Likely you have already started seeing Christmas decorations in local stores. That is because the holidays are fast approaching and that means retailers are gearing up for their peak selling season. But it also means that companies in almost every industry are wrapping up their year and planning for 2018.

This time of year is heavy with tradition. And P.A.S. Associates, a Bakersfield-based human resources consulting and training firm, has its tradition, too. In December, it shares “The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus” in a three-hour, one-session workshop.

P.A.S. is not alone in borrowing from Jolly Old St. Nick to highlight steps companies in every industry can take to improve workplace performance. “Santa’s secrets” have been shared in books that carry similar titles and in training programs that have cropped up across the nation in recent years.

Think about it. Santa receives “orders” from children around the globe. He and his elves must make millions of toys and then deliver them all in 24 hours. To pull this off, Santa must keep focused on the well-defined mission of “making spirits bright” by delivering high quality toys to every good boy and girl.

While the title of the “Santa Secrets” training course might bring a smile to your lips — and we can all use that — it also brings some serious business lessons. In a nutshell, these lessons include:

• Build a solid workshop. Santa needs to keep focused on an unwavering, well-defined “mission.” He must clearly convey the mission to the elves and provide them with the necessary training to help them fulfill the mission.

• Choose reindeer wisely. Take the time to hire the best. Set expectations.

• Make a list and check it twice. Set clear goals. Encourage employee input in setting the goals. Develop written action plans. Establish priorities. Ensure goals are met.

• Listen to the elves. Fulfilling the mission and meeting goals requires collaboration and contributions from all employees. These contributions include ideas and feedback from team members. Take the time to listen to and really talk with employees. Lead employees all year round through meaningful and empowering exchanges.

• Stretch beyond the “red wagon.” While a well-made red wagon may be a staple under the Christmas tree, does it still meet the market’s demands? Every industry needs to change to meet today’s customer demands. Encourage and prepare company teams to look for ways to continually improve. The more information that is shared with employees about the workings of the company, the more they will understand and embrace change.

• Share the milk and cookies. It should not be just Santa who is enjoying the rewards from delivering all those presents. Show employees they are recognized and valued for the contributions they are making. Don’t take employees for granted. Give them verbal and written feedback. Look for meaningful incentives.

• Check who has been naughty or nice. This means tracking performance and confronting and correcting problems.

• Recognize and reward the “nice” employees. This requires providing top performers with meaningful feedback, providing coaching and training to help them improve, and delegating responsibility when appropriate. Show a sincere interest in employees’ work and their well-being.

• Be good, for goodness’ sake. A leader must lead with his or her good example. Employees are watching. Let them be inspired by what they see.

Trust me, the leadership secrets of Santa are not myths. They provide a template that can be used by every company to improve and thrive.

Karen Bonanno is president of the Bakersfield-based human resources consulting firm P.A.S. Associates and P.A.S. Investigations. She can be contacted through her website www.PASassociates.com and through the P.A.S. Facebook page.

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