Rethinking Gifts at Work This Holiday

Abundance Personal leadership


Story: The following note (I’ve removed information that might disclose the person’s identity) was unexpected, and came from someone I’ve not connected with very much over the last couple of years. It made me a little choked up.

“I wanted to reconnect to say what an absolute privilege it was to be a part of your team. I joined… and was bug-eyed in awe over your vision for [the company]. How did I get so lucky to work at such a place? In my early days we were having a big meeting/discussion about trust, and I questioned why — in that case — we would put new people through a 6-month probation period. You promptly nixed probation, period. Your vision for [the company], your ability to share that vision through story-telling, and most impressively your rallying of the team towards that vision has been something truly remarkable to be a part of. The legacy that you have left behind are precious gifts. Lastly, throughout everything, you were always 100% genuine you. From your smile & laughs, to your dance moves, to your time for a quick hello… Your presence emanated throughout… And paved a foundation that I feel very fortunate to still be… I’m a better team member because of you, a better contributor to [the company] and a better person. I look forward to continuing to hear your words of wisdom, and hope that our paths may cross again.”

The best gifts I’ve received from people at work have been in the form of a lasting memory. People who have taken some time to write a precious note like the one above is an example. In a few cases (like the painting I received from a team of colleagues), something material will also be treasured. The same can be said for a few awards that recognize legacy contribution. I can still remember receiving a prestigious Chairman’s award with two other colleagues for something called the “Cottage Strategy.” The work led by this group of people transformed a Fortune 50 company’s approach to the market. The walk up to the stage to share in the award is forever embossed in my mind. Yet, the gifts that have actually changed my life the most are the ones like the excerpt above, where someone has personally told me that I’ve made a difference to them.

Key Point: I think that a Starbucks card or bottle of wine are nice holiday season gifts, I really do. And I’ve been grateful when I’ve received or given them. Still, the gifts that keep on giving as the cliche goes, are those that cost nothing but your thoughtful time, and are truly priceless to the receiver. So who at work (besides your boss) might you give a big bright present made up of your most sincere gift of appreciation? What thoughtfully crafted words will you use to tell someone how much they’ve made a difference in your life? That gift will be opened many times.

Lead Yourself Moves:

  1. How about if you take a quiet moment during a very busy holiday season to tell someone, in detail, how they’ve positively had an impact on you? It could be digital or actually a handwritten card. It will go into that person’s “big head file,” and on the day they really need it, it’s there to reopen. No returns or gift receipts required.

Lead Others Moves:

  1. Take a moment to tell every direct report how you SEE them, and how much they matter to you and/or the organization’s or group’s purpose.

Lasting Gifts in Personal Leadership,


One Millennial View: There’s a reason secret Santa gifts are often gags, they aren’t expected to mean much or last very long. While the fish shaped neck tie or dollar store trinket is always fun, a meaningful note probably won’t wind up in the trash before New Years.

– Garrett

Blog 952 edited and published by Garrett Rubis