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Holiday Gift Giving Guidelines

Holiday gift giving is a challenge for many business people. How much to spend? What kind of gift? Do you send it to the person or the office? You don’t want to send something that is too personal, but you do want to acknowledge people. So what do you do? Here is a quick guide to business gift giving for the holidays.

  • Make sure you know the rules. Most organizations have policies for what their employees can give and receive in the way of gifts or gratuities. Read your own guidelines and make sure your team understands them, too. Ask your clients and customers about their organization’s rules to ensure you aren’t violating them and putting the customer in an awkward position.
  • What about a gift for your manager? This can be tricky. You want to be politically correct and choose something that represents your appreciation of him or her. A handwritten note with a token gift, such as a basket of treats or homemade sweets, usually works. Also consider a team gift by asking your coworkers to chip in. Don’t put pressure on anyone by asking for a specific amount to contribute; just ask people to give what they want.
  • What about gifts for your employees? If you are a manager or supervisor, think about a gift the whole team can share, such as having lunch catered in or hosting an ice cream and cake afternoon.

If your office exchanges gifts or has a “Secret Santa” tradition, choose a gift that fits the person if you know them. If you don’t know them very well, choose something most people can use, such as candles or a gift card for gas or a local restaurant.

Gift-giving the right way can strengthen workplace relationships and help you acknowledge the people you work with. Choose thoughtfully, and you will enjoy the smiles on people’s faces when they open your gift! See also my blog post Plan Now to Wow Your Customers This Holiday Season


Giving Thanks is Not Just One Day a Year!

Do you become embarrassed when someone gives you a compliment or praises your work? It’s surprising how many people respond with, “It was nothing.” If you’re one of them, stop! This type of response is a subtle rejection of the person giving you the compliment and a subconscious hit to your self-esteem.

When you receive a compliment, accept the praise as well earned and say, “Thanks! I appreciate that.” If the compliment was for a team or partner effort, mention the contributions of others. “Thanks. I appreciate that. My partner/whole team worked hard to pull this together. I’ll share your comments with them.”

Remember to smile!

I wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving. I am grateful for my loyal followers and those new to my blog. May you enjoy the warmth and blessings of family and friends during this holiday season!

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”

 Thornton Wilder, American playwright and novelist



Is It Distress or Eustress?

You’ve probably heard a lot about bad stress or distress. Many emotional and physical disorders have been linked to this type of stress. People under stress for a long time are more prone to infections, autoimmune diseases, gastrointestinal problems, and high blood pressure among other health issues. Distress also adversely affects relationships, productivity, and focus.

On the other hand, some stress is good for us. This type of stress is eustress. Eustress is stress that motivates us and keeps us interested and challenged. The stress an athlete feels before a competition is a form of eustress as is the stress we feel before a major presentation.  We all need eustress in our lives in order to accomplish our goals and grow personally and professionally.

If you are feeling more distress than eustress, try some of these tips:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Meditate daily
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Give yourself a time out and do something relaxing
  • Stop thinking about the stressor and turn your thoughts to something positive
  • Get more sleep
  • Build a support system
  • Set and maintain boundaries

As the holidays approach with more demands on your time, feelings of distress may arise. Don’t get derailed! See my blog posts Finding Time for Yourself and Speed Up by Slowing Down for more tips you can use.



Got the Cube Blues?

Most of us work in cubes these days, which cuts down on privacy and leaves us little room for making our workspace work for us. Here are some tips for turning your little, gray cube into a place you enjoy.

  • Bring in some green. Live plants bring the outside indoors, and a touch of green is cheering. With flowering plants, it’s best to avoid anything that gives off a strong scent since cube mates may be allergic or find it offensive. Have a black thumb? Silk plants are a good substitute.
  • Keep it neat. Walking into a mess in the morning can be demoralizing and demotivating. Clear the clutter and keep things neat and orderly. See my blog post A Simple Approach to Eliminating Clutter
  • Be ergonomic. Avoid aches and pains by having a correctly designed workspace, use ergonomically sound equipment, and make sure lighting is adequate. Check with your manager or human resources for available options.
  • Add reminders of life outside the office. Photos of family, friends, and activities that you enjoy are pleasant reminders of your life outside the cube. Be prudent with your choices, especially if you work in an area that gets a lot of customer traffic.
  • Move around. While many cubes are pretty small, set an alert to get up and move around every hour or 90 minutes. The more you sit in one place, the more constricted you feel; the cube walls seem as if they are closing in on you! See my blog post Sitting is Bad for Productivity –  and Your Health for more information.

Don’t treat your cube like a cell! An attractive, pleasing workspace makes work easier, reduces stress, and can make you more positively productive.



Five Steps for Getting Things Done

  1. Stop doing everything. Are you familiar with the Pareto Principle? It states that 20% of your actions produce 80% of the results you need. Focus on the 20% that delivers the most impact, not on the 80% that delivers very little. See my blog post How to Use the Pareto Principle for Productivity.
  2. Take small steps. You can’t cross the street in one step; it takes a series of small steps to get from one corner to the next. When faced with large or challenging tasks, identify the smaller steps you need to take to achieve the larger goal.
  3. Bundle routine activities. Consider making phone calls, doing Internet research, and filing in a single session. The more you concentrate on one type of activity at one time, you accomplish each task faster and more efficiently.
  4. Read between the gaps. Always carry a To-Read folder—either paper or electronic—for documents you need to read, but don’t have time to read in the office. When waiting for meetings to start or when on public transportation, pull out your folder and start reading.
  5. Leverage the power of delegation. Delegation is a great investment of your time. It frees you to focus on the 20% of activities that only you can perform. See my blog post Delegate for Results for more information.

