Surf the December Tidal Wave

December 01

If you are a manager, chances are that saying today’s date, “December 01” causes this involuntary yet sharp intake of your breath. In fact, you don’t even have to say the words out loud. The year doesn’t matter, not really. But December does, as the last month of the year. And that 01 does, as the beginning of a countdown you feel no longer can be held in check. The days will start to run away from you, and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it.

There is a lot of weight felt with December 1, a lot of pressure. A lot of responsibility.

Whether you have a small team or large one, you know you have held so much of the responsibility for the last year they have experienced at work, and within a workplace environment you have shaped, for all managers create a culture of some kind, including you. Hey, you know I’m not letting you off the hook with this one: I write about my overall theme of Managing with Aloha so we managers own up to that responsibility.

So on December 01 you think about the work culture that has been delivered by your hands, and you pause, and you feel this colliding mesh of emotions, but mostly you get pretty stressed. You even get stressed when you have a banner year, where you have had more successes than not, and where most of your goals have been met. The stress comes because you will still ask yourself, “but has it been enough?” and “what have we forgotten?” or “what might we still have time for?”

I know the feeling. I remember having it each December 01, and I still do!

I can’t even tell you why it hits us this way, with such unrelenting take-no-hostages force. It just does, as one of those universal experiences we managers have even when we feel we’ve done a great job. It just is.

So what to do?

I have a two-part suggestion for you. At first you are likely to think I am being unrealistic, but if you are completely honest, and keep reading with an open mind you will admit I’m right about this, and to fight it is silly. To fight it is what is really unrealistic.

1. I’ve learned that the best thing is to just recognize this December 1 stress for the 5 minutes or so it takes you today, and then shake it off and forget about it. Let the weight of the day settle on your shoulders for those 5 minutes, go ahead and grunt as loudly as you like, shut your door and scream if it will make you feel better, but then no more: Let it be over. 5 minutes should be all you give to recognizing it.

2. Second, fast forward to December 31 in your minds eye: In other words, consider December as NOT being on your business calendar at all. Your business year ended yesterday, and these next 31 days are all extra, and for anything but business as usual.

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Because you know what? That’s the way it’s gonna be anyway. There is no more “business as usual” for 2009. You can’t stop the rest of the world from being in the holiday mindset any more than you could stop a tidal wave. Actually, December is a kind of tidal wave. One of emotions which need to run their course. Be grateful that December is here at your beck and call as a kind of container for it all.

It gets highly inconvenient in some ways, but starting December 1, many people begin to put everything off until “after the holidays.” People who truly work on trying to finish the year well begin to look like some hard-nosed Ebenezer Scrooge to everyone else, and so people will humor you, but what they really want is to concentrate on loving the holidays, loving their families, loving the winter, loving everything that is not about work, and not about business. They don’t come right out and say it, but really, truly? They feel they gave you eleven months, and now the least you can do is give them business NOT as usual in December.

So give it to them. Really. Give them a month of extra fluff you can’t give them the rest of the year. December is a really great opportunity for we managers to be completely, unashamedly human, vulnerable to the holiday spirit, immersed in it just as much as the rest of the world. Just go for it. Minimize the business seriousness and enjoy December.

It’s not to often you get to try surfing a tidal wave.


too much surf in your head? by Helder on Flickr

I’m going to challenge myself with this too. December of 2009 is going to be different for me, a different wave I can ride much more gleefully than I have in past Decembers, where I have scurried around like some squirrel collecting nuts for a grueling winter.

We’ll see where this leads, and I’d love to hear your suggestions!

I’ll start with one: I am also introducing our learning theme on Joyful Jubilant Learning today, check it out: Learners Return Home for the Holidays