Earlier in the year, I had the honour of talking to Father Christmas about his career. He’s such a lovely chap! He told me all about how he got into his line of work, and we had a fascinating discussion about his strengths. I hope you enjoy reading the interview as much as I enjoyed doing it.
Charlotte Whitehead: Hello, Father Christmas! It’s wonderful to meet you!
Father Christmas: Ho Ho Ho, it’s jolly nice to meet you too, Charlotte.
CW: Thanks 😊. You know, I’ve always thought: “I wish I could meet Father Christmas one day”, and now, finally, it’s happened! I feel honoured.
FC: My pleszh.
CW: So, Father Christmas, I’d love to talk to you about your work. Perhaps we could start with a general question. How on earth did you get into this line of work?!
FC: Well, to be honest, I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s hard to remember. I think it was just one of those things one falls into.
CW: Really? People often say that to me about their work but when we dig a bit deeper, it turns out there are always things they’ve said and done that have led to it…
FC: Well, I suppose that could be true. I’ve always enjoyed having a bit of fun and had made a bit of name for myself in that regard. But then when the English Civil War came along, having fun just wasn’t allowed. In fact, not many people know this, but the Puritans legislated to abolish Christmas. Can you imagine?! Fortunately, the Royalists enjoyed feasting and merrymaking and kept all that side of things going. Oh, we had some parties! Ho, ho, ho! But at that time, my role was much more about getting grown-ups to let their hair down – which was quite long in those days.…
And then when Victoria became Queen of England in the 19th century, she and I had quite a few discussions about the importance of family at Christmas and, you know, when I reflect back on it now, that’s probably when the focus shifted to children and making them happy. All the gift-giving side of things definitely took off from that point.
CW: That’s fascinating. It just goes to show how our social networks are so crucial for broadening our career thinking and opening up career opportunities, doesn’t it? The other thing that I’m hearing in what you say is how much you enjoy having fun. Have you ever taken the CliftonStrengths® assessment? I’m SO curious to know what your strengths are…
FC: Actually, yes, I have…
CW: Oh, go on. Do tell!
FC: Ho, ho, ho….! You’re making me laugh! Alright then, they’re Positivity, Discipline, Consistency, Arranger and Significance.
CW: Wow! What a fantastic top five! And now that you’ve told me, I can see exactly how they shine through in what you do. But tell me, how do you see these strengths showing up in your work?
FC: Well, Positivity, that’s just me, isn’t it? I mean, I can’t not have fun. My Elves say it’s the #1 thing I bring to the job that makes all the difference to their day-to-day work especially as Christmas gets closer and we’re all under a lot of stress. Even when things go wrong, like rain instead of snow, or having to wear masks so we don’t spread the virus, or running out of Terry’s Chocolate Oranges, we still look on the bright side.
And of course I see a strong connection between Positivity and Significance. I’ve always wanted to make a difference and it’s not just on a 1:1 basis. I really want to make the world a better place and if I can do something to bring a bit of cheer into the world, especially after this year we’ve all been having, that makes me feel very happy and fulfilled.
CW: Well, you certainly do that. What about Consistency, Discipline and Arranger? How do they show up in your work?
FC: It’s a good question… I certainly couldn’t do my job without Discipline. I mean, think about it: the amount of planning that has to go into this each year, it’s mind-boggling. Basically, we have Boxing Day off and a few days between Christmas and New Year to relax, and then on 31st December we have a big team brain-storming session to review what’s gone well, what hasn’t, and what we need to change for next year. Actually, that’s also my Consistency coming through: I love refining what we do and tweaking it here and there so that it works even better next year.
And once we’ve worked out what we’re keeping and what we’re going to change, I then sit down with my Chief Elf and we plan out the schedule for the whole of the next year, working backwards from 25th December of course. It’s all clearly mapped out in an Excel spreadsheet, and we know exactly what needs to be done and by when.
And then of course once we get into autumn and all the gifts start piling up, that’s when Arranger comes to the fore. I have a core team of Elves but obviously they all have their own lives to live and some of them move onto other jobs in due course. So there’s a recruitment and staff management aspect to all this that Arranger enjoys and as the deadline approaches, there are ALWAYS unforeseen changes that need to be made, but my Arranger is able to reconfigure the work as needed and keep all the plates spinning at once. It’s quite a challenge but I love it.
