James Robbins
The Robbins Group
Calgary, Alberta

Holidays are here and you know it’s customary if you’re a manager to send greeting cards to your staff. The problem is you hate the whole process.  I am going to show you how to create a holiday greeting card like they have never laid eyes on before.

In our virtual world of email and text messaging, the hand written card has been placed on the endangered species list. The good news is that with rarity comes great value. I want to encourage you to redefine the holiday greeting card. I want you to create something that will actually move your staff emotionally. What we have to get away from are the usual cards everyone writes each year. You know, the one’s where we sign our name and maybe write the words “Seasons Greetings” if they are not already included on the card. I am talking about a new standard, a human resources work of art. Imagine for a minute that this year, your employees will actually keep the card you write them. Imagine that they actually take it home and show their family, and that they even bring it back to work in January and keep it in their desk to read every time they are feeling discouraged. Imagine that they auction it off on EBay for a ton of money as “Best Card Ever Written…” Ok, now we are getting carried away.

We have become numb to the mechanical expectation of exchanging cards, and the good news for you and me is expectations are at an all time low. Employees do not expect their greeting cards from their managers to say much. So if you are willing to spend a little extra time, you can make a big impression on your employees this holiday season. Here are some ideas how.

Don’t assume Hallmark can say it better than you
In fact go and buy the cards that are blank on the inside. This forces you to write something yourself.  Now what do you write?

Personalize it
In the card you want to write more than just ‘Happy Holidays,’ or ‘Thanks for all the great effort.’ Use the card to inspire, thank, recognize and uplift the employee.

Praise the past
Include a memory detailing one of their specific accomplishments during the year.
“Bob, I’ll never forget how in March you organized that meeting when tensions were high and you set everyone at ease. That was pure magic. You set an example for us all.”

Comment on their growth
Let each employee know how much you have seen him or her grow this year.
“Sara, I am so proud to see how much you have grown as an up-and-coming manager. I remember how at the start of the year you used to get a bit stressed about the paperwork and now you handle it with ease which has freed you up to use that Midas Touch you seem to have with the rest of the staff.”

Let them know they are integral to the team
People want to feel they are needed. Let them know specifically how the team relies on them.
“Joe, I hope you realize how important you are to the team here. Not only are you the one that cheers everyone up, but your knowledge base is incredible and continues to grow. When anyone in the office needs to know something it’s always “Go ask Joe.” I don’t know what we would do without you.”

Point out where you have learned from them
This is huge because people want to feel respected by you as a boss. If they feel like you have learned something from them, it will communicate a huge amount of respect from you. Whether it is something big or as little as how someone handles customers on the phone, the key is to let them know they have value.
“Kelly, you may not realize it but I have learned a lot from you this year. I see how patient you are when training the new hires, and it has made me begin to imitate that quality in you. Because of your example I have become a more patient manager, thank you.”

Acknowledge tough times
If an employee suffered from something during the year, maybe an illness, death of a family member, or trials with home life, you can also comment on how you admire them for persisting in tough circumstances and that your thoughts will be with them this holidays. The key here is to be sensitive and really care. This will mean a lot.

If you follow even a couple of these ideas, it will make your greeting cards stand out. Your staff will not bother comparing cards to see if you wrote the same thing in everyone’s card because they are all so individualized. Remember the key is it has to be genuine and from the heart. This is not just a way to manipulate your staff into staying with you longer.

I know what you might be thinking, how on earth will you have time to write a card like this to every one of your employees? That’s why I am sending this to you now.  Do not wait.  December is the busiest month of all. Write one a day, or one a week depending on how many direct reports you have. In the end it is a small thing to do that goes a long way. All you need to do is start early and you will be amazed at how many employees warmly thank you for the card at the company Christmas party. You may even hear “It’s the nicest card any boss has ever given me.”

Share this with a manager you know.

James Robbins is a rare mix of adventurer, management consultant and motivational speaker. He helps organizations lower their turnover by equipping managers to create engaging workplaces. Visit James on line at 

Visit James on line at http://jamesrobbins.com

Robbins, James
James Robbins