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Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus Reviewed by an Experienced Project Manager

Lead like Santa Claus

This post was written by Peg Duggan, PMP, PMI-ACP, Project Manager, Trainer, and Certification Coach.  It was first published in the December 2017 edition of the PMI New Hampshire Chapter Newsletter.

Learn from the Best PM of Them All

Sometimes we re-read books that we find inspirational.  I read the Robert Fulghum poem “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” because it grounds me in who I am a person, as an individual.

I read The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus by Eric Harvey because it provides valuable insight on being a better leader. The following is my summary of this book.

Indeed, Santa Claus serves as a wise leadership role-model and the book is a lighthearted and easy-to-read resource for all leaders.  Switching between manager and leader, it’s not easy being Santa Claus.  Imagine managing an operation where the results are centered on one long night and there is no wiggle room to change that milestone.  And do it year after year.  Imagine the challenges faced in coordinating resources in the workshop; maintaining equipment, running production, reading every letter and checking the lists, twice.  Imagine the responsibility of keeping employees, reindeer, and Mrs. Claus happy and motivated while pursuing the ultimate goal of delighting customers.

Sound like your project?

Do “Big Things” and Lead Effectively

The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus by Eric Harvey outlines a “sackful” of content which provides insight into the foundation of great management skills and coaching practices.  It centers on two real and important facts. First, “to survive and prosper, you and your organization must be able to achieve “big things” throughout each year”.  Second, “you can’t get those big things done without effective leadership.”

After reading this book, you will be able to rate your “workshop”.  These are the areas you are responsible for.  And outline what you can do more of, less of, or what you can do differently as a leader. 

Santa’s Leadership Tips

Build a Wonderful Workshop. Everyone should know the mission and vision and why it is important. Focus on your people because they make it happen. Be guided by your values and share with your team which values are important. Choose Your Reindeer Wisely. Teamwork is important. Team members must be committed and responsible, dependable, and focused on customer service. Hire the right team members and promote for the right reasons. And remember that “different” team members bear different gifts that can add value in the workshop.
  • Build a Wonderful Workshop. Everyone should know the mission and vision and why it is important. Focus on your people because they make it happen. Be guided by your values and share with your team which values are important.
  • Choose Your Reindeer Wisely. Teamwork is important. Team members must be committed and responsible, dependable, and focused on customer service. Hire the right team members and promote for the right reasons. And remember that “different” team members bear different gifts that can add value in the workshop.
  • Make a List and Check It Twice. Plan the work and work the plan with clearly defined goals.  Know what, why, when, where, who and how.  Ask “what if…?”  Check again.  Make the most of your time, money, material, equipment, and employee talent and expertise.
  • Listen to the Elves. Ask and listen to employees’ ideas and opinions.  Know what people want and need.  Constructively accept feedback and act on that information.  Walk in their shoes, and on occasion, work next to your team members.
  • Say “Ho, Ho, Ho, but Don’t Forget the Snow”. Be contagious, build enthusiasm.  Set the example.  It starts with you.  Catch them performing well.  Say Thank You.  Make recognition part of everyone’s job.  Expect the unexpected.  Solve problems together.  Remember to get out of the way.  
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  • Give Them Gifts That Last a Lifetime. Training includes teaching how to be successful.  Start with technical knowledge and skills.  Then, help team members learn, grow, and develop the skills beyond the craft—characteristics for employee success – how to be successful.  Good interpersonal relationships are critical to maintaining a positive environment and high-quality performance.  Provide your team with the gifts of great leadership gifts that last a lifetime, including Pride and Professionalism. (Care about what they do and about who they are.)
  • Help Repair What’s broken. Use Santa’s CALM Model for conflict resolution: Clarify the issue; Address the problem; Listen to the other side, and Manage your way to resolution.
  • Get Beyond the Red Wagons. Accept that things change.  Recommend change.  Explain why.  Lay out the facts.  Discuss benefits to be gained.  Ask for commitment to the new direction.  Be decisive and sensitive. Remember, the customer is really in charge. Always monitor.  The more employees understand about how the business works, the more likely they are to accept and support change.
  • Share the Milk and Cookies. Provide a way to share feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment. Show the positive differences in what they do and that it couldn’t be done without them. Don’t take anyone for granted – do right by those who do right. Have an attitude of gratitude. Show appreciation. Expand reinforcement possibilities. Recognition is everyone’s responsibility.
  • Find Out Who’s Naughty and Nice. Confront performance problems, early. Bad behavior is not fair to others. Coach, especially the Majority in the Middle, but don’t forget the Super Stars.
  • Be Good for Goodness Sake: Set the example.  Others are watching… and learning.  Model the behaviors you expect from others.  Everything counts so pay attention to the “small stuff.”  Be aware, provide feedback, display “zero tolerance” and ask, “What’s Right?”  

Rate YOUR Workshop

In addition to Santa’s Secrets, The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus also provides a checklist to use in your own “workshop,” words to remember, and a commitment letter to Santa Claus which outlines your next steps.

This book is published in many formats and available from your favorite reading source. It is also a great book to share.

About the Author of Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus

Eric Harvey is founder and president of the Walk the Talk company and a leading expert on high-achieving leaders and organizations.  Walk the Talk has worked with thousands of organizations worldwide including multinational corporations, leading health care providers, high-tech start-ups, and highly respected nonprofit organizations.  Eric has authored twenty-five books that have sold millions of copies including the bestsellers; Walk the Talk, Ethics 4 Everyone, Walk Awhile in My Shoes, The Power of 10%…How Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference, The 10 Commandments of Leadership, and Go for the Gold

About the Author of this Article, Peg Duggan

Peg Duggan, PMP, PMI-ACP, is a project manager focused on the project, programs, and portfolio management for the Diocese of Manchester, NH.  She is also the owner of MAD by Design providing consulting on web development, marketing and social media strategy, and training professionals preparing to sit for their PMP certification. She believes in giving back and has volunteered for the PMI New Hampshire Chapter for over 15 years including serving as chapter president.


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