Making the most of Holiday Parties

As we come to the end of the year, many of us will be participating in holiday parties for our businesses with our companies and potentially customer/partners as well.  While some dread these events, they provide a great opportunity to socialize and network.

To make the most out of these parties, try following a few of the tips below:

First and foremost, yes, you have to go.  Unless you already have something else planned, you should attend the company party.  It is important for you to support your colleagues who put together the party and you will probably be surprised at how much fun you have in a social non-work environment.

Set boundaries.  It is likely that there will be alcohol served at the event, so make sure you set a level of boundaries and limits and keep yourself in check.  While this is meant to be a social event, impressions of your character will be made even at these after hour activities.  You don’t want to be the person that everyone is talking about in the coming days – “Did you see Sally at the party?”  After 30 years of attending these events, I can still remember people who went a bit overboard and we still talk about them at social gatherings – “Remember when Ted head butted that goat?”  Have fun, but set some boundaries and keep yourself in check.

While it may be difficult, because this is what you have in common with others in the room, don’t talk about work – this is a social event and not one to hash out the issues of the day.  Make sure you focus on building social relationships with your co-workers.  Gaining a stronger understanding of each other at a personal level will help the effectiveness at the office and make everyone more productive.

Parties are generally a good opportunity to interact with people that you don’t necessarily know or see on a regular basis.  Try not to spend all of your time with your regular office buddies.  Use this time to mingle and network.  Many people wonder if they should approach a senior executive.  While senior executives are at the party for a social event, this is a great time to interact with them.  Again, try not to focus on business, but make small talk about something interesting in the market, world events or their favorite sports team.  I have heard that the safest question to ask is about their holiday plans.  Getting to know them in this environment will help them form an opinion and potentially remember you at important times in the future.

Last but not least, be thankful and share gratitude.  In these times where everything is connected and constantly measured, we are often reminded about all of the challenges that lay ahead.  We should use this time to reflect on the progress that we have made through the year and celebrate successes.  Spend time at these events thanking others for their support and sharing your appreciation for their efforts throughout the year.  Specifically remember to thank the host and coordinator of the party.  This is often a thankless job.

So as the holidays approach, be safe and make the most of the holiday parties.

Happy Holidays!

Check the Boxes

Through everyone’s life and career, there will be opportunities to make changes.  Some of those opportunities will not be specifically in our plan (driven by forces outside of our control) and some will be part of the evolution of our life plans.  During decision making in either example, it’s best to have a well calculated evaluation process that is fact based to help you cut though all of the obstacles.

I call that process – Check the Boxes.

In a Check the Boxes process, as you begin considering the opportunities, identify the key items that are most important to you and that you want to ensure you either maintain or acquire with the upcoming change.  As you outline these factors give each a rating of 1 to 5.  By using this simple system, you will be able to eliminate options from your processes and focus only on those that provide a favorable rating in your system.

By way of example, let’s say that you have the opportunity to look for a new job.  This may be because you want to continue to expand your career or that your current company is making some changes and you happen to be caught up in a force reduction.  Either way, look at it as a positive opportunity to make some changes and align closer with your ideal role and goals.  I use this process often with the university students that I mentor and colleagues I work with.

Start the process by identifying all of the potential factors in looking for a new role, whether they are immediately important or not.  Factors like: company, type of industry, location, work environment, commute times, salary & benefits, travel requirements, opportunities to advance, stability of company.  While the list could go on and on, each of the factors are relevant in a position.

Once you have the broad field of factors identified, begin to narrow it down to the key items that are critical to you and give them a weight of importance.  For instance, if type of industry is one of the most critical factors, give it a high rating and as you begin to evaluate opportunities, only include ones that align with this value.  This is what I call Checking the Box.

At the end of this initial process, you should have 4 – 5 key factors that you will want to consider in your decision making process.  As you go through the process, chose to move forward with those options that have the most boxes checked.

Again, the Check the Box process is one that can be used in most decision making situations, at a personal level or professional level.  Buying a car or entering a new market.  Taking a new job or hiring a new employee.

One of the key parts to the process is being true to yourself and basing your decision on fact based logic.  Obviously emotions will always play into a decision, but by using this Check the Box process you can begin to minimize the impact of pure emotion on your decision.

As you have learned from my previous posts, I like to keep it simple.  I hope that this is another simple process for you to use in your personal or professional life.

Have a great day!


Keep It Simple

Over my career I have been through numerous training courses, facilitated strategic planning meetings, seminars and coaching sessions.  Many of them focused on different methods and processes to drive the success of my company or organization.  Most of them are based on complicated and convoluted processes which focus on hundreds of moving parts and different formulas.

While I am sure that the methods are based on sound underlying foundations and if utilized, could have a big impact on the performance of an organization.  Unfortunately, due to their complexity, many of the concepts are never utilized after the initial meetings.   By keeping it simple and easy to understand, the likelihood of a process being adopted is much higher.

One of the first sales training methodologies that I learned early in my career was the KISS method.  While there are many variations of the acronym, the one I learned was Keep It Simple, Stupid.  The foundation of the KISS principle is that most systems work best when they are kept simple rather than complicated; therefore simplicity should be a key goal in design and unnecessary complexity should be avoided.

The KISS philosophy isn’t only for sales situations and actually originated in the 1960’s by the US Navy and Lockheed Martin from an engineering perspective.  The philosophy is also applicable to management and leadership.  If you base your leadership style on simple underlying principles, it will be easier for your team to align and follow.

Three Pillars for Keeping It Simple:

  1. Clarity of Purpose – by establishing a clear purpose at all levels in an organization, people will understand how they fit and support the broader purpose. Most people like to know that they are part of something bigger – establishing a single broad purpose across the organization helps them feel like they are making a difference.
  2. Focused Execution – without a focus on execution in an organization, the team can meander and not achieve their goals and targets. Ensuring that everyone understands the need to focus on implementing the plan will ensure targets are hit and everyone reaches success.
  3. Measured Accountability – by putting measurements in place and driving accountability in an organization your team will fully understand what is expected of them and how well they are achieving their goals. Accountability doesn’t mean micromanaging or not giving people the autonomy to achieve success in their own way.  It simply ensures that measurements are put in place to track progress toward goals and allows for course changes if necessary along the way.

While I have put these pillars in the context of leading an organization, they can be used in many different situations.  For instance in my last post, I talked about a 10 year plan ( – you can follow the pillars above to work your plan.  Have clarity in the purpose of your plan and each element.  Focus your execution to achieve the milestones and end points of the plan. And finally, you need to hold yourself accountable to delivering against your plan.

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