• Kelly Walsh

Just 1 Hour

Updated: Apr 1

The Best Gift You Can Give Your Team This Holiday Season

Years employed in large, corporate, private sector, Human Resources departments found me in all kinds of annual holiday parties including ballrooms, catering, bartenders, and even raffles for nice electronic gifts. I still use some of the gadgets, thank you very much! After decades of these parties, there is only one tradition that really held meaning and I like to share with the leaders that I coach.


The holidays are a great time to honor your team

I was working for the City of Mesa, Arizona HR Division and serving the Mesa Fire and Medical Department. The Chief at the time, Chief Dennis Compton, held his December staff meeting as an open meeting in a larger than usual venue. All department members and partners (like me) were invited. He spent 1 hour….just one hour. And here is what he did. He went through a presentation of all of our accomplishments during the past year. They were bulleted on slides, they were brief, and they were reported by all areas to be shared. It may sound simple, it may even seem obvious. But I don’t recall any other leader I’ve worked for doing this in this way.


As he read through the massive list, I felt like a kid watching the Polar Express. I couldn’t help but be moved by what a team of professionals, dedicated to a mission could pull off in 12 months. It was moving, it was humbling to be working with all of them, and even more to find yourself included in the presentation. That was like hearing your name called at graduation! Even if it was just the name of a team you worked on. He stood, and presented all of the accomplishments, and sometimes provided brief context. There was information about the number of accidents that were prevented, lives that were saved, programs implemented, training completed, and more than we can think of as individuals. On and on it would go until the end when we were told;

“All of that happened while we carried on our main operational mission and responded to xx,xxx emergency calls.”

Sometimes he would add a special letter he received from someone honoring a large or small act of heroism that was provided to the community served. It was all so remarkable. You could feel the emotion in the air. It helped us appreciate each other and closed some of the “us versus them” feelings that can crop up in any organization. You realized that your contribution WAS important even though you may be in a support role.


The Chief felt strongly that it was important to take 1 hour a year and honor the staff. He recently told me it was important that the successes reported were from the staff’s achievements, not the Chief’s (or leader’s) wins. And it has to be accurate – ground in reality.


My high school track coach taught me to run, and don’t look back for fear of slowing down. When our work gets busy, the demands of the year-end are upon us, and holiday extras start distracting your team, consider rejecting my track coach’s advice. Instead, look back….slow down. Stop and spend time honoring your people. Create a culture of acknowledgement, affirmation, appreciation and celebration. Spend 1 hour and celebrate them in a meaningful way. If they are like me, and many others I know, they’ll remember it forever.

• Who can do this? Any leader can celebrate his or her team • How? Gather accomplishments you have tracked and ask other leaders or staff for theirs • When? End of the year with holidays, to launch the New Year, or when it makes sense for you • What? Gather, show and tell results, and be sure to include everyone but yours (this one is about them) • Who? Invite your team and partners; record for anyone missing • Why? Leadership heroes honor those who work for the team – it’s inspiring with a side of motivation, connectedness, and pride.


#firedeapartment #fireserviceleadership #leadershiptraining #firedepartmentleadership #trainingforfirefighters


Author: Kelly Walsh, M.Ed, ACC | The Brave Fire Leader


Kelly helps individuals and organizations achieve exceptional performance by applying specific tools and techniques that guide leadership development. She works on large scale vision and strategy but also deploys specific actionable steps that deliver measurable results. Kelly has worked in a variety of industries including for profit, non-profit, and city government, but her heart is with the public sector where she can bring her strengths to the people who protect and serve our communities. Uniquely qualified to work with Fire Departments, Kelly has 20 years of experience in Human Resources with 10 years as an HR partner (partially imbedded) to a 350 person municipal fire department in Mesa, Arizona. She holds a Master of Education degree with a major in Counseling, is a certified leadership coach and mediator, and has worked in organizations as a recruiter, leader, mentor, trainer, coach, and strategist. The development of future leaders and creating a culture of well-being for employees are at the cornerstone of Kelly’s expertise. She has authored, and is featured as an industry expert in, articles published in the Wall Street Journal, Computer World, CEO Blog Nation, Huffington Post, and others.


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