New year’s celebrations are influenced by traditions that typically recognize good fortune and call us to make peace with the trials, tribulations and shortcomings of the past year. The stroke of midnight ends the reflection and ushers in hope for health and prosperity for the journey ahead.
While tradition influences the global celebration, the new year affords leaders time for personal reflection and resolution. During reflection, consider your current path and evaluate progress toward goals. Don’t get caught in the “blame game” or in remorse over what did or did not happen, but rather consider the controllable factors that might influence positive outcomes in the future. This awareness can have a significant impact on your planning and intentions to change manifested in personal resolutions.d
As we begin 2018, make this a time of reflection and planning. Doing so with a deliberate approach can contribute greatly to the success of your organization in the year ahead.
A time to reflect
The identification of our greatest opportunities often occurs as a result of personal reflection. As a leader, reflecting on your past year’s accomplishments and shortfalls can be particularly valuable when planning for the future. Consider the following questions when reflecting on your accomplishments as a leader, “How do you ensure these will be repeated through the efforts of your team?” When considering challenges and shortfalls, “What might you do differently to ensure a more favorable result?”
Reflecting on the need to replicate favorable results places emphasis on the leader’s role in developing and leading the team differently, while the focus on doing things differently engages a process for seeking innovations and ideation outside the “self.” The goal of this reflective process is not to complete a full post-mortem, but rather to uncover patterns that might contribute to improved performance.
Assure leadership alignment
Leaders do not choose to fail. In fact, people in leadership positions typically work to demonstrate their worthiness through achievement. While they often establish measures that support their perception of success, there can be significant disconnect among the expectations of the organization, those of the leader and those of the team.
To ensure a path that leads to organizational success, alignment among stakeholders is critical and clarity of expectations is essential. Leaders must seek to understand the direction and goals of the organization, and then own the responsibility of communicating those expectations to their teams.
There are several areas susceptible to failure in this step. The lack of a vision and an executable strategic plan stand out as the most obvious challenges to leaders. In fact, results from a recent needs assessment suggested that nearly 72 percent of representative organizations did not have an active strategic plan. This will significantly hinder a leader’s ability to achieve desired results.
A second challenge, identified by mid-level leaders, included directives or goals that were thrust upon the leader that (1) did not appear aligned with the vision, (2) were not clear in terms of measures, timelines or other associated expectations, or (3) did not come with necessary resources to execute. Each of these presents a unique set of challenges to the leader responsible for implementation.
Regardless of the associated challenge, the leader’s role is to present a case that clearly articulates the barriers in executing the desired directives under the limiting conditions. The goal here is not to avoid implementation, but to advocate for success and seek alignment among vision, expectations and resources.
A focus on personal growth
There is no end point in leadership development. Just like the traditional new year’s resolution serves to guide a change in behavior, a leader must develop a professional development action plan to enhance the likelihood of success in the year ahead. The plan should be informed by the leader’s desire to enhance strengths, address gaps in knowledge and expertise that are required to lead and support others, and provide opportunities to grow skills necessary for future advancement. This step allows for the synthesis of information garnered through earlier reflective steps and the need to achieve alignment into actions that are owned and activated by the leader.
When it comes to the year ahead, reflect on the path that led you here and make your leadership development a primary resolution for your journey in 2018.