We always have a song in our heart here at ECLARO, especially during the holiday season. Whether it’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (yes, there have been sightings of certain team members dancing around the office to that one) or “Silver Bells” (our global headquarters in New York is a great place to feel that “it’s Christmastime in the city” vibe) or any of countless others, they embody a festiveness that underscores why people call this the most wonderful time of the year. There’s also, in many cases, some business lessons we love to share—a gift that keeps on giving.
Given what we do each and every day, and the challenges we strive to help our clients overcome—not to mention the fact that “Claro” is a Latin word meaning to brighten, to illuminate—we have a particular fondness for "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Aside from inspiring a classic stop-motion animation TV special that taught us, among other things, that Bumbles bounce, Rudolph’s story continues to offer valuable insights into the art of hiring the Right People for any business.
In honor of the nine reindeer Santa still has employed to pull his sleigh each year (talk about a great retention rate!), we are happy to share nine lessons, red flags and red-hued insights from the 1949 song (inspired by the 1939 coloring book by Robert May, incidentally) that can help any business in search of the ideal individuals required to build strong, harmonious, transformational teams and organizations.
The Red Flag: Overlooking Unique Talents
The Red Nose: Rudolph's red nose was considered a liability at first, even a joke to some, but instead of mocking it, we can all agree that somebody should have taken the time early on to assess what that nose could mean for Rudolph’s potential as a North Pole employee, and how it might apply to growing, even changing, Santa’s entire business.
The Red Flag: Misreading (or Ignoring) Potential
The Red Nose: Nobody, and we mean nobody, up at the North Pole seemed to be able to figure out that a team and department whose work is done entirely at night—everywhere in the world—might benefit from a new hire who possessed a glowing orb on the front of his head. Even if it wasn’t immediately put to use, surely somebody there should have seen how Rudolph might be able to grow into a role with that unique skill, right?
The Red Flag: Conforming to (Bad) Convention
The Red Nose: Rudolph’s tale certainly challenges the notion of conforming to conventional standards simply for the sake of convention. Had Santa and his Flight Department not defaulted to the that notion that they’d always had shineless-nosed deer and thus their age-old staffing model would hold up just fine, they could have brought Rudolph onboard earlier and begun to improve the company—and also start Rudolph’s own professional development—in a more timely fashion.
The Red Flag: Not Building a Team with Future Challenges in Mind
The Red Nose: Maybe Santa was getting complacent, maybe lack of competitors in his particular space made him think that he was invulnerable, could be that the people putting together his business forecasts told him there was nothing but clear skies ahead. But not foreseeing that a foggy Christmas Eve was a very likely scenario at some point is, well, baffling. Santa shouldn’t have waited for a true threat to the organization’s ability to deliver its services and fulfill its obligations before realizing Rudolph was who he needed to bring on.
The Red Flag: Bias and Prejudice
The Red Nose: The reason for Rudolph’s initial rejection was based solely on appearance, and more than 80 years after its creation, this story remains a timely lesson in staying vigilant against such bias. There’s no talk of assessing his flying skills, his acumen with takeoffs or landing on rooftops and so on—there is just the fact that he was kept out of the reindeer games simply because of his appearance.
The Red Flag: Underestimating Soft Skills
The Red Nose: Rudolph’s determination, resilience, emotional intelligence and control, adaptability and dedication to teamwork proved to be soft skills that, when combined with his flying and illuminating and navigational abilities, helped set him apart and become the leader that Santa’s reindeer team ultimately needed. That night-lighting ability wouldn’t have been enough on its own.
The Red Flag: Not Recognizing and Developing Would-Be Leaders
The Red Nose: It’s hard, in retrospect, to imagine anyone other than Rudolph leading the team, whether on a foggy evening or a perfectly clear night. But Santa’s company nearly missed out on one of the most celebrated team leads of all time by not being able to see the signs and recognize his potential early on. Rudolph's journey involved personal and professional growth, but most of the positive steps in that arena came from his being a self-starter and learning on his own rather than benefitting from a formal company structure and program of investing in training and growth.
The Red Flag: Poor Workplace Culture
The Red Nose: Reindeer games were clearly very much a part of the Santa & Co. corporate culture, and not allowing Rudolph to join in put the organization at risk of alienating him and sending him to look for employment elsewhere. What if he’d wound up, say, hiding eggs or putting money under pillows in some dental-for-dollar exchange? It also showed the rest of the North Pole staff that an inclusive, cohesive workplace that inspired each individual to be part of the team all the time was not a priority.
The Red Flag: Underestimating the Impact of Individuals on a Team
The Red Nose: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder, Blitzen. They were a good team, but not a great team that could transform the operation. Rudolph and his red nose proved to be the force multiplier they needed, increasing their efficiency and capacity to the point where they have been able to deliver Santa's gifts all in one night, year after year, despite a world population growth from roughly 2 billion people in 1939 to nearly 8 billion today. Think about all the extra toymakers, logistics pros, packaging experts and more that Santa has been able to hire!
Rudolph's career journey can inform every business’s journey, whether it’s understanding the importance of recognizing and embracing individual strengths, fostering an inclusive environment or making hiring decisions that prioritize long-term success over short-term, superficial considerations, Finding the Right People to build diverse, skilled, harmonious teams and inspire the growth of new leaders isn’t easy, but do it right and maybe, just maybe, you’ll go down in history.