December is often a time of taking stock of the year that was, and preparing for the year to come. So, this year’s December theme of reflection is on Effectiveness.
It’s a word that makes its way on to many a professional growth list, agendas and plans for improvement – from employees to organizations. What may feel elusive to many, and second nature to some, is in fact a journey.
What was your journey like this year?
Here are five reflections to take yourself through for 2017.
1. Align for success
If you were writing a holiday letter to your colleagues, what successes would you highlight for the last year? If your organization was a person, would it highlight those same successes?
What about your team? If you’re not sure if everyone’s aligned to the same successes, then this should be a major focus for next year.
Getting everyone’s buy-in (agreement) and commitment (action plans) on the most important initiatives to be achieved is essential to effectiveness.
2. Give up busy-ness
How did you spend your time this year? If your first thought is “I was so busy”, then ask yourself the follow-up questions of “with what” and “why”?
All too often we fill our time checking things off seemingly never-ending to-do lists. We constantly find ourselves just treading water instead of swimming towards a finish line. You may have heard the rock, pebbles and sand story.
A professor once stood up before his class with a large empty jar. He filled it to the top with large rocks and asked his students if the jar was full. The students said that yes, the jar was full. He then added small pebbles to the jar, then he asked again, “Is the jar full now?” The students agreed that the jar was still full. He then poured sand into the jar to fill up any remaining empty space. The students then agreed that the jar was completely full.
There are different morals to this story. But here’s the one I choose – If you put the sand in first, the big rocks and pebbles won’t fit. And that’s how people fall into the trap of “busy-ness”. They focus on the sand and the pebbles. There’s just so much to get through that they never get to the big rocks.
You have to prioritize how you’re spending your time, what you’re focused on, and in what order. Start with the big rocks.
3. Challenge the status quo
How far beyond the edge of your comfort zone did you get pushed or push yourself this year? What courageous stands did you take?
Maybe it was in the form of sharing a strongly felt opinion in front of a group of people. Or may be the way you tackled a difficult conversation with a team member or peer. Or perhaps, it was the approach you took to address a situation differently than you had before.
Whatever it was, give yourself a kudos. Now think about how to push yourself that much more out of your comfort zone next year. It takes courage.
4. Plan with accountable execution
What were your plans of action this year? French writer Antoine de Saint Exupery said “A goal without a plan is just a wish”.
If you’ve ever spent time around this year crafting your New Year’s Resolutions (and maybe having 1 or 2 of them not go as planned) you may be able to relate.
To fully realize the objectives that you set for yourself, you need a plan of action to make them happen. Create milestones, set dates, and then be, and hold others, accountable to them through regular check-ins on the plan.
5. Win with priorities
What were your priority areas to focus on this year? I once had a client who had over 100 objectives set as priorities for the organization. In practice, employees were unmotivated, disengaged and unhappy – why? They didn’t know what to focus on and spent all their time trying to focus on everything – a recipe for total disaster.
Seeing this, the following year, the senior team cut those objectives down to 15 and have continued to refine them year over year. Remember, if everything’s a priority, nothing is a priority.
The destination is the journey
The rewards of committing to a journey of effectiveness are big and real for leader-managers, teams and organizations. But like all journeys, the paths can be bumpy and filled with twists and turns.
Those that get maximum rewards are the ones that reflect more, learn and never stop trying to improve. They recognize the need for continuously innovating, adapting and making themselves better. So, make next year’s journey one to remember.