Tis the season to be jolly, and as such I wanted to share with you a leadership gift this holiday. Let me tell you a story. Comic Tom Dreeson, a friend of the legendary singer Frank Sinatra, went on David Letterman a couple of years ago, in December, and told a story about how hard it was to shop for Frank Sinatra. He said that everyone had a hard time figuring out what to get Frank for Christmas because he was such a huge celebrity.
Frank told his friends to ask Tom what he did. Tom told the story about how he would donate money to a local soup kitchen. The soup kitchen placed a little card at each seat that said “This meal provided by Frank Sinatra.” Why was Sinatra so fond of this as a gift? For one, it made Sinatra feel significant.
Sinatra’s name was linked to helping feed the hungry. Even though Sinatra didn’t use his own money to pay for the food, the generous donation was provided in his name, which probably made Sinatra feel as if he had contributed more to society. Also, each and every person would eat that meal thinking about one thing: the generosity of Frank Sinatra.
What makes this gift so powerful? The amount of thoughtfulness that went into planning such a gift. Dreeson cared enough for Sinatra to get him a gift. And, Dreeson got Frank the gift that almost everyone wants: significance and contribution. As a result, Dreeson and Sinatra’s friendship could only get stronger.
The thing is we don’t have to wait until Christmas to give the gift of significance to someone else. We can give the gift of significance and improve our relationships immeasurably any time of the year. All it takes is a little thought. If we as leaders really want to make a difference in other people’s lives and give them the gift of significance, we have to get smart.
What I’m talking about is planning how we are going to make other people feel significant and setting specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound goals.
Making others feel significant doesn’t have to be expensive, either. I’ll give you an example. Pick one person and write them a letter about how they are a leader or a role model, and how they inspire you with their courage. Your goal would look something like this: “I am going to write a hand-written letter to on and send it to them in the mail on that day. I’m going to include at least 7 different admirable qualities about and why I feel they are making a positive impact in my life, and in the lives of others.”
Try using a “SMART” goal map, like this one from Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis: Indiana University-Purdue University at IndianapolisWhatIsASmartGoal.doc Not only does making other people feel significant make you feel good, your act of giving starts the receiving process. The more people you make feel significant, the more people will want you to feel significant. This holiday season, be a smart leader and give the gift of significance.