The end of the year is a wonderful time to be reflective about the past year for leaders of all kinds, from organizations to families. The business momentum slows down, and regardless of the timing of your fiscal year, it is beneficial to look back on the past year and to honestly assess big picture truths. I call this the “year-end situation analysis.” What do you wish to embrace more of into your life and in your leadership going into the New Year? What no longer serves your purpose, as an individual, as a leader?
Leaders and people I work with often tell me that it is not easy to find time to sit back and reflect. I realize that we can all get overwhelmingly busy. However, the reality is that it is really helpful to reflect, as the consequences of not revisiting can often make us more reactive than we should be and engage in activities that might not be of priority.
Seeing where we’ve come from enables us to evaluate how we went about our decisions and honestly look at how some actions might have been halted or possibly addressed differently. With clarity about the outcome of past events, relationships with direct reports or board colleagues can often be repaired, the first board meeting of the year can be more productive and it might be easier to see where some assumptions were made and overlooked.
When we don’t take the time to reflect we can get bogged down into the details, lose our perspective and objectivity. Maybe we remain more emotional than is necessary, attached to some outcomes due to our insecurities, or we might feel stuck without knowing how to get unstuck, and at times we might not be as prepared as we could be — for that Opcom meeting, the worldwide sales kick-off event – even the Monday morning conference call.
I invite you to take the time to be with “yourself,” and revisit the past year. Take a pad or a journal, find your favorite bench or sofa, and start looking back at the past year as the leader you are. It helps to write down our thoughts.
Make three columns, jotting down “what worked,” “what didn’t work so effectively and efficiently,” and, finally,”what was missing.” Under each heading, address the following:
Your leadership- Are you good to yourself? Think about what needs to happen before you pat yourself on the back. Think about how effective you are. What do you believe might get in the way of your effectiveness? Don’t be afraid to look deep, and be constructive. That way, you can be constructive with others when you relay areas for improvement. Behaviorally, were you empowering, a team player and open to input? Did you lead or did you micro-manage? Were you patient, were you a listener when it was critical, perseverant for the right reasons? Did you have a personal agenda? Did you tend to react to organizational issues or customer delays, or did you strategically have a process to address crisis? Did you procrastinate making tough decisions? Did you realize that you don’t have the right hires? Did you make assumptions? What didn’t happen in the ways you had envisioned, and why? What can and should you change going into the New Year? What is critical that you address and/or change?
With your board- If you are an entrepreneur and/or a director, how were you most effective, and when were you not? Why? As a director at the board table, how was your relationship with your Chair and the other board directors? Is there one thing you wish could be done differently to better the effectiveness of your board? Are you clear how to engage your Board Chair about needed changes?
Personally- Have you been fulfilled and excited in your role? Have you felt too much pressure? Is it time to consider a different role? Are you able to embrace constructive criticism, or are you in denial of the behaviors that you must change? Do you allow yourself to disconnect and to take the time to have balance in your life?
In much of my communication, I try to reinforce that reflection and practice enable us to optimize our potential. It gives us an opportunity to revisit whether we are in the role that is meant for us, and if we are living the life day-in and day-out according to what matters to us, bringing the best out of us and of others. Importantly, it gets us in the right, pro-active frame of mind to plan and initiate the changes that are essential for the success of the organization and ourselves.
Still think you don’t have time? You can do this as you ride the chairlift solo, go for a walk, while listening to a favorite musician or just couching out! Set your computer and phone aside, as having no distractions is a must for a powerful reflection. Notice if you can relax, hear your breath and get centered so that you heighten your ability to capture the essentials of the past year and the possibilities ahead. Envision the change that you should initiate!
Need More Proof? Look Here:
An article that appeared in the McKinsey Quarterly earlier this year urged leaders to look inside, as well as outside, whenever making organizational changes. Referring to Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy’s famous quote, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself,” Change Leader, Change Thyself” makes the excellent point that organizations don’t change – people do.
In its work with clients, McKinsey & Company has “found that the best way to achieve an organization’s aspirations is to combine efforts that look outward with those that look inward.”
Looking inward, or reflecting, leads to self-understanding/self-knowledge and the awareness of how our actions, communication and how the way we are affect our leadership effectiveness.
Remember, your year-end situation analysis is critical to develop self-knowledge so you can be aware of what you must change as a leader going into 2015. I invite you to enjoy the process of leading yourself to enhance your effectiveness in leading others.
Bonne Année !