The Emotional Intelligence of Santa Claus

As a little kid, I loved the song “Santa Claus is coming to town.” And I would sing it over and over again.

But now that I’m an adult, I decided to be more proactive about it. Instead of waiting for Santa to come to me, I decided to go see him at the North Pole. I really did. That’s a picture of me in Santa’s lap at the North Pole.

North Pole, Alaska, that is. I stopped by to see him when I was speaking for the Alaska Association of Municipal Clerks.

As Santa and I had a chance to visit at length, I realized that he knew all about the keys to Emotional Intelligence hundreds of years ago. And some of it is summarized in his song, “Santa Claus is coming to town.”

For example, as a world leader, Santa knows that…

1. Leaders set the tone at work and at home.

They either create a positive tone in which people excel or they create a negative tone where people shut down. They are never neutral.

Good leaders like Santa create an environment that brings out the best in others. And those behaviors are almost entirely related to their soft skills or people skills.

Highly respected author and consultant, Karl Albrecht agrees. He writes:

“There is an ancient and immutable truth: The ability to sell, explain, persuade, organize, motivate, and lead others still holds first place. Making things happen still requires the ability to make people like you, respect you, listen to you, and want to connect to you. And by connect, I mean connect personally, not digitally. The human connection will always, always, always outrank the digital connection as a get-ahead skill.”

Yet, I’ll have to admit a lot of leaders don’t get it. I suppose that’s partly what keeps me in business. But I see way too many leaders who are trying to lead people, but they have zero people skills. They’ll even e-mail a coworker who is seated just 25 feet away rather than go and talk to the person face to face.

That’s why Richard Leider, the founding partner of the Inventure Group, wrote in Forbes magazine:

“People don’t leave companies; they leave leaders.”

By contrast, Santa is known for being a jolly old fellow. So everyone is glad to have him around. But Santa’s no pushover either. He’s close enough to his people to know who’s naughty and nice. That’s the kind of tone every leader should set.

The way Santa keeps the positive and negative in balance, is he knows that…

2. The best leaders keep on learning.

After all, he’s making a list and checking it twice. He’s not content to be stuck with last year’s information.

Some leaders and some people just don’t get that, however. They stop reading; stop listening to educational recordings, and stop attending seminars. Somehow they think they already know everything they need to know. Wrong!!! Or they think they’re too busy to keep on learning. Wrong again!!

That’s what one of my clients at Ceridian found out. Joe Herman, the Vice President of Marketing, sent out a notice saying he would give out 1500 copies of a truly great book on the topic of people skills … one copy for every manager, supervisor, and employee in his area of the company. His only requirement was that those who got a copy would agree to read it. Only 50 people grabbed onto his offer.

I believe you, the reader of my Tuesday Tips, are better than that. You know about the value of continual education. That’s why I’m offering my live webinar on Emotional Intelligence Ramped UP: Going beyond the Chicken Soup and Pleasant Smile to Positive Peak Performance. You can join me on December 17th, 2015, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  Santa would approve.

You see, Santa knows that …

3. Emotionally intelligent leaders are nice.

It even says it in his song, “so be good for goodness sake.”

Of course, being “nice” sounds rather naïve. So in the academic world we like to class it up by calling them “soft skills”.
And are those “soft skills” really all that important? You bet! Daniel Goleman proved that when he wrote his book on Emotional Intelligence. He cited study after study. For example:

The Harvard Business School identified empathy, perspective taking, rapport, and cooperation as the most desirable qualities in their applicants.
A national survey of employers revealed that technical skills were less important than the ability to learn on the job, listening and oral communication skills, adaptability and creative responses to setbacks, personal management, confidence, motivation, initiative, and pride in one’s accomplishments. And,
A similar study of corporations and their requirements for incoming MBA’s identified the three most desirable capabilities as communication skills, interpersonal skills, and initiative.

Unfortunately, some leaders don’t know how to be “nice.” They never received the training they need in Emotional Intelligence.

