Click here to forward this article

In This Issue
Sign Up
How to Manage Fear, Embrace Change and Lead Your Employees in an Uncertain Economy

Practical, Easy-to-Implement Strategies That Immediately Put You in Control

Bill and Richard, along with Phillip Van Hooser, offer this downloadable audio conference with useful ideas for leading through a troubled economy. Before reading our featured article below, please click here to read about and register for this valuable audio conference.

Modify - Don't Cancel - Holiday Celebrations

By Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette

Articles and news reports abound this year of companies canceling the traditional year-end holiday celebrations because of the one topic the media don't seem to want us to forget - the economic slowdown, which officially became a recession yesterday, December 1 (officially requiring a change to the official definition of a recession, but that's a story for another day).

Clearly, with the prevailing economic mood, not to mention layoffs, pay cuts, and the prospect of auto executives having to fly commercial, it's unseemly to throw an extravaganza befitting days of prosperity, days we all remember fondly, and will see again. But - and this is a big but - let's not ignore the benefits - psychological and otherwise - of the following three F's:

  • Food
  • Fun
  • Fellowship

In our first book, Contented Cows Give Better Milk, we quote Betty Kahn of Chicago-based Crate and Barrel, who told us "we do a lot of group eating". We think that's good for the soul - of an organization.

Here are a few things we'd recommend keeping in mind this holiday season:

* In the minds of most of your employees, the underlying cause of whatever celebration(s) they observe has nothing - repeat nothing - to do with the economy. Whatever they're celebrating - be it the birth of Jesus, the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem, African heritage, the winter solstice, or whatever, is still there to be celebrated. It's not ALL about the economy.
* Your employees may not be hungering for yet another after-hours event to consume another December evening. The economy notwithstanding, people are busier during this month than they are at any other time of the year. Students have finals, people have gifts to buy (perhaps spending less money, probably not less time), homes to decorate, and endless functions to attend outside of work. My wife and I already have seven holiday events on our calendar this year. None of them are work related.
* All of the above having been said, leaders wishing to up the Oomph! factor in their employees for the coming year, which by all accounts may be more challenging than most, would do well to do something to express their appreciation for those whose willing engagement they'll need to weather the days ahead.

It reminded me (Bill) of a Christmas in the early days of FedEx when we really didn't have much to party with. But we did have a couple thousand purple- blooded warriors.

We had an employee at one of our stations whose young son was dying of a congenital defect. This guy's co-workers banded together and persuaded the station manager to use their meager Christmas party funds to help pay this guy's medical bills, and the employees paid for their own party. Upon learning of this, I re-purposed some of the party funds for the regional office to furnish some adult beverages for the station employees who had been so generous. This obviously compromised the budget for the regional office. Our "party planners" (okay, Administrative Assistants) then used the following order of priority for making party spending decisions:

1. location
2. menu
3. entertainment

With a radically reduced budget, we wound up with a lone (and not very talented) keyboard player who showed up to play Christmas themed music. Our party was adjacent to another, much larger group which was packed into a tiny room, together with a really good band. After about 30 minutes of listening to this guy's rendition of Rudolph on the keyboard, I went next door and made a deal with the neighboring partiers to merge our parties, taking advantage of our larger real estate and their better entertainment. Then, I went back to our party and, as gracefully as possible, relieved Mr. Keyboards of his official duties. Everyone wound up having a great time.

In short, our advice:
* Don't cancel the celebration altogether. Keep it simple. Scale it back. Over-the-top will be seen as inappropriate, or what we in the south call "tacky". This is not the year for ice sculptures or Roman deities spewing beverages from bodily orifices.

* Consider a potluck affair. Our bet is your people can whip up some dandy seven-layer salads, chocolate surprises, and banana-pumpkin bread. Throw in a ham or tenderloin, courtesy of the company. Stop the machines for a couple of hours, get everybody together in a common area, spread the buffet, let people visit on the clock, and then ask someone from the top brass to say, briefly, why he or she is thankful for everyone's contributions.

* Turn your attention toward those less fortunate than you and your workers. There are plenty of them out there. Nothing's better for getting people's minds off their own situations and adding a little perspective.

Our point is this: holiday events, particularly where there is some shared sacrifice involved, have a habit of becoming part of the lore, the social fabric if you will, of the organization. People want to celebrate and break bread with their co-workers. It needn't be a high brow affair.

Want a more engaged workforce? Want the performance benefits of creating a great place to work? Bring Bill Catlette or Richard Hadden in to speak or conduct leadership training for your organization, or to keynote your association's next convention.

Contact Geoff Knue by email or phone 317-873-0011.

Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette
Contented Cow Partners, LLC

phone: 904-720-0870
Email Marketing by