As the holiday season approaches, managers begin thinking about gifts they can give to the people on their team. Here’s an idea for a gift that will literally and meaningfully change people’s lives. And it won’t cost a dime.

Help people self-actualize.

You won’t spend any money for this gift. But it will likely require a very different kind of investment. You will need to invest time, energy and positive regard in each person on your team with the goal of helping each of them become more of who they really are. That’s what self-actualization is – self-fulfillment. It looks different for everyone because everyone has a different set of talents, a different configuration of potential and a different definition of success.

Helping people self-actualize is the pinnacle of managing to make a difference. It enables you to make a positive difference in the lives of the people you manage. And it also helps you achieve tangible business goals like improved performance, increased engagement and higher retention.

We believe there are three primary factors driving a person’s growth and development:

  • Talent
  • Fit
  • Investment

Those three factors come together into an equation is the GIFT Formula. It looks like this (read backward, the first letters of the elements of the formula spell GIFT):

(Talent + Fit) x Investment = Growth

Listen in to our podcast as Larry Sternberg and Kyle Bruss discuss the GIFT Formula and specific strategies for working on each element of the formula  -- talent, fit and investment – in ways that can help people achieve self-actualization. Self-actualization is a journey rather than a destination. The elements of the GIFT Formula can help you assess progress on that journey.

On all our podcasts and blog posts, you have an opportunity to talk back to us through comments and emails. We hope to hear from you! Until next time, manage to make a difference every day!

+ Larry Sternberg, J.D. and Kim Turnage, Ph.D.


This post highlights Chapter 14 of Managing to Make a Difference (Wiley), a handbook for hitting the sweet spot of middle management. Click here to see posts on previous chapters. Connect with Kim Turnage and Larry Sternberg on LinkedIn to see their latest updates.

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