of deciding on a small token of appreciation to give their direct reports for the holidays. Cynics might call it the price we pay for taking another step up the corporate ladder. What gesture can you provide to your team members who have been so darn nice this past year? How about a bottle of wine or a gift card? Of course, anything would be appreciated. But as The Grinch himself discovered, Christmas doesn't have to come from a store. And when it doesn't, it always means a whole lot more.
I remember my first foray into gift-buying for my team after I became a manager with several direct reports. I decided the best way to show my appreciation that year was to give each team member a set of 3 miniature Yankee Candles. Who doesn't love the smell of "Luscious Plum" for the holidays? I left the sets on their desks with a card. But their response, as I recall, was like a Silent Night.
Then one year, my wife and I made cookies for everyone and placed them inside ceramic jars. I decided to include a recipe with each batch. On an index card, I wrote the "recipe" that made each of my direct reports special to me. The "ingredients" were the unique talents each individual contributed to the team. The jars and cookies are long gone, but the index cards became immortal when my team members pinned or taped them inside their work stations. I was onto something.
The following year, I found famous movie-themed quotes that reminded me of each person. I typed the quotes, added a personal message, printed each one and cut them to fit inside a 4x6 picture frame. Then, I put a bow on them and -- voilà -- another gift destined for office immortality.
Individualization is one of my dominant themes -- it's No. 10 on my list. It pairs well with my Ideation (No. 2) theme when it comes to thoughtful gift-giving. Leaning into my own talents, rather than simply splurging for what topped the list of most popular or most flashy gifts, is what made a real difference for my people. As a manager, my goal in gift-giving was not to impress others; it was to make an intentional gesture of appreciation and create an opportunity to celebrate people -- to help them feel noticed. Whether it's holiday gifts or other interactions with your employees, it always means more when it comes from your authentic self -- your unique talents.
Here is something you can try this year to make your gift-giving meaningful and memorable for employees and/or clients. Go online and buy the lowest-priced Scrabble games you can find. Then, create a crossword on the board that interconnects people's Top 5 strengths, their name and any other words that might be relevant (for example, the name of your company). Paste the letters on the board and present each recipient with their own personalized work of art!
In this way, from Mount Crumpit to Whoville, your talents can bring a whole lot more to your team and your clients this Christmas season and all year 'round.
Dan Donovan's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Strategic, Ideation, Futuristic, Positivity and Achiever.