The year’s end brings a unique opportunity for leaders and their teams. No two leaders experienced 2018 the same way. And no company is ending the year in the same place as when it began.
Many leaders are ending an exciting year for themselves and their companies and look to the new year with enthusiasm. Some leaders, though, who navigated a seemingly endless onslaught of dilemmas are ready to leave 2018 behind but look to 2019 with a hint of reluctance.
Truth is, no matter how thrilling or frustrating the year was, every leader can capitalize on the opportunities the end of the year brings to reflect and ready themselves to begin the new year with fresh outlooks, eager teams, and renewed confidence.
How should a leader help themselves and their teams relate to and think about the transpiring year? What tools can effective leaders use to lead their teams into 2019 with energy and excitement?
Effective leaders find creative ways at the year’s end to allocate time with their managers and teams to learn from the year’s lessons. It’s tempting for leaders to race into the next year without looking in the rear-view mirror. When they take the time to do so through effective reflection, leaders discover key opportunities to celebrate, dialogue, discuss, process, and plan with their teams. As one PROMARK coach shared:
“…In the fast pace we live in, leaders can easily forget to stop and celebrate the wins, look at the progress made to date, review what has gone well and what did not go so well, and what the team did to impact both of those…We must ensure we are learning.”
How can a leader ensure learning occurs before the year’s over? Take time to reflect and reset.
Younger leaders tend to underestimate the power reflection has for learning and strategic thinking. Experienced leaders have encountered its intangible value for transforming themselves and motivating their teams. When it comes to learning as a leader, reflection is second to none.
Effective reflection is not the same as individualistic passive introspection. Effective reflection happens publicly, with a team, and out loud. The best way to reflect is to do some homework on the company’s year, gather your teams, ask open-ended questions, and dialogue through the “directions of reflection”: Up, Down, Back, and Forward.
Up: Celebrate together and across teams the different successes that propelled the company forward. Learn from managers and other team members about who deserves public recognition for business growth in new, successful vertical markets, increased customer-approval ratings, etc. Additionally, find out who deserves recognition for the not-so-easily-seen company advancements. Learn who consistently contributes to a healthy team culture or who regularly contributes beyond what’s asked of them. Even leaders with teams who wrestled with a difficult year can, and should, find moments of learning to celebrate. Celebrating team successes and lessons learned excites employees to pursue growth, innovative solutions, and deeper engagement in the new year.
Downs: Not everything went perfectly, and that’s O.K. Take time as a team to engage in a guided discussion about fumbles, lackluster implementation, and loose ends. It’s vital for a leader to recast these experiences as opportunities to learn. This way, every loss becomes a win through self-reflection, goal setting, and vision casting. If the year was particularly difficult, don’t sugarcoat or fake it. Allow your team to productively grieve, then discuss what happened, what’s needed to drive different outcomes for a similar scenario, and how everyone can use the energy of a new year, to begin with a fresh growth mindset.
Back: No leader should be stuck in the past, but leaders should take time to help their team refocus on the purpose of all their hard work. The end of the year is a great time for leaders to reconnect their teams’ “what” with the overall company “why,” realigning employee efforts with the core purposes of the company and the potential for industry influence. This is a must for leaders, and especially true if much of a leader’s workforce is comprised of millennials.1
Forward: Effective leaders not only help their teams reflect on where they’ve been but also use the past to encourage strategic forward-thinking. Effective leaders set forth optimistic trajectories with their teams by creating opportunities to innovate for the next year with the energy from celebrating and learning the previous year. A great way is to meet with teams, previously providing them with open-ended questions to digest relevant data and asking them to come prepared with ways to deliver creative approaches for the first quarter and take advantage of where the market is going. As one PROMARK coach shared, “This was always the best meeting of the year.”
3 Ways to Lead into the New Year
Leaders who practice effective reflection not only leverage the opportunities at the end of the year but also begin to capitalize on the energy of the new year. Like an Olympic sprinter ready in the starting blocks, effective leaders use the lessons learned from the year to spring load their teams with eagerness and excitement for the next. Here are three ways to energize and lead into the new year.
Lead with Optimism: No matter how the year went, lead into the new year with optimism. If a leader is eager for the new year, the team will be. Robert Noyce, the co-founder of Intel, said optimism is crucial for leadership because it’s “an essential ingredient in innovation.” Leaders who lead with optimism infuse their teams with it, producing teams who create and innovate new strategies and solutions to help companies remain flexible and responsive to the unknowns of the market.
“Our employees are looking to you for inspiration and they’re not getting it from the news headlines. Today we need business leaders who inspire their employees, clients, and customers, infusing them with the confidence that in the end, all will be well.”2
Seek New Opportunities: Use the new year to offer new ideas for company influence and growth. Teams are excited about new company ventures, especially when it’s an idea from a team member. New opportunities not only generate excitement but shows teams that leadership promotes curiosity and thinking outside the box. When leaders allow team members to help consider new goal-meeting pathways, market opportunities, and campaigns, it sets a pace for other team members to think critically and creatively about their areas and industries.
Unleash Team Performance: As you step into the new year, deliberate with your team on what top three things you collectively need to succeed in 2019. Use the discussion as the basis for what projects need more or fewer resources and runway, who’s responsible for what aspects, and how to maintain accountability. Leaders who empower members to creatively contribute to their team’s success help them develop ownership and increase collaboration, which produces agile solutions and increased efficiency.
Regardless of how the year went, the new year provides every leader with a regular but unique opportunity to reset and refresh their own mindsets and their teams’ to generate energy and optimism for new opportunities and outcomes.
We hope 2018 brought you many successes to celebrate and useful lessons learned, and we’re excited to see what 2019 brings to your teams, your stakeholders, and, of course, you—the leader.
We’d love to come alongside you and maximize the opportunities the new year has for your teams and company. Contact us today.
1 Adam Fridman, “Why Reflective Leadership is Key to a Successful Purpose Transformation” Inc.com. (Accessed on December 5, 2018).
2 Camille Gallo, “5 Reasons Why Optimists Make Better Leaders,” Forbes Magazine. August 8, 2012.