Leading in the New Year

It’s December. The current year is almost in the can, finished. Stick a fork in it, it’s done.

A new day has dawned. The new year is upon us.

Soon, we’ll be discussing how fast January flew by, then Q1. The great hamster wheel of life.

Have you made plans? Personal goals are great. Business objectives are super. But do you have specific plans to “do” leadership better in the upcoming year?

No? Why not?

Many of us create detailed plans for the new year. We spreadsheet various categories like personal, family, business, spiritual, health, etc. But we need to add one: Leading. What can you do differently this year to improve your personal impact? “Get better at it” sounds great but is woefully unactionable.

How about I suggest a few things for you to consider?

  1. Address a specific people problem. Take that toxic employee or the just-barely performer into a private office and have that tough, courageous conversation.

Advise them, coach them, counsel them. See brief excerpt of a recent workshop we facilitated on Courageous Conversations.

But it’s get better or get lost.

You’ll be potentially helping someone otherwise unaware of the negative impact or poor performance they demonstrate. And trust me, those around that person will sing your praises.

  1. Mentor someone. I mean really mentor them. Take them under your wing and help them grow.
    • Be present, and pay attention. Listen closely, make sure you hear what that mentee means, not just what they say. Take notes so you can follow up when appropriate.
    • Deliver genuine feedback. Tell them what’s working, and what isn’t. You need to be the truth-teller in their life, don’t let them down. Direct feedback is essential to effective mentoring.
    • Inspire and motivate. Mentoring is not coaching, and it’s not therapy. You should advise based on your experience. That’s the real value of mentoring, answering WWYD… What Would YOU Do?
  1. One-on-ones. Start having them if you don’t and make them better if you do. Some things to consider:
    • Regular, consistent scheduling with all of your direct reports. Weekly is great, but consistent, recurring biweekly is better than often-cancelled weekly.
    • If you schedule it, be there. No exceptions. Reread that sentence. 30 minutes is the right duration, though many have been successful with an hour.
    • Ask for a brief email update a day in advance. It allows you to be prepared to ask a few quick questions on daily operational/functional stuff (10 minutes, tops), then spend the remaining time on being a human.
    • Employee drives the agenda, not you. This is their one-on-one, for them. “So, how are things going?” and let it develop from there (I have a more thorough checklist with sample questions available—just ask and I’ll send it).
    • End with, “What can I do to help you?” Prepare to be surprised.
  1. Get some feedback from others. We’ve been doing a lot of 360 surveys lately, with pretty astonishing results. You can somewhat DIY with our Start-Stop-Accelerate worksheet.

Get off your butt and do something. Leading is not a passive activity, and if you aren’t growing up you’re falling back. Remember too that employees’ expectations increase as your ability and impact increases. Such is life. Plan on leadership success as much as you do everything else.

Besides, do you really want to run a marathon in this upcoming year? Hell, I get tired driving 26.2 miles…

But that’s just me…