Several years back, on the day of our company Christmas party, my mentor and boss Tom Hassey came into my office, sat down and said, “I hope the reviews go as planned tonight.” Shocked by his statement, I asked him, “Do you really plan to sit down and conduct annual reviews at the Christmas party?” As always, his response was priceless: “This is one of the few times during the year that I’ll be able to gather three very important bits of information.”
Tom would make every attempt to have a conversation with everyone, except for his direct reports. He would tell me, “I talk to you guys on a day to day basis, so I’d like to spend more time with them.” This was very important, because we had four levels of management, plus a full admin staff.
Here’s a recap of the how, where, and why Tom would spend his time at the Christmas Party.
- With the “open bar” at the Christmas party, everyone’s guard would be down, and Tom would be able to observe another side of how each employee would act during a social setting. If there’s someone who’s had a little too much “liquid courage,” this can make for some interesting observations, especially if Tom’s considering someone for a promotion or a visible position within the company.
- Lesson for me: During any social gathering that has an open bar, I have a rule that I never violate: I drink no more than two vodka tonics with a lime–after the first one, it’s water with a lime so no one knows the difference. I don’t want to draw attention to the fact that I’m drinking water.
- Tom would make sure to sincerely thank the spouses or significant others of every employee for understanding the time and travel commitment the job demands. He always told me, appreciation is always best when given in advance, the Thank You is a welcome sign of respect and understanding.
- Lesson for me: Pillow talk is very powerful; sometimes the most meaningful conversations are the ones just before you fall asleep at night! Make sure both the employee and the spouse understand that the effort to go above and beyond expectation is acknowledged and appreciated.
- Tom would never, under any circumstances talk specifically about business. He wanted to maintain the social aspect of the night; he would always start a conversation with what’s important to the employee/spouse. It could be family, hobbies, travel or anything of interest to that person. He had an to ability of making you feel that the conversation you had with him was one of the most important conversations of the night!
- Lesson for me: Take an honest interest in getting to know each employee on a personal basis. One of the most important aspects is, you must be sincere about your interest in others. This is done by keeping eye contact, and staying engaged in the conversation, and above all, don’t ever brag and talk about your own accomplishments.
Tom was one of my best mentors, because he taught me how important it is to take an honest interest in others.
As I’ve said before, Tom would always tell me:
If you don’t take care of your employees,
They will never take care of you.
Merry Christmas to all!!