Manage the End-of-Year Madness
For creative leaders, holiday time and end-of-year can be disastrous unless they’re handled well. Many managers end up working harder in the weeks between Halloween and Christmas than they do in all the other months of the year—which is really saying something considering their Herculean efforts all the rest of the time. Internal clients are trying to burn through their budgets before the year ends. Simultaneously, creative teams are trying to use up their PTO before they lose it. Then, there are the distractions caused by long lists of personal to-dos that accompany everyone’s holidays.
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Sometimes it seems that a disproportionate number of surprises (some of them not too jolly) come at the end of the year, which only increases the stress of managing your teams and their outcomes. To deal with the pressure, consider these seven steps. They can help turn a potentially stressful season into a truly manageable one.
Breathing is such an underrated tool. When times get tough, we restrict our breathing without even realizing it. Steadily breathing in and out brings oxygen to the brain, which enables us to think more clearly. Try this: take a breath in through the nose for five seconds, then out through the mouth for five seconds. Notice how your shoulders fall gently and relax into a healthier position. Your heart is likely shifting to a calmer rhythm. If you haven’t already, take a look at some of the apps—Calm, for example—that are fantastic for lowering stress and anxiety.
2. Pay Attention
Now that you’ve brought some calm to your body, pay attention to your mind. Are you jumping from one thought to another? Do you feel scattered? Take another breath and consider how you’re modeling behavior that others will follow. If you’re edgy, they’ll feel edgy—the same goes for being abrupt, snarky or kind. Choose your words, tone of voice and body posture carefully. You set the stage for
congeniality by how you behave.
This applies to two components:
- People: Who’s going on vacation when and who’s covering for them? Do you need freelance support?
- Projects: What’s on the plates now, and what’s coming up between this moment and March 31, 2020 that we can get a head start on?
If you don't have a project management tool that can hand you the answers, make a spreadsheet. It’s not hard, and it’s invaluable. When we name what’s happening, we can better manage it. The spreadsheet can be as simple as an Excel document listing projects down the left side, the creative person working on each project, the due dates and vacation dates. This alone can help you feel in control and empower you to delegate appropriately (and indicate when to bring in support staff as needed).
Using your organizational tool, decide who does what first. Sometimes it seems obvious that the earlier deadline needs to happen first, but we all know that the later deadline may require serious upfront due diligence. Take time to closely examine each project and determine its priority. Once you’ve done this analysis, share the priorities with your entire team so that everyone knows what’s expected of them and there are no surprises. People love clear direction. You can give them, and yourself, this gift.
5. Lead by Example
Step in and step up. Do some of the grunt work. Get in the weeds. This is crunch time. All hands on deck. (So many clichés, but they all apply.) At this time of year, everyone helps, regardless of title, function or interest level. Yes, other departments may be partying while we’re redoing the social media campaign in response to the latest sales results. But this is your moment of truth. Do you wander over to get a drink? Or do you bring a plate of cookies back to your team and dive back into the work?
Let’s face it. The holidays can be hardest on the leaders. We end up taking on the majority of the work left by vacationing staff members, and the buck stops with us regarding work quality, budgets and deadlines being met. We signed up for this, but it still can feel crummy. Have compassion for yourself. Not pity, compassion. Allow yourself to feel disgruntled a bit and then pick yourself up and get it done.
Go to the office party. Many a martyr has missed an office party, but the truth is everyone can take (and needs) a break. You’re no martyr, you’re a hardworking, creative leader who knows that taking a break and toasting with colleagues is important for your well-being and might even help your career.
Hope these tips give you a few things to think about and that you and your team have a wonderful (and easy) holiday season. If you need our assistance to cover vacations or 2020 projects, just reach out.
P.S. These same seven steps apply for your personal life too! Take time to enjoy the season.
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