I’m as guilty as the next person of finding the impending resetting of the calendar a cathartic cleansing, where the failures of the past year are suddenly washed away and replaced by the empty and unknown space filled with promise and time stretching out in front of us.
There is something remarkably powerful and alluring about the annual chance to start over, right wrongs and vow to do things right in the new year.
However, we all know that resolutions typically start out as good intentions early in a new year and often end up as regrets later. At some point early in the calendar (usually February to judge by the drop-off in attendance at the health club) we cross a threshold where we mentally give up on the resolutions for now and resolve to succeed “sometime later” during this trip through the calendar.
Full disclosure, I live in Chicago, where the saying “wait till next year” (Cubs) is slightly more commonplace than, “vote early and vote often.” Waiting until next year is a part of the genetic make-up for anyone born north of Madison Street
This time through the calendar, skip the annual resolutions and refresh regularly. Real time resolutions are performance fuel for effective leaders!
As a leader, you cannot afford to fall victim to the boom and bust cycle of annual resolutions.
Your challenge is a daily one, requiring you to manage your practices and habits in a program of perpetual self-improvement.
Of course, identifying the right improvements requires you to have a real-time feedback system and the ability to keep your ego in check while as objectively as possible processing the daily evidence on your own performance.
For effective leaders, identifying areas to strengthen and weaknesses to work on or avoid is a daily ritual. Of course, ineffective leaders are blind, deaf and dumb to these issues.
Six Key Questions to Resolve About Your Own Leadership Practices:
1. How am I positively and negatively impacting the performance of my team members? (You want to push the impact as far to the positive side of the scale as possible every single day. You do this one encounter and one conversation at a time.)
2. What are people telling me (directly and indirectly) about my performance? (It’s often what’s not said that is most important about your performance. Open your eyes along with your ears. Ask a trusted colleague and be ready for a robust answer.)
3. Are people comfortable offering suggestions on how I can help? (Assume that most aren’t you’ve got to create the opportunities for people to feel good about offering suggestions.)
4. How do people respond to me? Do they shrink or grow in my presence? (If you enjoy the military or royal response from people, you’re leaving performance and talent on the table. Get over yourself!)
5. Are people comfortable raising the tough issues around me? (Beware of developing a reputation for shooting messengers with bad news. Pretty soon, all you’ll get is some highly sanitized and sickeningly sweet version of a false reality.)
6. Do my practices stimulate creativity or drive compliance? (How often are people approaching you with new ideas? How many new ideas moved from whiteboard to action during the past quarter? If you can’t think of any, you’re the problem.)
What’s a Leader To Do?
Ask these questions of yourself regularly, and most importantly, ask your team members and peers these questions and take notes. Like athletes focused on strengthening their own performance, small, often subtle changes often have a big impact on outcomes.
Keep a journal of mistakes and successes. The act of recording these items will reinforce your efforts. Run an anonymous survey with your team members every few months and publicize the results and your efforts to improve. Engage a coach.
And importantly, establish a routine. Rather than annual resolutions to improve, the time for reflection is during the drive or plane trip home, at night before going to sleep or in the morning armed with that fresh promise of a new day not dissimilar from the promise of the new year.
Armed with fresh, behavioral insights and feedback, effective leaders strive to improve performance daily, creating a kind of Leader’s Muscle Memory where good habits become ingrained and second nature and bad habits are constantly exercised away.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
Effective leaders operate with a constant sense of renewal, driven by an intense desire to succeed and to help others succeed. While not every effective leader thinks in the exact language and terms of the questions above, they do think in terms of the same issues. What’s working? What’s not? What can I do better?
The great news about being a leader is that you control the ability to do the right things every day. Every encounter provides the opportunity to improve. No more “wait until next year” for you. Your next year is right now and every minute thereafter. Resolve to use those minutes wisely. After all, future regrets are nothing more than failures in the moment.
This blog originally appeared atartpetty.com. Published with permission.
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