As 2016 (the year that shall live in infamy) draws to a close, most people will spend some time reflecting and planning for the year to come. As much as resolutions are out of vogue, I am a passionate advocate for goal-setting, and think the start of a new year is a great time to set goals to achieve your dreams. There are two necessary components to any journey. One is knowing where you need to go (your goal) but an equally critical component is knowing exactly where you are. Suppose you’re going to New York and this year you really intended on reaching Hawaii and planned on jetting to New York from Hawaii. If in actual fact you are in Iceland but you base your plans assuming you are Hawaii, guess what? You are NOT getting to New York and probably not anywhere else, either.
And so it is with your leadership journey. We say two things about the truth (or at least I do). One is that it hurts and the other is that it sets you free and what I’ve found over the years is the more you believe in the latter, the less it actually does hurt. So how can you assess how you did as a leader in 2016 in preparation for making 2017 your best year ever?
I suggest a Leader Inventory. Like any good inventory, this will have credits and debits. Here is a format I find illuminating.
1) Review any goals you made in the previous year related to your leadership. How did you do? The point is not to beat yourself up, but to assess how you performed to goals, and maybe how good your goals were. If you didn’t have any specific goals, skip this step (but don’t let it happen again!).
2) Credits: Start with the positives, because it’s all too easy to beat ourselves up. Answer the following questions in your Credit column:
a. Who did you invest in this year?
b. Who did you positively impact?
c. What initiatives did you lead or participate in that had a positive impact?
d. What 1-3 things are you MOST proud of this year?
3) Debits: Likely these are already keeping you up at night, but including them in your inventory takes the power out of them and helps you move forward:
a. Were there any times you acted in self-interest over the interest of your people?
b. Were there any times you were dishonest?
c. Were there any times where you withheld praise or recognition inappropriately?
d. Is there anyone in the past year towards whom you hold a particular resentment?
After documenting these answers, do some reflection into the circumstances surrounding your missteps to detect a pattern. Likely, you will see some default coping mechanisms in response to stress, fear, or exhaustion. After completing your inventory, the next steps will have you well-positioned for the year to come!
1) Restitution: If there are any situations where you owe an apology to someone, don’t delay. The obvious exception is if by doing so you will hurt them even further.
2) Forgiveness: The fastest way to recover from a bad case of resentment is forgiveness. This is not always to facilitate reconciliation. There are some people who don’t need to be in your life, but forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, to protect against the toxic effects of stress and anger.
3) Gratitude: As always, gratitude is your surefire way to walk in peace. Be grateful for the lessons you’ve learned about yourself, and about leading and be grateful for the opportunity and ability to continue to improve.
As the year draws to a close, be patient with yourself and gentle in your corrections. It’s been a rough year for everyone, but 2017 can be the year your leadership shines at a whole new level!
Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm focused on helping organizations, leaders and job seekers to identify workplace solutions that work. As a certified executive coach, organizational development expert and resume writer, Carrie consults with small to medium sized businesses on OD, human resources and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. Carrie can be reached for consultation at email@example.com