Philips Sonicare

How Santa Deals with Change in the Workplace

Get beyond the Red Wagons

The only constant in life and in business is change. Santa realized that, although the elves were masters at making little red wagon. Changes were happening in the market demand. Video games were in and the workshop crew needed to change the way they operated.

Santa knew that he couldn’t just dictate change, he had to orchestrate it. He began by complimenting the elves on their history of red wagon excellence and expressed pride in their accomplishments. Next, he introduced the change and explained why it was necessary. He laid out the facts, the raw data and evidence. After some discussion, the elves acknowledged (although some begrudgingly) that the change was necessary. Then the team discussed the benefits of making the change. Of course, two biggest benefits were staying in business and staying employed. Immediately after that he asked for everyone’s commitment. He also committed to providing the training and support that employees would need to make the changes and feel good about them in the process, and to demonstrate patience and understanding as they worked their way through the new learning curve.

Santa also realized that the more employees understand about how the business works, the more likely they are to accept and support change. He began sharing non-confidential information about the state of the workshop to help the elves understand information such as production goals vs. production costs, overhead expenses and the like. He then gave the information true meaning by teaching the elves and reindeer how to apply that information to enhance their own jobs. The results of these meetings made the team feel like true partners in the running of the North Pole operation. (which, of course, they are)

Share the Milk and Cookies

One of the biggest benefits of being Santa Claus Is the fact that he enjoys the credit for the elf made presents and gets to enjoy the milk and freshly baked cookies, while the reindeer try to catch their breaths on cold rooftops. Since Santa is the only one who gets to enjoy the benefits, he decided that a key strategy in performing his role is to help each elf and reindeer see the positive differences that he or she is making for those they serve and for each other. He helped them to see their part of the big “making people happy” picture. He showed them the physical link between an elf or reindeer and a smiling child holding a present. Doing that reinforces two messages 1) we don’t make and deliver toys, we make and deliver happiness and 2) we couldn’t do that without YOU! In dentistry, a dentist cannot deliver the great quality of service without his/her support staff.

Santa also made sure that everyone sees the scores of thank you letters that start coming in around mid-January. He posts them on a large board in the workshop that’s labeled: SEE WHAT YOU MADE HAPPEN.

Nothing motivates employees more than knowing they’re making a difference. Find ways to make that happen in your workshop.

Santa also knew not to fall into the trap of taking his workers for granted. He realized that good performance should be reinforced with positive consequences. Santa knew that it was more important to show appreciation through his actions and behaviors. He deliberately looked for and seized the opportunities to give verbal and written feedback. That’s why he adopted an attitude of gratitude which he viewed as opportunities to thank the elves for doing right. He learned to truly appreciate workers who met or exceeded his expectations. Recognizing employees – doing right by those who do right – is one of the best that that you can do for your employees. And a result you feel good when giving positive feedback, employees feel good when they receive and they’re more motivated a therefore more likely to repeat the performance that you want and need in the future.

Find out who’s Naughty and Nice

Santa learned early in his career to confront performance problems early. This was hard for Santa because he wanted things to be nice and he liked everything to be just that – nice. When he was confronted with performance problems with one of the elves, Santa let it slide because he did good work and he thought that it’s no real problem right now. But if it became one, he was prepared to act. The problem didn’t improve, in fact, it kept getting worse. The situation came to a head when one of the elves approached Santa and asked, “When are you going to do something? The problem behavior was affecting the rest of the team. By now Santa was angry and the tension was high. He called the team member into his office and confronted him. It surprised him to hear the response which was “if this issue is so important, why you didn’t say something to me sooner?” Santa realized at that moment that by avoiding the situation was not only unfair to the other elves but it was also unfair to the elf that was causing the problem. From that point on, Santa deals with performance problems early and calmly – before they get big.

Don’t forget the Nice List

Just like everyone else, great performers don’t like to be taken for granted. Even though some may not admit it publicly, in private most realize that they need to be worked with, involved, recognized and rewarded. In other words, they need to be coached. Santa uses specific techniques to make sure that the star performers are also recognized and motivated. He gets them involved in decision making, strategy setting, procedure development and problem solving. He delegates extensively and avoids micromanaging them. He encourages them to teach and mentor others. He celebrates their accomplishments and successes. He provides them with specialized training and other career growth opportunities. He shows interest in their work and their lives away from work. As a leader, the key to dealing with super stars is to demonstrate through words and actions that you know and appreciate the fact that they are the nicest of the nice.

The last leadership secret is Be Good for Goodness Sake
Set the example. Like most managers, Santa operates in a fish bowl. He is contestably being watched. The elves are always looking his way to see what he is doing. They are all watching and they are all learning. They’re learning about what’s acceptable behavior at the top of the world, especially when it comes to matters of ethics and integrity. There’s no getting around it, Santa must model the behaviors that he expects from others. He must take the LEAD and be the first one to walk the talk when it comes to things like –
• Following all of the rules and procedures
• Treating everyone with dignity and respect
• Always telling the truth
• Never breaking a promise or commitment
• Building superior quality into everything
• Continually giving his best effort
• Consistently taking a stand for what’s right.

Building accountability for proper behavior involves the following:
Keeping your eyes and ears open to what’s happening. Through visits, feedback, reports, meetings, etc., make sure that you are aware of what is being done and how it’s being accomplished.
Providing ongoing feedback. Regularly meet with your employees to discuss their performance, share observations and reemphasize the importance of integrity driven practices.
Display zero tolerance for ethics violations. If one should occur, take swift and deliberate action. Employees don’t resent that type of accountability, in fact, they actually support it. To challenge yourself and your staff to examine how ethical you are, begin by looking at the following:
The way you treat and talk about each other,
The type of jokes that you share,
The commitments you make and keep
The level of quality you put into your work

The credit that you appropriately share with co workers. These and other behaviors like them reflect who you are and what you stand for. Looking at them helps you to understand that being good and doing right are not sometime things, they’re every time things involving everything we do. Everything counts for your people, and especially for you as their leader.


“The more employees understand about how the business works, the more likely they are to accept and support change. Nothing motivates employees more than knowing they’re making a difference. Being good means being good all the time. There are no time-outs. Regardless of what’s said or written elsewhere in the workshop, my actions – whether good or bad – are the performance standards that they will follow. Helping everyone turn those good beliefs into everyday behaviors is how leaders create a great place to work.”…Kris Kringle


About author
Sandie Baillargeon is a leading authority on how to increase the effectiveness of medical and dental business systems. Ms. Baillargeon is author of two text books, Dental Office Administration and The Canadian Dental Office Administrator, published by ITP Nelson Canada. Sandie is the owner and operator of Dental Office Consulting Services, which specializes in dental business planning, staff development, consulting and continuing education seminars. Visit her website at or contact her directly at (905) 336-7624.
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