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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Preparing for the New Year

As we slowly approach the end of another year, there is once again a discernible feeling of anticipation for what the upcoming year will bring. In many ways, this is quite natural and expected since, like a present wrapped in shiny paper, the start of a New Year often stirs a sense of optimism that better times and new opportunities for recovery, growth and development await us just around the corner.

While leaders use the end of the year to focus on developing plans for what they need to achieve in the New Year, it’s also important that they not lose sight of the lessons learned over the course of the previous one. Indeed, the successes and failures incurred over the past twelve months can provide a wealth of insights that can help leaders chart a clearer path towards their organisation’s goals, provided that they take the time to reflect and review on what came out of these past outcomes.

With this in mind, here are ten questions leaders can ask to reflect and assess both their own performance and that of their employees, and how they can ensure that their team remains focused and driven toward reaching their shared goals:

1. What goals did we succeed in reaching this past year?
2. What goals did we fail to achieve and why? What obstacles did we encounter and how can I help my team overcome them now that we’re aware of these challenges that stand in our way?
3. How many failures did we encounter and did we really learn anything from them? Is there a risk that we’ll repeat them or have we properly addressed and resolved the issues behind our failure?
4. How can I encourage my employees to be more open to failure?  To stepping forward with new ideas for us to test and explore without fearing that the outcome might be not what we hoped for?
5. What unexpected opportunities came up and what did we learn from them? How did my response shape the reactions of those I lead?
6. How consistent was my message to my team? Did I respond to misunderstandings by listening to what was being said and clarifying what I meant?
7. How much time did I spend outside of my office, watching how my team operates and listening to what’s going on around them? How can I make myself more aware of the challenges they face and how it impacts our goals?
8. Did I provide my team with enough opportunities for growth and development? What other measures can I use to improve the coaching/mentoring I offer to my team?
9. What events/moments during the past year opened my eyes to new ideas, insights or opportunities for growth? What can I do to learn more and explore these untapped outlets for growth?
10. Who did I often turn to for support, guidance and calls to action? Can they continue to help me as I move forward? And how can I help them succeed with their goals?

Naturally, there are other questions we can ask ourselves that can help us with assessing what we’ve done and where we can go next. But by asking ourselves these questions listed above, leaders can ensure that their focus is directed on building on their team’s accomplishments, as well as on what they’ve learned through their experiences over the course of the year, both key factors to creating a realistic guide for where we want – and can – grow in the coming year.

With such a guide at their disposal, leaders stand to benefit from not only from having a clear sense of direction of where they need to lead their team over the coming months, but also a keen appreciation for where they’ve been and the lessons learned along the way.


How to Lead (part 2)

Former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman discusses how to lead in a male dominated world.