As a leader, I’ve learned that getting off to a great start in a new year is very important. Over the course of my career I’ve assembled a very handy annual New Year’s leadership checklist that helps get me focused and ready for the challenges to come in the days and months ahead, and well positioned for success.
1. Don’t Dive In Head First – Before you jump into the New Year, full speed ahead, don’t forget to pause and reflect on the year you just experienced – savor the victories, and learn from the setbacks. Talk about this with your team, as early in the year as possible. THEN, dive in.
2. Study Up – Make sure you take the time to study the details of your business or project plan for the year ahead. You don’t have to memorize every word and number, but it’s a big plus to absorb and conceptualize the full scope of what you’re trying to accomplish. You’ll feel ahead of the game right away – and that’s a good place to be.
3. Read Your Fine Print – Every leader’s strengths, if overplayed, can turn out to be a negative – I call that the leader’s “fine print“; things that we need to be careful about. A good example of this is how a “good” tendency to a “hard charger” can turn “bad” if you end up going overboard, getting too impatient, and steamrolling over people. Sort it all out early and become more aware of your “fine print“.
4. Put The Right Team On The Field – Take stock of your team and their strengths and weaknesses, and ask a few hard questions: Is everyone committed to the new year and the new plan? Did you have some unresolved issues from last year that are still hanging out there? Do you need to reshuffle a few things now before things get too busy? Answer these questions NOW, take whatever corrective action is necessary, and give your team a better chance for success.
5. Keep Raising The Bar – While it may not be realistically feasible to keep setting higher targets on every measurable metric you have, at least try to raise one or two to higher levels than the year before. In my experience there is nothing better, and more motivating, than for a team to hit a “best ever” one year, raise the target the next year, and then hit it again.
6. Synthesize Goals – Now that you’ve studied the business/project plan (see above), you need to reduce it to “bite sized” pieces so it can be effectively communicated throughout the organization. I’d try to keep the pieces to no more than 4 or 5, but once you come up with them, be relentless in your communication – post them everywhere, and your progress against them. Harness the power of the collective consciousness!
7. Calibrate Your Accountability Meter – It’s always a good idea to make sure your “accountability meter” is set properly; what I mean by that is making sure your teammates know what their expectations are for the year, and once that is done, being prepared to lead using the “full spectrum” of accountability against those expectations.
8. Clean Out Your Ears – This one’s real simple – prepare your ears to listen, with this virtual “Q-Tip”. Sit down at your desk, close the door, and turn off your handheld and computer. Feel and “hear” what it’s like to not multitask, and just take in what’s happening around you. Make a mental note to recreate this “listening environment” every time you are in the presence of your teammates.
9. Give Feedback Early & Often – While it’s tempting to immerse yourself in all the “nuts and bolts” as you’ve set sail against your plan, don’t forget to give your teammates as much feedback as possible, especially early on in the year. It’s much harder to give course corrections later if the ship has drifted way off course.
10. Practice Patience, Tolerance & Engagement- This may be the most important item of them all, and the hardest to do. It’s so easy to get impatient, intolerant of critique, or adverse to conflict. Stay self aware! You don’t have to be a zen master, but it’s important to stay centered, calm, open minded, receptive, and understanding. Especially when things aren’t going your way.