By Kevin Eikenberry
One thing that we all have in common is that we have a birthday. Some people want to avoid talking about them, but most everyone cares about and wants at least some acknowledgement of their birthday. Heck, I know some people that have a birth month, not just a birthday! What can leaders do to acknowledge and celebrate team member birthdays?
A red-letter day is a day that is a pleasantly noteworthy or memorable according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Why wouldn’t leaders want to create those sorts of days for their team and individual team members? Things are noteworthy or memorable when they are different and unusual – when leaders can create those moments they will show their respect, build trust and relationships with their team members.
While birthdays don’t have to be those opportunities, they certainly can be. Let me share some ways you can use team member birthdays to build your relationship and trust with team members.
- The gathering. Perhaps the most common is to call everyone into the conference room to celebrate someone’s birthday. If this works for you, great – but often it feels a bit contrived and awkward. If that is your experience, fix it so that doesn’t happen, or do something different. And if you have a remote or hybrid team, this might not be the best option.
- A card sent. I have clients that make sure they send a birthday card to the home of every team member. The planning and thought is noted, and builds goodwill with the family, too!
- An acknowledgement. Let the team know in an email or on your instant message platform that is it someone’s birthday. This simple gesture will allow individuals to reach out to the birthday person.
- A forewarning. While you can let the team know on the day, you can also tell everyone a few days early so if they want to send a card, plan a lunch, or do something special, they can.
- Have a committee. While leaders can do something themselves, depending on the size of your team you could ask people to volunteer to be the group that plans something special for each person.
- Time off? If it is seen as valuable by the individual, and you can do so, consider giving people the day off – or let them leave early. It is hard to beat the gift of time!
Know Your Team
I know a few people who don’t like to be singled out or don’t love celebrating their birthday. Work to know where your team members stand on birthdays and use that information to tailor your approach to each team member. Perhaps a simple acknowledge and private birthday wish will be all they want.
A Final Note
I am not personally as good or consistent at this as I could (or perhaps should) be. I have shared some things I have done, and others that clients and leaders have done to give you some ideas. Creating your own approach is perfectly appropriate, too! Whether you choose to use birthdays as a strategy for building relationships with your team or not, make sure that those relationships are a part of your ongoing goal as a leader.
Want more ideas about birthdays at work and celebrating team member birthdays? Check out this post on my Leadership and Learning Blog