December 12, 2016

Five Year-End Questions Great Leaders Ask

Five Year-End Questions Great Leaders Ask

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Where’s the champagne?

That might be the first question you think of as we near the end of 2016.

But before you mark 2016 in the books, now is the ideal time to reflect on the year and how 2017 can be even better. Sure, most leaders are already doing that, but you might be focusing on numbers, spreadsheets and other “metric-oriented” goals.

But truly great leaders will find that digging deeper is where you are going to find the gold.

In that spirit, here are five questions to spend some time ruminating on. (Go ahead….a little eggnog might help.)

What did we do right?

Admit it, it’s easy to go straight to what you did wrong and relive those bummer moments. Human nature has us reflecting on our failures, but that’s actually not helpful — and depressing to boot.  Great leaders let those go and instead focus on how how they can build on their successes. So take the time to reflect not on what didn’t work but what did  — and how you can replicate and build on those wins for the future.

Did I do enough to engage my team?

You’ve probably read this stat that almost 70% of employees are disengaged. In a recent blog post I shared why that is terrifying. And yet, it can be so very tempting for leaders, even great ones, to want to be a one-man band. You’ve probably played that instrument I call the “if only I had.”

“If only I had called on that customer.” “If only I had executed the loyalty program.” Here’s the thing: There’s two words in the phrase “great leader.” If you’re not leading, you’re not fulfilling your promise and what’s more, you’re undermining your team.

That’s why this is the time to look back and see if you did enough to engage your team so they felt they held a meaningful role in achieving goals and in their own development. Are you giving them ownership? Are you coaching them so they feel stretched and pushed? Are you letting them feel successful?

Did I grow my sphere of influence?

Many leaders are focused on achieving their goals, and determining those can often be a very metric-heavy exercise.  Yes, numbers are important but they only tell part of the story – the part that’s being written today. Great leaders know that they need to build the relationships that will drive success tomorrow, and every day after. Consider whether you’ve been deliberate in taking the time to proactively build and nurture relationships that will pay dividends in the future, both internally and externally. Sometimes that investment doesn’t pay off in immediate wins, but great leaders know they have to take the long-term perspective, rather than constantly focusing on the numbers for today.

Did I use my time well?

Time is a big concept. Of course you want to be productive and make the most of those 168 hours we all have every week, ensuring we have a functional to-do list and that we’re listening to podcasts while we commute. But I want you to think specifically on the No. 1 time waster for most leaders – meetings. Research shows that upper-level managers can spend as much as 50 percent of their time in meetings. That means that if you look at your calendar, most of it is booked before you even start your day.

As we look at corporate cultures where meetings have become standard, you have to decide how you can get that time back. What meetings can you opt out of? Which can you delegate to others to grow their own skills? Which can you cancel outright if they’re not meeting meaningful goals? And for those meetings you have to have, what changes do you need to make to run them more effectively?

What am I doing to develop my leadership skills?

Did you focus on your own development last year? Great leaders never stop learning. That’s why CEOs choose high-level conferences to attend to share best practices, and presidents read biographies of other presidents. Athletes at the top of their game are constantly looking for sharper coaches and fresh techniques. So while it’s critical to coach your own employees, don’t forget what you need in that arena, too.

Now is the time, while the calendar is relatively empty, to schedule that conference or online course or make a resolution to read or listen to business-related subject matter daily. Determine your priorities, whether it’s personal development, leadership development, focused team engagement or strategic relationship building and commit to taking the time to develop your own skills so you can drive that success that great leaders are always chasing.

Your turn: What did you learn about yourself when reviewing these questions? Do you have some new goals in mind for 2017? Please share below!

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