One employee shared this story with me about his emotionally ignorant leader. The employee said his sister passed away and her funeral was scheduled for Monday. When he told his boss, his boss said she died on purpose so I would have to miss work on the busiest day of the year. He then asked if I could change her burial to Friday because “That would be better for me.”

You can find many examples of leaders who are not nice, who simply do not have the soft skills they so desperately need. To make the point, one of my colleagues Dan Poynter shared several “real life” Dilbert-type examples with me. One marketing executive said, “Teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say.” And one supervisor remarked, “We know communication is a problem, but the company is not going to discuss it with the employees.”

Santa also models the right kind of behavior, because he knows that…

4. Emotionally intelligent leaders are accessible.

You can see them. They are available. And certainly, you can see Santa Claus in thousands of places across the country and around the world these days. He may be in a shopping mall, a community concert, or a workplace party.

In a similar sense, emotionally intelligent leaders work on increasing the quantity and quality of their communication.

If you’re a manager, for example, research from Eileen McDargh says you should be spending 80% of your time, money, and energy communicating with your supervisors. And if it’s your job to communicate with front-line employees, it had better be face-to-face. Anything else is less than effective and employees will complain about a “lack of communication” in your organization.

5. Emotionally intelligent leaders are tuned in.

Santa certainly is. After all, he “sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. And he knows if you’ve been bad or good.”

One of the best ways to tune in is to give your total attention to the other person when you’re interacting. Notice the color of the other person’s eyes as you shake hands. You’ll establish great eye contact as you communicate real interest.

At a reception following a business seminar, one man seemed to attract women like a magnet. There were more physically attractive men in the room, so this led one executive to ask another, “What’s his secret?” “Watch his eyes,” said the other. “When someone speaks, his eyes never leave theirs. He listens with rapt attention. That’s the secret. He knows that even if a person isn’t a charming conversationalist, he can be a big hit as a charmed listener.”

6. Emotionally intelligent leaders recognize the good in others.

Indeed, Santa would argue that that is his key mission in life. He knows if he recognizes achievement in others, he will be motivating them to keep on achieving. Santa’s example reminds us that great leaders are great recognizers.

Coach Bear Bryant said it beautifully: “I’m just a plow hand from Arkansas. But I have learned how to hold a team together, how to lift some men up, how to calm down the others, until finally they’ve got one heartbeat together, a team. There are just three things I’d ever say: If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, then we did it. If anything goes real good, then you did it. That’s all it takes to get people to win football games for you.”

And it’s not hard to find things to recognize. Nicki Joy reported the following story in her book, Selling is a Woman’s Game. A psychology professor sent cards to a dozen acquaintances which he selected at random. Each card had the same message, “Congratulations, you should be very proud.”

The result of his experiment was quite interesting. Everyone who received a card replied with a hearty “Thank you.” They reported new promotions, new grandchildren, new home purchases, and sports and school victories. Some of the respondents were pleasantly surprised by the professor’s acknowledgment, but they all felt they had done something worthy of praise. The moral is obvious: 1) Everybody wants recognition; 2) it’s easy to give; and 3) there’s always something you can recognize.

Final Thought: Santa Claus is coming to town. And you would do well to follow his example.


Emotional Intelligence Ramped UP:

Going Beyond the Chicken Soup and the Pleasant Smile to Positive Peak Performance

Last live webinar with Dr. Alan Zimmerman in 2015 … being offered on December 17th, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

The first 100 registrants will receive a bonus PDF!

During this concentrated 60-minute webinar, you will learn:

  • How to rid your life of unproductive behaviors and emotions
  • How your beliefs impact your emotions and behaviors
  • How to put the power of emotional self-discipline to work for you
  • How to handle irrational thinking and overcome negative emotions
  • How optimism and pessimism determine your successes and failures
  • How increased empathy can establish rapport and build relationships
  • How political awareness can help your professional success
  • How to get the four dimensions of EI to work for you instead of against you

Give yourself a gift that will keep on giving for years to come.

How do I register?