Balancing act: It's not too late to give work 'gifts'
Useful feedback. Even as people like to hear that they are appreciated, most also want to know when they're veering off track. As a manager or team leader, you have a great opportunity to give gentle nudges, in a positive way, and help projects come to fruition. Don't be afraid to offer constructive criticism when you know it will help a team member succeed.
Attention on a professional level. Every worker wants to feel like he or she is more than just another cog in the corporate machine. Show by your words and actions that you understand what your team members do each day and how hard they work to meet personal, team and company goals.
Attention on a personal level. Managers, especially, can bestow this gift. Take the time to get to know your team members. If you understand the pressures they face outside of the office, you may better comprehend how those stresses can affect their work. That means you'll be able to offer flexibility and understanding at the right times, building loyalty and improving your corporate culture.
Team-building activities. Sure, you need to get your work done, and frivolity at the office shouldn't derail productivity. However, the occasional fun activity — a movie outing, visit to a museum or catered lunch in the office, for example — can go a long way toward building personal bonds among team members. Such events also serve as a release valve when pressure is building, and even small activities can build large amounts of goodwill.
Opportunities to grow and progress. Most people don't want a job that never forces them to stretch their abilities or learn new things. Look for ways to keep your team members engaged by challenging them to develop new skills and take on new tasks. This may be the gift that keeps on giving if it allows them to earn merit raises or positions them for future promotions.
All of these presents can be provided at any time of the year, and in my experience, both the giver and receiver appreciate them.
Best of all, succeeding in this kind of gift-giving doesn't depend on hobbits, orcs or wizards on the silver screen.
(Speaking of that, do you think they would consider stretching "The Hobbit" into four movies if I asked nicely?)