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CEO tips for staying on task

It's hard to work during the holidays. Here's how some experts keep their teams happy when everyone else has time off.

Jen Weigel

November 22, 2011

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It's holiday time, and many offices are starting to look like ghost towns. Do you take advantage of that skeleton staff by having more fun, or is time to get organized for 2012?

We asked some business leaders to share their tips for motivating workers who are stuck at the office when most people take the day off.

"I try to make it fun for the employees who are there," said Deborah Sweeney, CEO of Mycorporation.com. "I want them to feel upbeat and engaged. I try to keep them focused with food, and then they get excited. Sometimes people even ask to work holidays because it's just a few people and I think some people prefer to have the smaller group. Plus it's a good way to get extra hours."

"This is a huge issue," said Arlene Johnson, business expert and author of "Success Mapping: Achieve What You Want … Right Now!" "I try to encourage people to take this time and get ahead. Take a look at your year and the goals you've set, see which were successful and which did you fall short on. Are there any changes happening in the organization? Then set your course for new goals. But be sure to challenge your expectations of what you can do and what your team can do. Challenge yourself to a higher level. Someone else is already doing it, so why not you? Why not your company? Just reacting is not exciting for talent. But being proactive so you can map change — that's what it's about."

"We do everything from contests and raffles to potlucks," said Kelly Culler, senior vice president of global human capital for TeleTech, a customer strategy and technology company. "The management team might be making dinner for the front line. It's whatever we can do to increase camaraderie. We'll have TVs and put on whatever football game people care about. Sometimes we'll ask the staff what they want to do that day and they vote. … It's also important in management to be flexible about hours if things are under control."

"Often, we think of the holidays in terms of spending time with family and friends — but don't overlook the power of building strategic workplace relationships to kick-start career growth in the new year," said Mike Hyter, president of Global Novations, a talent management consulting firm. "Use this time to take a colleague or manager to coffee, or reach out to contacts who may help you build new skills or new relationships that can help lay the foundation for further development of your career."

"We don't pretend that it's a normal time of year and 'business as usual' because we know that it's not," said John Cerasani, CEO of Northwest Comprehensive, an employee insurance and benefits company. "The holidays are a special time of the year full of social gatherings and activities. We work as a team and balance time off so we are never operating in a skeleton environment. I also emphasize to all of our employees that our clients are still in need of our services this time of year and 2012 won't be that 'merry' if we don't have any clients to service."

jweigel@tribune.com

Twitter: @jenweigel