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The 8 Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus

santaIt’s not easy being Santa Claus. You may not know this, but Santa has two roles that people rarely associate with him; Santa the Manager and Santa the Leader. After all, he is running a business and he is the boss. There are workers to lead, letters to read, processes to manage, stuff to buy, stuff to make, standards to maintain, new technologies to adopt, skills to develop, elf problems to solve and so on. Every busy dentist can empathize with Santa.

No it’s not easy being Santa Claus, but it’s important to realize that people depend on him, and need his leadership. So I asked Santa, “What’s your secret? Is it magic?” He responded by saying it’s not magic, but he was willing to share his secrets for leading others and getting big things done all year around. Here are the Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus. There are 8 Secrets in all.

First, Build a Wonderful Workshop

Santa manages to run a productive and happy workplace, despite the intense pressures and challenges that he faces. He keeps everyone on track and motivated through an unwavering and uncompromising focus on THE MISSION. As the leader, he has taken several steps to establish and maintain that focus. First, make sure that all the elves know what our mission is and why it’s important. (Incidentally, his mission is making spirits bright by building and delivering high quality toys to good little girls and boys) Ask any member of the North Pole team and they can quote the mission and explain its significance.
Second, he spends time with individual employees, discussing how their respective jobs specifically link with and contribute to the accomplishment of the mission.

He also knows that you can’t focus on the mission without focusing on the folks that make your mission happen. The two go hand in hand. You manage things and lead people. Common sense suggests that it’s the people who are at the core of all leadership activities.

Good leaders turn good intentions into predicable behaviors. Sometimes that takes abandoning a few old behaviors and adopting new ones.
Here are some of the behaviors that Santa adopted:
• Be accessible, physically and mentally to employees who would like my attention
• Be considerate of staff members’ needs
• Provide employees with the training, tools, resources and feedback required for success
• Keep employees in the information loop
• Demonstrate respect for team member’s time and talents, as well as respect them as individuals
• Solicit and listen to staff member ideas and concerns.
These are the things that Santa does to focus on the workers who compromise his workshop. Then it’s important to lead them in the right direction. Santa does this by letting his values guide him. There are six core values this guide Santa and they are:
1. Respect
2. Integrity
3. Quality
4. Customer service
5. Responsibility
6. Teamwork.

These are more than just words, they are blueprints that he follows. Making sure that everyone knows what values are important and then helping everyone turn those good beliefs into everyday behaviors is how leaders create a great place to work.

Secret # 2 – Choose Your Reindeer Wisely

If you think your job is tough, try recruiting new employees for the North Pole. Santa took the easy route and did a cursory resume review, conducted a quick pro-forma interview and grabbed the first warm body that appeared halfway decent. He didn’t probe to determine if the reindeer was committed to responsibilities like teamwork, dependability and customer service, nor did he tests his flying skills or do a background check. He also didn’t involve any of the other reindeer in the selection process.

After a short period of putting his best hoof forward, the problems began. The new reindeer would carry less and less of his share of the load, he would show up late and then display a poor attitude when Santa called him on it, and the less he would work would force the rest of the crew to work even harder. Santa had to spend too much time watching this misfit reindeer, training and retraining him, while handling complaints from the rest of the staff. Pretty soon it began to bring the rest of the team down. Santa had no choice but to let the misfit go.

What Santa learned from that experience was, because it is employees who make the mission happen, staffing is the single most important responsibility of the leader. The time that is spent on hiring the right way is minimal compared to the time one would spend in dealing with the wrong employee. Invest in hiring the right employee in the right way in the beginning. Hire for success and keep the good ones.

The third leadership secret is to make a List and Check It Twice

Santa knows that his success and resulting reputation for excellence is the direct result of clearly defined goals combined with well thought out plans to accomplish those goals. Everyone has goals, including Santa, and because buy in and commitment is important to achieving objectives, Santa makes sure that everyone on his team has input in the goal setting process. And because nobody has a perfect memory, he makes sure that they have written action plans.

