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  • Writer's pictureRussell Lookadoo

The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus

Updated: Nov 27, 2018

A professional presentation to The HR Guy's Clients covering widely known leadership tools. This is a summary. Please contact The HR Guy for a presentation or a Free Consultation for your company today!

It not easy being Santa Claus. You have to:

  • Jump through hoops – Chimneys

  • Unbelievable correspondence

  • Tough recruiting – North Pole

  • Market fluctuations - Kids

  • Transportation/Logistics – Reindeer

  • Massive demand – Worldwide


Luckily, "Santa" has some secrets he's willing to share!

Secret #1 Build a Wonderful Workshop

Make the Mission the main thing:

  • Making spirits bright by building and delivering quality toys to good little girls and boys

  • Spend time with individual elves: How doing their jobs links to the mission

  • Keep mission in front

  • Make mission a part of the decision process

Focus on people as well as the purpose:

  • Be accessible – mentally and physically

  • Be considerate

  • Provide tools, training, resources and feedback

  • Keep elves in the information loop

  • Help maintain balance

  • Demonstrate respect, time and talents

  • Solicit ideas...and listen

  • Develop and grow

  • Fairly distribute the workload

Let Values be your guide:

  • Make sure everyone knows what values are important: Not just on a website or poster

  • Turn beliefs into behaviors everyday

  • Cite in all commutations consistently

Secret #2: Choose your reindeer wisely

Remember the Misfits:

  • Because it is employees that make our mission happen, staffing is my single most important responsibility

  • The time spent hiring the right way is nothing compared to the time I’ll have to spend dealing with the wrong reindeer

Promote the right ones, for the right reasons:

  • Promoting Donner was a problem: The best puller was not the right leader, Create a criteria for the job,Test the characteristics, not the person

Go for the diversity advantage:

  • Same ole elves, same results

  • “Different” elves different thinking: More in touch with the target customers

Secret #3: Make a List and Check it twice

Plan your work:

  • Break down big goals into sub goals

  • Everyone must have a goal

  • Make sure everyone buys in

  • Must be written: What why, when, where, who and how

  • Brainstorm contingencies

  • Work your plan

  • Predetermined Benchmarks, or else the Bells will not jingle on Dec 24th

  • Schedule progress check-ins: Is the goal valid and doable?, Are we on track?, Has the condition or circumstance changed?, Make changes as appropriate

  • Watch waste (not the jelly belly): So many toys, so little time

  • Make the most of: Time - Prioritize, Money – buy smartly, Materials – Measure twice, cut once, Equipment – Preventative maintenance, Employees - Talent and expertise

Secret #4: Listen to the Elves

Open your ears to participation:

  • Yes, I was the expert, and I used my expertise to a fault: It worked when we were starting up

  • No one else solved problems

  • Let the elves make the calls: They know – better now

Walk awhile in their shoes:

  • Make regular visit to the workshop

  • Stop and chat

  • Ask about problems and obstacles

  • Work next to elves and reindeer

  • Ask "How I can make it better?"

Secret #5: Get Beyond the Red Wagons

Help everyone accept the reality of change:

  • Complement the elves on their history

  • Introduce the change with why: Lay out the facts- Video Games vs. Wagons

  • Discuss the benefits of change

  • Support change with resources

  • Demonstrate patience

  • Check for understanding

Remember The Customer Really is Charge:

  • No Customers = No Business: No letters, dampers closed

  • Understand wants and needs change

  • Meet and greet often: Field Trips

  • Follow up

  • Identify and track trends

Teach “The Business” of the Business:

  • The more elves and reindeer understand about how the business works the more likely that are to accept and support change: Overhead, Cost of goods delivered, State of the Workshop meetings

Secret #6: Share the Milk and Cookies

Help them see the difference they make:

  • Link the elf to child picture

  • We deliver happiness: Not possible with you

  • Post thank you notes

  • Take elves on the delivery run

Do right by those who do right:

  • Develop an attitude of gratitude

  • Show appreciation: Atta-elves and atta-deers, Say Thank you

Expand the reinforcement possibilities:

  • Reinforcement and recognition are not strictly management’s role: Is it everyone's’ job, Recognize those who recognize

Secret #7: Find out who's Naughty or Nice

Confront Performance problems ...early:

  • Remember Igor the Elf: Let it slide = no courage to deal, Overlook is not a magic wand, Group reprimands are a bad idea, Hoping they will get it fails, Disrespectful to other elves

Coach the majority in the middle:

  • The middle performers are the backbone of the workshop: Move the middle group up to superstar performer, Prevent falling stars, Stay aware and do not overlook

Don’t forget the superstars:

  • Superstars always have coaches

  • Increase their involvement: Encourage them to teach and mentor

  • Celebrate accomplishments

  • Give them extra attention

  • Avoid punishment for good performance

Secret #8: Be Good For Goodness Sake

Set the Example:

  • The elves and reindeer are always watching

  • Integrity starts with the red suit: Follow all the rules, Treat everyone with dignity, Always tell the truth, Never break a promise, Build superior quality, Continually give best effort, Constantly stand for what is right

Establish Guidelines and Accountability:

  • Keep eyes and ears open to what is happening: Be constantly aware

  • Provide on-going feedback: Share observations and reinforce

  • Preserve your values/principles: The elves will demand it

  • Display zero tolerance: For ethics violations

Remember Everything Counts:

  • The little things count

  • Integrity is a big word: Way we treat each other, Jokes we share, The little white lies, Keeping commitments, “Unimportant” rules, Not using the sleigh for personal business, Responding to all letters, Sharing

Closing Thoughts

  • To survive and prosper you and your organization must be able to achieve the “big things”

  • Your elves and reindeer depend on you

  • It isn't magic, it’s leadership!


Sources: This blog article and presentation are based on the following articles:

Russell Lookadoo is the HR Guy for small businesses. His firm, HRchitecture, specializes in helping business leaders accomplish their goals by effectively using their teams. Russell brings over three decades of experience designing Human Resources solutions that achieve business strategies in varied organizations ranging from a small manufacturer to the nation’s second largest bank. Russell holds the Senior Professional in Human Resources designation from the Society of Human Resources Management and earned the Certified Compensation Professional designation from World at Work. Russell attended the University of North Carolina on the prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Industrial Relations. Visit his website at

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