8 Holiday Leadership Skills for Maximum Merriment

Glittering ornaments winking in the firelight. Laughter harmonizing with the musical soundtrack of the season. Family and friends exchanging brightly colored gifts, hugs and hopes for an even brighter tomorrow. Meanwhile, you feel like a ticking time bomb, counting down the minutes until it’s finally over, and things can go back to normal. If this feels familiar, you’re not alone.

Senior businessman discussing documents with a young female colleague in a modern office.

It’s common to feel stress when it comes to the trappings and gatherings of the holiday season – especially when family is involved. However, whether you know it or not, you have accumulated an arsenal of tools to help you through the holiday madness from dealing with everyday issues at work. Learn how you can transfer your workplace skills to holiday leadership success to conquer stress and lead the way to a happier holiday season.

1. Make a Game Plan

When preparing for a meeting with intimidating colleagues or difficult customers, you probably visualize numerous scenarios for how the meeting will go. Do the same when facing situations that involve challenging personalities during the holidays. Before you start figuring out how you want to look for an event, plan how you want to act. Consider all potential scenarios and figure out how to best deal with each of them. With a game plan in place, you can remain calm and proactive in the face of adversity.

2. Manage Expectations

Managing expectations is one of the most critical leadership skills in the workplace. The same holds true with holiday leadership. Impossible expectations inevitably cause disappointment and frustration. Ensure that goals are attainable by maintaining realistic standards. Don’t expect perfection or even anything close to it. Your life is not a heartwarming holiday movie. Own it and be grateful for your blessings rather than lamenting what you think you’re missing.

3. Prioritize

Are you feeling overwhelmed with seemingly never-ending lists and agendas of what you need to do, get and prepare? Don’t. Stress can make us project negativity in our body language and tone, affecting the people around us. Use your professional prioritization savvy to remove unimportant line items from your lists. Delegating and outsourcing tasks, while eliminating unnecessary ones, takes an enormous amount of pressure off and empowers you to take control of the situation rather than the situation controlling you.

4. Be Mindful

At work, you wouldn’t dream of engaging in inappropriate conversations that are going to be disruptive to a positive working atmosphere and derail teamwork. Leverage your holiday leadership skills to use this office mindset when facing cringe-worthy conversations, reactions and actions. Be mindful of your facial expressions and body language to conceal discomfort and help neutralize potentially toxic situations.

Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan sociology professor Terri Orbuch indicates that anxiety accelerates your heart rate and causes physical bodily changes. When you feel emotional shifts in response to another person, try to regulate your physical reactions to avoid making the situation worse. Focus on your breathing. Take slow, deep breaths and exhale fully. A few mindful moments to channel your inner calm can relieve tension and prevent you from contributing to an already awkward situation.

5. Be Intentional with Your Actions and Words

Don’t just dial it in at holiday gatherings. It’s not enough to just show up and avoid conflict. Use your holiday leadership skills to influence others to ensure positive outcomes. Intentionally interact with those around you. Engage difficult personalities in pleasantries and avoid controversial topics.

6. Be Positive

When dealing with difficult family members, focus on their positive characteristics to get the most out of your time together. Keep conversation to common interests and things they find meaningful like hobbies, loved ones and pets. Or, discuss happy memories to smooth out any wrinkles in the discussion. Make sure to actively listen and express sincere interest in their responses.

7. Practice Empathy

One of the most useful holiday leadership skills is empathy. Everyone is coming from a unique perspective and has something happening in their lives that you don’t know about. So, give problematic family members the benefit of the doubt. They are probably not trying to be annoying and could just be nervous or dealing with difficulties.

8. Make Time for One-on-Ones

We all have our favorites in the family who we especially look forward to seeing during the holidays. However, large family events can severely limit quality time with these people. So, arrange to meet for coffee or lunch before the event for some one-on-one time. This way you can catch up and reconnect in a quiet space rather than trying to do so surrounded by difficult and demanding personalities.

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