We’re entering the time of year where it feels like everything is ramping up. Holiday parties, family, and friends, looming year end deadlines, the long list of gifts you still have to buy… the holidays are a wild time for many of us. Amidst all the hustle and bustle, it can be easy to feel lost, especially when trying to formulate a totally new plan of attack for your coming year. Even if looking to the new year with new goals in mind might feel a bit out of reach at the moment, let’s begin by taking this time to slow down, be present, and reflect on the past year.
A classic question asked around this time of year: “What’s your New Years resolution?” While you’re pondering your personal goals, a natural move is to reflect on the past year. What worked well for you, and you’d like to keep doing? What was a swing and a miss? What is something you’ve been meaning to try, but haven’t put aside the time to accomplish? The same process can be done in your organization. Use this time at work to think about the past year within your business. This thoughtful reflection can be extremely valuable approaching the new year, just as it is within your personal life. What is your New Year’s Resolution for your business? Taking the time to reflect can identify problem areas that need to be addressed, aid in setting goals going forward, and allow you to celebrate successes with continued devotion to the strategies that led to them.
This time and process is valuable to your organization but can easily be moved to the back burner and forgotten about in the face of day-to-day work. Be sure to give it the respect it deserves by blocking time in your calendar to focus on the reflection itself. Whether this takes you thirty minutes at the end of each workday, or a concentrated four-hour blitz approach on a Wednesday morning will be up to you and how your brain works best. This intentional time set aside for reflection is key to truly recognizing and addressing both successes and opportunities for improvement.
I personally like to start reflection processes with the successes, to get a strong feeling of “we did it!” going right away. Take a look back on the goals you and your team had for the past year. These could be anything, from improved customer retention, to increased learning and development opportunities for your team, to making a profit. If you met that set goal, give yourself and your team a pat on the back, and identify what led to this success. Did you prioritize learning and development in scheduling for your team? Did your team improve their soft skills and translate that into customer relations? Highlight these areas that led to the successes you’re seeing, and make sure to keep that in your thoughts for the year approaching. Remember, this isn’t the planning stage yet – no pressure, just reflection!
Now, let’s look at the areas that need more attention in the year coming up. Of course, not everything can and will go perfectly to plan, and that’s to be expected. However, this is a great time to look back with 20/20 hindsight and see where you as a leader, and your organization, could’ve improved. What areas didn’t meet your expectations, and why? Was there a drop in sales, or a reduction in employee engagement? Was this due to external or internal factors? Can you control these factors, and therefore address them going forward? If factors are out of your control, such as an unexpected competitor entering the market, it might take some creative approaches to remedy the situation, but this is something you and your team can tackle in the planning stage. Reflecting on things you can control, such as resource allocation, training opportunities, and the workplace environment can help provide insight into the situations, thereby giving you a strategy for leading into more positive performance going forward.
Probably the most important question to ask yourself during the reflection process is, “What have I learned this year?” It’s a big one and can take some time to develop a comprehensive answer. Include things you’re proud of, like attending a seminar to build communication skills, and smaller moments that still carry impact, like discovering the team’s favourite brand of coffee for the break room. There’s no moment too big or too small to celebrate in this time, and it doesn’t have to be all within the boundaries of your business either. Skills learned in your personal life can cross over, and moments you’re proud of can definitely happen in all areas of your life. Be sure to celebrate them in this time of reflection; you earned it! This is also the time to include what you’ve learned from perhaps more negative experiences, such as poor customer reviews, or employees leaving the organization. Take the information you gathered from reflecting on your successes and failures and figure out what you’ve learned from those moments. There’s always something to be learned from every interaction, whether it’s a positive or negative one. As Nelson Mandela said, “I either win, or I learn.”
By reflecting on what worked this past year, and what could use some work in the year approaching, you can gather information and create a realistic, comprehensive plan for the next business year. Looking back on the year we’ve just had with a magnifying glass to find out how you can learn and grow will be an incredible help to you, your team, and your organization going forward. As a leader, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of both your and your organization’s performance will help immensely when creating next year’s plan for excellence!
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