This is the time of the year where we think about gifts. We gather with family and friends and exchange gifts that we hope will be meaningful. It’s also the time of year where we begin to reflect on the past year and plan for the next.
As you think back on this past year as a leader, what gifts did you give to the people who work for you? I’m not talking about physical gifts but the things you did that will leave a lasting impact on your employees.
A 2013 study by Glassdoor found that 66% of employees believe their direct managers had an impact on their careers. 52% said the impact was positive while 20% said it was negative. Whether we like it or not, leaders affect the careers of the people who follow us.
As I look back at all the leaders I have worked for, I can think of many gifts I have received that have helped me grow in my career but these seven stand out as the best:
- The Gift of Trust – As a junior officer assigned to my first submarine, I had a commanding officer who regularly chose me for the toughest assignments. Even though I doubted my own skills, he trusted me. That trust gave me confidence.
- The Gift of Appreciation – I once had a boss who sent a large basket of cookies and snacks to my home after he hired me. He included a note that said, “I’m looking forward to all the great things I know you will do.” It was a simple gesture that said he appreciated me as a person even before I started work.
- The Gift of Faith – The leader who selected me to run my first manufacturing plant chose me for the job, despite the fact I had never run an operation before. His action told me that he had faith in my abilities and I worked hard to prove him right.
- The Gift of Support – When I was going through a career transition, I had several former bosses go out of their way to provide support and advice. Their support during a stressful time was exactly what I needed to make a successful transition.
- The Gift of Encouragement – As a young design engineer, I had a major failure of a new product at the test lab costing my company thousands of dollars. I had to call my boss to give him the bad news. Instead of a reprimand, he encouraged me to learn as much as I could about the failure, improve the product, and to get back to the lab.
- The Gift of Recognition – I have had bosses present me awards or have recognized me publicly for my actions. In most cases, it was a total surprise. Although I don’t work for the recognition, it is nice to get that type of positive feedback.
- The Gift of a Challenge – I once had a boss challenge a business plan I developed. Even though I had created a solid plan, he asked one simple question which changed everything. He said, “This is great, but what are you missing that could create even more growth?” That challenge was the catalyst that changed our entire thinking and business model.
As we approach the end of the year and begin to reflect, think about the gifts you have been giving. What are you doing to grow your employees? What lasting impact will you have on their careers? What is the spark that will ignite their growth as a leader? What can you do differently in 2017 to give even better gifts?