Start implementing one of these steps, make it a habit, and then work on another one. Soon you will be more positively productive and satisfied with your accomplishments.





Plan Now to Wow Your Customers This Holiday Season

I know, the upcoming holiday is Halloween, not a great time to honor customers; however, it is time to decide how you will say “Thank You” for Thanksgiving. While the December holidays are traditionally the time when businesses remember their customers, Thanksgiving may be a better choice. Your acknowledgement will stand out more and be a welcome surprise.

Depending on your business, here are some ideas:

  • Make an offer. Recognize your customers by making an exclusive, year-end, loyalty offer just for them. Review their past buying history and come up with a deal that fits their profile.
  • Showcase their business. Work with your PR or Marketing department and get the customer’s permission to highlight them in your company’s publications and on its social media channels.
  • Throw a party. Invite your top customers to a party or luncheon hosted by you and let them meet and mingle with other loyal customers. Make sure to include your employees who serve these customers.
  • Send a gift. While everyone gets gifts in December, sending something around Thanksgiving is a welcome change. Choose a gift that lends itself to the season, such as a gift basket that can be shared at the Thanksgiving celebration.

Keep in mind that many organizations have strict guidelines on gifts and invitations, so keep the recognition affordable and reasonable.


Employees take many cues about how to behave from you as their leader. These cues come from your attitude, your behavior, and your communication. Here are some tips to help you send the right cues to your employees, gain trust and always present yourself as the leader you are. 

  • Honor your word. Always be trustworthy and make sure your words and actions are congruent. Be aware of body language, too. What you don’t say communicates more effectively than what you do say. See my blog post Body Language That Says No When You Mean Yes for more information.
  • Give people credit for what they know and do. Be generous with praise and recognition. When you appreciate the efforts of your team, you motivate them to achieve even more. Encourage your staff to give praise to each other, too.
  • Show respect to everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are interacting with the CEO, your staff, a customer, or the janitor. Show courtesy by paying attention when you are with someone and really listen to what they have to say. Stay calm, smile, and keep a positive mood no matter the situation.

Trust is the foundation of all good leadership. When your employees trust you, they look to you for how to act and what to feel about the workplace. See my blog post Trust Your Team to Deliver for more information.



Carry Ideas Through to Completion

We’ve all had employees with high levels of creativity who are great at coming up with ideas, but who are not as good with implementation! To succeed as a manager and leader, you need to be able to bring great ideas to successful implementation.


Try partnering a creative employee with someone who is good with planning and implementation. This partnership lets you leverage the strengths of each employee and mitigate the weaknesses. Make both accountable for creativity and implementation and then give them the training and resources they need to become good at both skills. Set specific deadlines for delivery and coach them, as needed.

Another approach is to give creative employees free reign and let the planners take over for implementation. Unlike the first approach, this option focuses solely on responsibilities that fit each person’s strengths. However, you lose some ability to develop more well-rounded employees with this option.

No matter which approach you choose, remember the words of the American inventor Thomas Edison, “Vision without execution is hallucination.”



How to Avoid the Micro-management Trap!

It’s easy to fall into the micro-management trap, especially if you have new employees who need time to learn processes and procedures. That “I-can-do-it-faster” urge can be hard to resist when deadlines loom and tasks require pinpoint accuracy. When a manager gives in to the urge and imposes his or her work style and methods on an employee, the micro-management trap closes. This can leave employees feeling inadequate, unmotivated, and unproductive.

Here are some tools to help you avoid micro-managing:

  • Give new employees time to learn before demanding high productivity or performance. Partner them with a senior employee as a mentor, if possible, or plan your time to be available to answer questions and give feedback.
  • Honor different learning styles. Some people prefer to learn a task by reading a manual or looking at pictures and diagrams, others learn by listening and repeating what they have heard, and still others need to actually do it a few times to gain the tactile experience. Make sure you deliver training in the right way to get the best results.
  • Identify which tasks and procedures must be performed exactly as specified, such as activities involving safety and security. There may not be any leeway or ability to adapt them. On the other hand, many tasks can be performed in a variety of ways. With these, be open to variations and give employees the latitude to do it their own way.

Micro-management is a habit and like all habits, it can be changed. If you tend to micro-manage, use these tools to break the habit. You will discover how much more positively productive your employees can be when left alone to do their jobs in their own way.


Where Does Conflict Come From?

Conflict on teams can come from many areas. Here are the three most common sources of conflict and some solutions to try if a conflict arises.

  • Environmental Conflicts

These conflicts arise from the physical workspace. Closely configured cubicles are fertile grounds for conflicts related to noise. Different preferences for music, too loud phone conversations, and annoying habits—popping gum, tapping feet on the floor, talking aloud to oneself—can turn team members into snarling combatants!

Odors are another area where conflicts arise. Strong perfumes and colognes, heavily scented flowers and air fresheners, and poor hygiene are all amplified in air-conditioned offices. Keep in mind that some people are highly allergic to certain odors, which can trigger adverse reactions.

If your team works in this kind of environment, clear guidelines for noise and scents are necessary to mitigate the potential for conflict.

  • Capabilities

Conflicts can arise over skillsets when it seems that some team members are not carrying their weight on the team. Often, additional training and coaching are necessary to resolve this type of conflict.

On the other hand, conflict also can arise if training opportunities are provided to certain people and not others. Be inclusive in offering a variety of training to your staff. See my blog post What Training Does Your Team Need?

  • Behaviors

This is the most common source of team conflict. Someone doesn’t like what someone else is doing—or not doing! The solution is to meet with each person in the conflict, ascertain the observable facts, communicate what is acceptable behavior and what is not, and establish clear expectations for going forward.

When a conflict arises, identify the source, take necessary action to remedy it before it escalates, and keep your team positively productive!