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10 Gifts Leaders Can Give All Year

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Photo by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash

The Best Gifts Are Not Necessarily Monetary

It’s ugly sweater season, and you may be thinking of what you can give your coworkers, direct reports, or even your boss this year. Some think that gifts are the best way to convey appreciation or that you value that person’s hard work, but we thought about it a little differently this year.

What if you gave the gift of your attention or gratitude all year? What would that look like? Just as leadership takes practice, the art of appreciation is a skill, and should be focused on regularly.

Here’s a list of “gifts” you can give all year:

  1. The gift of listening – Set aside time every day to focus in on what your coworkers are saying to you. Ask a question and really listen. It doesn’t have to be work-related either—you can truly listen to weekend plans or vacation highlights too. Practice dealing with interruption and distraction by bringing the conversation back and making sure you heard what your coworker is saying – if in doubt, ask, clarify, and engage.
  1. The gift of friendship – Research shows a concrete link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort employees expend in their role. This isn’t about small talk, it’s about a trusting, quality relationship. For example, women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged! Look outside your office circle and vow to make one more coworker friend this year, this 6 months, this 6 weeks…
  1. The gift of trustTrust is the essential foundation for a strong, healthy team. Leaders build trust by operating honestly, openly, and ethically, and promoting an atmosphere of trust on their teams. Communicating trust and confidence in someone is the powerful art of bringing transparency, honesty, and vulnerability to your team projects and conversations.
  1. The gift of respect – Showing respect for others is a no brainer – but what does that look like in practice? Having respect for process, not playing favorites, and giving attention to each person’s thoughts and opinions – even if you disagree – is the foundation of showing respect. Take into account your team members’ personal style preferences too.
  1. The gift of coaching – Promote action and accountability on your team by helping them gain authority and ownership of their roles. This doesn’t mean you tell them what to do – it means having conversations and identifying opportunities to help others deliver great results. Ask open-ended questions and provide direction or thoughtful insights, not directives.
  1. The gift of mentorship – Traditionally, a mentoring role would be 1:1, with a more experienced person supporting the development of another. Modern practice has expanded this role to include group mentoring, reverse mentoring, or even situational, or rotating mentors. Set your team up for success by enabling (or suggesting) you adopt a mentoring stance on your next project. Share the experience or lessons by having a dialogue, not telling, and being goal-oriented, and measurement-focused. 
  1. The gift of feedback – Help direct reports by providing them with caring, regular input on what they are doing well or where they could improve. Giving feedback is a hard skill to master. Scheduling time for regular, one-on-one feedback that addresses work, strengths, and performance is one of the best steps a manager or leader can take to help their team, increase engagement, and better align to goals and results.
  1. The gift of learning – Schedule time with your team for group or individual training and include this in their development plans – and yours. With change and transformation in organizations becoming the new normal, acknowledge the need to keep up with changing technologies and trends and give permission to do so. This will help keep your team innovating and help create a culture of curiosity.
  1. The gift of responsibility – Giving someone a stretch goal, such asking them to take lead on a new project or take on a new challenge gives the entire team the opportunity to break out of old habits, try something new, learn from each other, and grow – and shows your confidence in the person’s skills and abilities.
  2. The gift of recognition – Not everyone wants balloons, but seeking out ways to give personal, relevant, and heartfelt recognition is the hallmark of a good leader. Whether a personal note, a public announcement, or a simple and sincere “Thank You,” the gift of recognition is an important one. Knowing how this resonates for each team member is a great place to start.

Gallup studies have shown that employees leave their jobs when they don't feel appreciated. Instead of making employees feel valued once a year, let's give these gifts all year long!


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Lauren Parkhill

Lauren Parkhill leads the marketing team in creating creative content that helps organizations develop their leaders and teams.

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