These times are very busy for Father Christmas. He must need to juggle many priorities, has a massive goal and all the while he needs to keep his staff engaged and motivated. Failure cannot be contemplated, yet I have heard that Elves can be just as difficult to manage as your normal staff member. In fact the latest Gallup Staff Engagement Survey undertaken at the North Pole suggested a concerning level of disengagement amongst Elves. Surely the principles of engagement and motivation apply to Elves as well. We know what they are – Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. But even where Purpose is easy to relate to (think of the millions of children and their smiling faces) there may be problems in other areas. Gallup found a number of issues in their North Pole survey – lack of clarity around the product, short termism (only annual goals – nothing longer), low recognition levels (a daily “Ho Ho Ho” was deemed insufficient), their opinions seemed not to count for much (one of the comments suggested that the “Red Suited One” accepted all opinions as long as they were his), and their immediate supervisor always seemed to be more focused on other things rather than his staff.

So I thought it would be timely to give Santa some advice. I know he avidly reads my posts as I am in regular touch with him and count him amongst my most interesting clients (though I am regularly in contact re invoice payment – he is not a good payer and his continuing suggestions of slow Reindeer in lieu of payment are starting to wear somewhat thin). Anyway, I want to share with you all the suggestions I sent to him just yesterday:

  1. Listen. You obviously don’t listen to my advice, mate. If that is a measure of your listening skills then it is no wonder your staff are on a go slow today. Put the black belt away, stop threatening a Reindeer stampede, sit down with your head Elves and listen! If you must talk ask a question for clarity. And put a sock in those Ho Ho Ho’s – they are badly affecting engagement

  2. Lead By Example. You can’t continue to plead that you are doing tasting tests of your products. Everyone knows that your well-publicised weight challenges are the product of down right laziness and the desire to have a good time. Get some practical work clothes on, pull your sleeves up and do some real work. Your Elves will appreciate it

  3. Allocate the work evenly. You can’t have the senior Elves doing all the work. Those guys are pushing 1500 years now and they can’t be expected to continue to perform in the way they did when they broke all those records in 1756. Develop your youngsters. They may have only passed the 100 years stage, but they are starting to grow up and are wanting to get better at what they do. Sure they may be wayward at times, but take the leap of faith – they will repay you many times over

  4. Start those One on One’s again. Don’t talk about yourself all the time in these meetings. They are all about your staff, not you. And you have come up with so many excuses why you haven’t done them – I think “coaching Rudolf on celestial navigation” took the cake. For goodness sake, get with the times and invest in some GPS units. One on one’s mean you just may get to know your Elves more, how to motivate them and engage them. That will help

  5. Get Engaged Yourself. I get the distinct feeling that your levels of engagement are not great. Sure, its hard work and your staff can be very difficult at times, but spending all of November wine tasting in the Hawkes Bay, at a time when the workshop was needing to really ramp up, was possibly poorly timed. It was great to see you, and we did find some very good wines (if I remember right that Gimblett Gravels Syrah was especially good – near that big hill – was it “rough” or “Craigy” – I can’t remember), but maybe next year you can organise the trip in the middle of the year and go skiing as well – though you will possibly need to visit the gym a bit before you come down. And please can you fly in a normal aircraft next time. That sleigh caused panic amongst our air traffic controllers and it’s no wonder your reindeer are overweight and unfit – bring your own feed next time, raiding the Takanini NRM feed store just will not do (I hear they are still somewhat stressed from the experience, though some of them have found that the reindeer sh** has been great for the Christmas spuds)

To all of you I hope you learnt something from that. Yes, he is a difficult client, but like all my clients it truly is a privilege to work with him. To you and yours, have a Very Merry Christmas and a prosperous and reflective New Year. Keep focused, stay well and keep out of Santa’s way on Saturday night – he could be a bit stressed!


Phil Pickford