Yippee, it’s another New Year. We’ve worked so hard for this moment, haven’t we? We’ve stressed, and spread-sheeted, and Zoomed our way through 12 painstaking months of collaboration, productivity, bad coffee, and shareholder value.
Finally (finally!) we’ve made it to a brand New Year, a fresh start—complete with spirited music, party hats, sparkling toasts, delicious little canapes, and dancing with wild abandon until the wee hours in our velvet and sequined finery.
Gone are last year’s missed deadlines, awkward office politics, and failed objectives. (Boy were we dreaming when we cooked those up, right? Hah.) Anyway. Once that clock strikes twelve, the slate will be wiped clean and everything will be magically different.
Oh, sorry. Did I wake you?
The truth is, our work lives CAN be wonderful—but only if we have a really awesome plan. Only if we shift out of reaction mode and into courageous strategy mode.
I used to be strategic all the time. People loved that about me. I’ll bet you started out that way too. Then tech came along and increased the pace of work so much, there is literally no time to sit down and think.
Case in point?
I have a friend whose company just went through a re-org. Big drama, messy middle, finally they start to get things all sorted out. She gets on a plane and tidies up some administrative details on route to a meeting. By the time she lands? Another re-org had been announced. 🤦♀️
With all of this relentless change, those natural moments when we used to be able to pause and reflect – to come up with a master plan – have slipped away. The secret to getting them back? As silly as it sounds, we need to take time to make a plan.
So let’s pull up our calendars right now and block out time to reflect on the goals we’re setting and commitments we’re making with ourselves and our teams for 2024. Let’s stop reacting for just a minute, take a deep breath, and consider how best to make this shiny New Year the crowning achievement in our Courageous Leadership journeys.
3 Ways to Set Your Team up for Success in the New Year
Paint a Picture of Success
As Courageous Leaders, we think we’re spectacular at goal setting, don’t we? We believe the goals we communicate to our teams are crystal-clear. But honestly? We’re just … not.
What seems crisp and clean and obvious in our adorable little leadership minds ends up kind of vague and mushy in the real world.
“Do better” isn’t a goal. “Do more” isn’t either. Even attaching a metric doesn’t fix it. Do 5% more. Get 5% more. It’s all champing at the bit, with very little running.
As a result, our team members do their best to guess at what we are asking of them. Then, when the deadline arrives, we’re shocked to realize that … what they thought we wanted isn’t what we wanted at all. 😲
So what’s the secret to goal-setting success? Think visually. Describe what the goal looks like. Paint a clear picture of where we are going and why. Allowing people to see the outcome allows them to make better decisions along the way.
Here’s the most powerful part: As you begin to visualize the process of achieving your goals, you’ll find that you start seeing all the bite-sized goals it takes to get to that vision. Those bite-sized goals are where the magic happens for your teams.
So the power move when creating goals is to go deep. Describing what you want to do (increase productivity by 5%) sits on the surface. What actions need to be taken to get to that 5%, that’s the goal you want to share with the team. Who on the team is best suited to take those actions, and when, gets even deeper.
Without the depth, your team members can try their hearts out but get lost along the way. When you give them depth, those bite-sized goals become the landmarks that get them there quickly and efficiently.
Connect your goals to the heart, not just the head
Lately, we’ve fallen in the habit of assigning metrics to everything. Quantifying every goal or achievement we can. “Increase sales by 5%,” we say. While metrics are satisfying for our inner statisticians, our analytical left brains, they are sadly lacking in heart.
As Courageous Leaders, our job is to inspire our teams, to get them to WANT to take action. That requires a deep focus on who our team members are, what they need, and how they are best motivated.
The secret to making people WANT to achieve a goal is all about connecting the head and the heart. The more we get our people to engage – to see the goal, feel it, believe it, want it so badly they can taste that moment of achievement – the more likely it is we’ll get to the finish line in record time.
There’s research that backs this up. When people are not just intellectually connected to a goal but also emotionally connected to a goal, we put out four times the discretionary activity—we work four times as hard.
To tap into the heart of a goal, we need to consider what each team member gets personally out of achieving the goal. Beyond getting paid, having a job, how will they benefit? Think about intangibles here—how achieving the goal makes them feel a part of something bigger than themselves. How are we helping customers, the community, the world?
One great example of this is in banking. Rather than talking about boosting deposits all the time, we should be talking about how having our bank manage all of our customers’ financial needs makes their lives easier, deepens their relationship with their banker, etc.
The more we think through the intangible aspects that make our goals meaningful to individual team members, the greater chance we’ll get there in record time.
Upskill Your Team for the Win
Crystal-clear goals that engage our team members and add meaning to their lives will get us two-thirds of the way there. But to reach the finish line quickly and efficiently, our people also need to have the right skills.
What skills do our people need in order to achieve our big, beautiful goals for the New Year? The basic skills that first come to mind are just the surface. But we don’t just want to win in 2024. We want to win BIG. And winning big means we need to dig deeper than job basics.
Yep. I’m talking about those ever-essential soft skills. The champions of the workforce, soft skills such as effortless communication, keen organizational skills, the ability to navigate a courageous conversation – with a coworker or a frustrated customer – all help our teams reach those ambitious annual objectives with grace and style.
Let’s take a few minutes now to think through what soft skills our team members could leverage to blow the doors off of this year’s goals. And schedule time on our calendars to do one-on-one coaching with individuals or a team training session with role playing exercises.
Starting today, let’s think about skills training as the ever-essential dress rehearsal that works out the kinks and refines our performance before the show begins. Nail the rehearsals, and we’ll be taking a bow to a standing ovation when the next New Year dawns.
WHAT’S NEXT? Right now, at Cindy Solomon & Associates, we are gearing up for big things in the New Year with Courageous Leadership training on goal setting and skills development. If you’re an executive or leader seeking guidance in how to engage and inspire your teams to perform beyond their wildest dreams in the New Year, go to www.courageousleadershipinstitute.com to grab a webinar, workshop, or keynote customized to your organization’s specific needs.
Cindy Solomon is CEO of the Courageous Leadership Institute, a thriving leadership and customer experience training organization with access to up-to-the-minute insights on how today’s most innovative corporations are defining the future of leadership. Learn more at www.CourageousLeadershipInstitute.com.