He develops the action plans by answering six questions for each goal
1. What needs to be accomplished?
2. Why does it need to be done (How does it contribute to our overall mission)?
3. When does it need to be accomplished?
4. Where are we now in relation to this goal
5. Who will be involved in accomplishing this?
6. How will it be accomplished (What specific steps and activities are involved and what resources are required)?

Goal setting, planning your work and then working your plan, not only leads to effectiveness, it also fosters efficiency and helps to minimize waste. Because resources are so important, Santa goes beyond merely relying on goal action plans to ensure efficiency. He makes a list and checks it twice. The following are excerpts from the list:

• Making the most of time. Priorities tasks to the most important things first
• Start and end meetings on time and issue agendas in advance
• Teach time management skills and techniques
• Make the most of money
• Shop for the best prices on materials, supplies, equipment and services
• Use email to reduce postage and long distance charges
• Make the most of materials and equipment – measure twice, cut once
• Reuse and recycle whenever possible
• Be religious about preventive maintenance of equipment and invest in extended warranties
• Make the most of employee talent and expertise
• Involve the people with the knowledge in the decisions.
• Enhance employee expertise through training developmental assignments
• Encourage employees to share their knowledge with others.

Secret number four – Listen to the Elves

As the challenges have grown with each new season, more and more Santa must rely on teamwork, collaboration and the contributions of each member of the workshop team. Ensuring that those things happen requires effective leadership, which involves taking the time to listen to the team. For example, one year Santa received the following letter which he has offered to share with you as a leadership lesson:

Dear Santa

Thank you for being such a great boss. We know it isn’t easy being you – with all the pressures and responsibilities that you have. We also know that we’re not always the easiest bunch to deal with. But with all that you have going on, and with all that we sometimes throw your way, you still manage to remain considerate and understanding. You show us, by your behaviors, that you realize it’s challenging for all of us in the workshop too. That makes us appreciate you even more.
It’s great when you ask us about the problems, challenges and obstacles that we face in filling our orders and meeting deadlines. You really listen – showing us that our feelings are important…that we are important.

The thing we appreciate most is when you ask what you can do to make things easier and better for us, and better for the workshop – and then you DO those that are reasonable and appropriate.
Thank you, Santa, for making the effort to see things through our eyes…for walking in these smaller, yet none-the-less important shoes. Your feet may not fit in them, but your heart definitely does.

Signed – The Elves

There’s no question that employees are depending on you, just as you depend on them. Don’t let them down. Those are the greatest gifts that you can give to your people, your organization and yourself. Most importantly, never forget that getting big things done all year long isn’t about magic, it’s about leadership.

Lesson #5 – 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.

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)

Lesson #6 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.

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.

Leadership Secret Number 7 – 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.

Leadership Secret Number 8 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 constantly 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.

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.

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.

In summary
Here are some Santa quotes, or you can call them Santa Clauses

• “You can’t possibly focus on your mission without also focusing on the folks that make your mission happen.”
• “…getting big things done isn’t about magic…It’s about leadership. AND…leadership is about Walking the Talk
• “Our success is the result of clearly defined goals combined with well thought out plans…such as our plans to develop our elves and reindeer.”
• “We might be out of business if we don’t take the time to develop the talents of our elves and reindeer.”
• “Perceptions are realities for those that hold them…and I must deal with those realities in order to lead effectively.”
• “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.”
• “…your elves and reindeer are depending on you – just as you depend on them. Don’t let them down.”
• “Being good means being good all the time. There are no time-outs…no crossing your fingers behind your back. Everything counts.”
• “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.”
• “I must model the behaviors that I expect from others. I must take the LEAD. I must be the first to ‘walk the talk’…”
• “…It’s not how a workshop stands but what it stands for that makes it special.”
• “Helping everyone turn those good beliefs into everyday behaviors is how leaders create a great place to work.”

Happy Holidays and Happy All Days.

source: Walking the Talk

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 www.dentalofficeconsulting.com or contact her directly at (905) 336-7624.
1 comment on this postSubmit yours
  1. Very interesting blog. It really helps if we can implement all of these when it comes to a dental office management, but I think Santa knows himself, not all of them are possible easily.

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