It was almost Thanksgiving, which meant the Christmas holiday was around the corner. It’s one of my favorite times of the year. My team was working on a new Human Resources Information System which would go live for our organization in the second quarter of the coming year. The task at hand was bigger than we thought it was and we didn’t have enough resources to back-fill staff working on the project. So, everyone had their job and the new system work, which meant extra hours, evenings, and weekends. I felt bad for the time the team was away from their families. Our division usually gathered for a holiday party, but when I mentioned choosing a date, everyone responded with a “No” Actually, it was more emphatic, like “NOOOOOOOOO!” I was told by many of the team, in their own words, “we’ve been away from our family too much already; we just want time with them, not another night away.” I got the message.

When your staff is on overload and there’s nothing you can do to help, what do you do? In my situation, I told my wife about all their work and my worry they would “miss Christmas.” She said to me, “let’s decorate the offices for them.” On a Sunday afternoon, we shopped for Christmas decorations at Five Below, and since the movie Frozen was a big hit at the movies, we made it our theme. On Sunday evening, we went into the offices and decorated walls, ceilings, cubicles, and office doors. When the team arrived on Monday, they would walk into a “Frozen wonderland.”

I loved the smiles on their faces, something I hadn’t seen in quite some time. They loved the decorations and knew we didn’t hire it out (my decorating skills are at best adequate), which I could tell made it more special. From the comments I received in appreciation for having the offices decorated, you would have thought I had given each of them a $1,000. It was just Christmas decorations, but it meant something to them.  My message to them was “I care about you.” Their responses said, “We feel cared for.”

This experience reminded me of two things.

  1. Some things can’t be fixed – As a leader, we often want to fix things for our team. I’m guilty of that all the time, it’s my first instinct. In this situation, I couldn’t fix it, even though I badly wanted to. We were committed to the “go live” date and there were no more resources to bring to the project. I had to accept it wasn’t fixable. Even if I could, it might not have been the best thing for my team. You see as hard, taxing, and exhausting as it was, they grew individually and as a team through it all. They learned new skills and I’m confident they came out of the process stronger and more prepared for a future challenge.
  2. Doing for others shows you care – Many times I told my team that I appreciated their efforts on the project. I’m sure it was meaningful. Words are important and we should always express appreciation. However, I was reminded that actions are more powerful than words. When you do something for another person on your team, you are letting them know you care. We want to know others care about us.

When you have the opportunity, do something for another person. You’ll never regret it.

Whenever you possibly can, do good to those who need it. Proverbs 3:27 (GNT)

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