6 Takeaways from the Thanksgiving Table

Turkey has become the iconic symbol of Thanksgiving. More than 46 million turkeys are consumed every year in the United States on that one day alone. In 2020, it was estimated that nearly $1 billion was spent on turkeys, with 88% of Americans eating the meat for Thanksgiving.

It’s probably hard to imagine a Thanksgiving without turkey. Yet, there are so many different aspects of the holiday that make it what it is. Whether or not we realize it, the Thanksgiving table can resemble our work environments.

As you gather around this holiday season and take a moment to reflect on everything you are thankful for, here are some tips on how the Thanksgiving table can prepare you as a leader.

1. Assign roles – Let’s face it, with the amount of food that needs to be cooked and the preparations, everyone can contribute to making the holiday special. Designating specific responsibilities to your friends or family members can help the day be easier on you. It also enables those individuals to take ownership of something and show pride in their contribution. In the same way, give your team members specific roles so they can assist in accomplishing the goals for the day.

2. Meet expectations – There may be differing opinions on what types of food should be on the table. Ask people what their favorite foods are and plan to include them. It can be disappointing if your favorite dish isn’t on the menu. As a leader, once you ask others to contribute their ideas, you learn to better meet their expectations. If you allow people to share their desires, don’t let them down by not including them if at all possible.

3. Establish limits – Draw the line on how much food you eat. Yes, everything will look amazing. And, you will probably want to fill your plate with more food than you need. Before the day starts, determine what your limit will be. Knowing your boundaries in leadership can help you create a healthy work environment. You can’t do everything yourself. Learn to recognize when you have too much on your plate. Don’t be afraid to allow others to share some of your responsibilities.

4. Bring people together – Meals have the ability to draw people together. Whether it’s people who haven’t talked for a while or individuals who have never met before, the Thanksgiving table can bring unity and foster different perspectives. The people you choose to have on your teams can make or break your work culture. A team of individuals from different backgrounds and cultures can help bring a diversity of thoughts.

5. Pick your battles – Holidays, unfortunately, can bring out the worst in people. There may be tension between family members. Or someone may say something that offends you. For a holiday centered on gratitude, people can so often be swept into the stress of planning that they forget the true meaning for the celebration. Holidays can also be some of the most stressful times of your work life. Recognize what conflicts are important to address right away and which ones can be avoided. It’s not always necessary to engage in them.

6. Express gratitude – One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is having everyone share what they are thankful for before we dive into the incredible feast on the table. It’s the opportune time to reflect on the year and pause to appreciate everything we have been given. In the same way, make sure you let your team members know how much you appreciate them. Get them a gift, write a card or hold an office party to share your gratitude. Don’t forget to be specific about why you are thankful for their contributions.

Try not to rush over the holiday season. Although it can prove to be a stressful time of the year as you work to meet deadlines, be sure to embrace an attitude of gratitude. And, when you gather around the Thanksgiving dinner table, look for leadership examples that you can implement in your daily life.

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