CW: I can’t help thinking that there may be other strengths involved here… It sounds like you take such pride in your work and want to be the absolute best: I’m wondering whether you might have Maximiser somewhere in your top 10? I’m also thinking that Individualisation could be in there somewhere too, because of what you said about staffing. I’m sensing you’re really good at identifying who should be doing what in terms of the jobs that need to get done?
FC: Yes, you may have a point there. And in fact, I think Individualisation also really helps me find the right present for each child… You’ve got me thinking: it hadn’t occurred to me to the full 34 CliftonStrengths report. Do you think it’s worth it?
CW: Oh, yes, for sure. It gives you so much more insight into who you are. We’re never just our top 5. It’s usually the top 10 (roughly) that are our dominant strengths and there may be one or two supporting ones just below that. And then of course, it can be helpful to know what’s at the bottom of the sequence.
FC: Hmm, that’s interesting. So how do I get the full report?
CW: Oh, it’s easy, you just log into your Gallup dashboard and pay £40 to get the upgrade. You don’t have to retake the assessment because all your answers to the questions are already in the system. The upgrade just releases the data that’s already in there…. Look, I’m aware we’re running out of time so I’d like to ask one other question.
FC: Sure, go ahead.
CW: Ok, it’s this: You clearly love your work. Do you think there really is such a thing as a perfect job?
FC: Ah yes, I’ve often thought about that myself. You know, things evolve and what you start out doing in your career isn’t necessarily what you’re going to end up doing later on. We grow and change and have experiences that shape who we are. But I do think that at core we have an orientation towards a certain area, such as helping people, or being creative, or doing practical work, etcetera.
Basically, you learn what you like doing through doing it.
And, yet, even when you do eventually get on track, it’s not like it’s all brilliant all the time. I mean, think about it: my team and I have to work our guts out at Christmas and even with the best will in the world, it can still feel a bit overwhelming at times.
And then, as I said, things go wrong with stuff like the weather.
And, although I love my uniform, it’s totally impractical for the southern hemisphere. Between you and me, I just have to take it all off for 20 mins when no-one’s looking and get into the sea at Cairns for a quick dip.
Incidentally, the Great Barrier Reef is stunning. Have you ever seen it? It’s especially impressive when you look down on it from the air. That’s possibly the best bit of the journey, although the Alps are pretty impressive too…
CW: Actually, yes, I did go to Australia many years ago and I went for a day trip out to the Barrier Reef. But I suspect it’s probably one of those things that you can enjoy more through a good documentary on telly.
FC: Yes, maybe…. But, I digressed… Where was I? Ah, yes, I was about to say: no job’s perfect. I think it’s best to aim for about 80% good and accept that there’s always going to be about 20% that’s a bit frustrating.
CW: That’s so helpful to hear. I’m sure many of the people reading this will find that reassuring. Do you have any plans for career development in 2021?
FC: Well, I don’t have a boss as such so it’s not like I’ll be having an end of year appraisal. But I do think it’s important to keep growing in one’s work. In fact, this conversation has got me thinking about my strengths so I think that one thing I’ll do for sure is to get my full 34 CliftonStrengths report. I’m really curious now to learn more about how I can use my strengths more intentionally in my role as a manager.
CW: That’s wonderful! Well, of course, if you want to go through your report with me and have a few sessions, you know where to find me!
FC: I do indeed! Ho, ho, ho!
CW: Well, Father Christmas, it’s been so nice talking to you. By the time I post this interview for people to read it, you’ll be well on your way in terms of delivery for Christmas 2020. I hope you have a good trip and a well-earned rest once it’s all done.
FC: Thank you, Charlotte. It’s been delightful talking to you, too. Have a Merry Christmas when it arrives. And…. keeeep jingling! Ho, ho, ho!
Would you like to learn about your strengths too? If so, get in touch to arrange an initial discussion. And if you’re curious about what Father Christmas’s other strengths are, you can read about them here in the second interview I had with him.