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Spread Joy as a Leader This Christmas

Spread Joy as a Leader This Christmas

Is it a stretch to tie in a leadership message to accompany a holiday marked with merriment and joy?

Well, why not? I think the world could do with a little cheering up, don’t you? Perhaps the people who work for you or with you could use the same. Perhaps YOU could do with a spiritual uplift.

At this time of year, as the calendar year draws to a close, life can feel a little frantic. You’ve got deadlines to meet and Christmas parties to attend. You’ve got places to go and people to see. You’ve got presents to buy and trees to decorate. You might be asking yourself, where’s the joy, and how can I have more of it?

Good questions!

Let’s begin with the first one: where’s the joy? In a world of chaos, where do I look to find the joy I’m seeking?

Here’s the answer to the first question. Joy cannot be found. Instead, joy is something that is created by you. The creation of joy begins in your attitude towards people, events and experiences.

Yes, your attitude 

It’s a common thing for people to expect others to generate joy on their behalf. Why? Some people are more than willing to do it. Companies like John Lewis, Sainsburys and Coca-Cola spend millions on their Christmas advertising campaigns every year with the hope that the stories of Buster the Boxer or Dave the Dad will motivate you to share your Christmas cheer (and your money) with them this holiday season.

Who knows if it really works or not, but when it comes to Christmas, they generate a large share of the collective Christmas mindset, attracting attention with the fanfare that surrounds the launch of their Christmas ad campaign.

Often it’s negative attention. This year, the British public berated John Lewis for pushing risky Christmas messages, like the threat of bovine tuberculosis transmitted by badgers or a fox leaving a trail of body fluids on the little girl’s new trampoline and then popping next door to chew off a baby’s face.

Really, people?

Believe me, I’m not making this up. Check out this article for one of The Daily Mail's more inspired headlines and the barrage of nonsense Twitter comments on the subject.

Certainly, the people who resent joyfulness behave as killjoys, even when it comes to fictitious, digitally-animated creatures. Where has the sense of fun, imagination and fantasy gone? Where has the sense of perspective gone? Are the people of the United Kingdom that frustrated that they feel the need to express fears aimed at fictitious creatures on television?

I guess 2016 has been too much for some people to take. Were you one of them? Joy to the world to you, too.

Your capacity for experiencing joy will be determined by your perspective on life. In my world, the things that bring a smile to my face can bring a frown to yours. Your approach to life says a lot about where your thinking lies. How responsible are you being for your thoughts and the emotions that accompany them?

Joy is an emotional experience. Thoughts generate emotions. If you want more joy in your life, then the quickest, easiest and most effective way to create more joy in your life is to think thoughts that provoke emotional responses of joy.

Feeling states like joy can be infectious, but so, too can emotional states like resentfulness, anger and sarcasm. As a leader, your people look to you as the office barometer, and they will adjust their moods accordingly. If you’re spreading doom and gloom, guess what? You’ll be affecting the people who look to you for guidance.

It’s possible that events in your life or around the world have impacted your own moods. Take some time now to check in with your recent attitude. Have you been a scowling Scrooge or a jolly St. Nick around the office? If, on reflection, you don’t like what you see, the good news is you’ve got time to change it.

Now is as good a time as any, and in fact, this is a great time to pause a little for some reflection. Here’s a suggestion for a team activity that will help you enter the Christmas period with a light, joyful heart and a renewed commitment to the job at hand.

Review your year. Starting from January, look back on each month and list one thing that worked well. It could be anything from the result of a meeting to a project delivery to an office move. If certain months of the year were challenging, identify the important things you learned by facing the challenge. Once you have created your shortlist, identify your top three accomplishments, including at least one learning opportunity. 

Ask each of your team members to complete the exercise by your December team meeting or Christmas party. Be ready to share ONE highlight on the list, and ask your colleagues to do the same.

During the sharing section, you must establish and follow an important rule: no comments, only applause. This is not the time to evaluate or analyze anyone’s performance. That’s what career reviews are designed to do. Instead, this is a cause for celebration. Killjoys must leave the room. It is the Christmas season, after all.

As part of the exercise, notice the change in atmosphere in the office. While people might initially resent being given another task to add to their to-do list, their attitude towards themselves, their colleagues and you will lighten as they take on the task. Give them a week or two to complete the task and merely observe what happens.

Equally, notice the change in your own internal atmosphere. You can be so focused on others as a leader that you forget to include yourself as a consideration. You must be able and willing to acknowledge your own accomplishments, too.

It is a simple but highly effective end-of-year activity that, in actuality, needn’t be limited to Christmas time. Conducting this twice a year, quarterly, or even monthly, would help you spread the Christmas cheer throughout the year. 

Regular acknowledgement of accomplishments is just the sort of activity that generates joy, which in turn fosters success. If it's not something that comes naturally to you, creating a system may be just what you need to adopt it as a new leadership approach.

Imagine the impact - joy as a regular occurrence in an office environment. What may seem to you or your colleagues like sheer fantasy suddenly becomes a possibility, and it’s easier than you think.

Then you realize a truth. Christmas, the season of joy, is a season, but it’s more than that. It’s a state of mind. You can bring light into the dullest days in the simplest of ways - if you choose. See how long you can keep it going. I may be jumping the gun, but could it be a resolution for 2017?

You can start by giving the gift of joy as a leader this Christmas. Be the bearer of good tidings and sprinkle a little Christmas magic around your workplace. Now wouldn't that be joyful - and brilliant?

This article previously appeared on Medium.


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