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Leadership Gift Giving

This is the time of year when many people think about gift giving. Whether you celebrate Christmas or simply year end, gift giving is factored into the equation.

As I reflect on the phenomenon of giving gifts, I am struck with several key aspects of why one gives a gift.

First and foremost, people give a gift to someone out of love and adoration. Whether the receiver is a spouse, parent, child or grandchild, giving that special someone a unique gift sends a message of respect, caring, and love.

The idea of finding something new is part of the excitement. The latest gadget or the newest style can be part of the meaning of bestowing a gift on someone.

Sometimes we give gifts to fill gaps for people. If you realize someone is missing something in their life whether by choice or by chance, you decide to give them a  gift to fill that gap. Again, much of the motivation for doing so is about respect and affection.

Then there are the wrong reasons for giving gifts. Ideas like guilt, shame, or materialism are on my list of bad reasons to give a gift. While the occasional “I am sorry” gift is appropriate, you should never feel obliged to give a gift to buy back someone’s favor. Or the proverbial “let’s keep up with the Jones’” gift is really bad too.

Giving a gift to win affection or respect is also a bad idea. If the other person is swayed by such an offering, do you really want them as a friend or associate?

As Leaders, what should you think about giving? On one hand, there are reasons you have to be mindful of the messages you send to colleagues, peers and associates when giving gifts. A gift that is a little too personal for the associate of the opposite sex can send a very wrong message. Gifts given as jokes also can be awkward to explain or defend.

However, just as with gifts given to loved ones, any gift a leader chooses to give someone in their circle carries weight. It can convey a genuine message of appreciation for a job well done. Or perhaps acknowledgement of the role that person has played in making something special happen at work.

It is interesting that the best gift ever still involves time; the giving of one’s self to another. General “Mad Dog” Mattis, the newly appointed nominee for Secretary of Defense is famous for many things. But one very unassuming trait that has been reported by several sources describes a Christmas Day when someone called onto the base and asked for the Officer of the Day (OD). The OD role is traditionally rotated among junior officers. The caller asked “Who is the OD?”. The person answering the call said “Gen. Mattis”. The caller said “No, he’s the base Commander.” The other person said, “No, he’s the OD today. He sent the Lieutenant home to spend time with his family. Mattis is here right now. He’s the OD.”

Here’s a senior executive who decided to give of himself to let a junior officer spend a cherished holiday with family when that Lieutenant otherwise would have drawn “the short straw” to be OD on Christmas Day.

[reminder]When was the last time you gave that kind of time to your subordinates? Or to your own family?[/reminder]

Think about gift giving. Maybe there is one more gift you need to arrange before Christmas or year end comes.

PS –  It’s been a great year here at DougThorpe.com. I am grateful to the thousands who have subscribed to this blog and followed my messages. Please accept my humble wishes for you and yours to have a blessed and Merry Christmas. If you do not celebrate Christmas, may you be blessed too as 2016 winds down and we wait for the New Year.