As the year draws to a close, many managers find themselves revisiting the work of the past months, considering what went well and what could have gone better.
But reflections are most productive if they are turned into concrete resolutions for the New Year, helping managers and their staff members grow by overcoming challenges as a team and – something that is particularly important in times like these – working together to make a change for the better. That might seem like a lot, but the right leadership resolutions will help you get there. Read on to see what it takes for executives and their teams to succeed in the year to come.
With New Year’s resolutions, as with any change process, the place to start is always oneself. And that’s particularly important for successful leaders. For this reason, the first 3 resolutions concern self-leadership. But it’s equally important to think about what your team needs you to do to support them most effectively, and that’s particularly the case when conditions are exacting. This is what the team-leadership resolutions are about.
Critical thinking, i.e., the skill enabling people to grasp and analyze a problem to find a solution, is a core competence managers need. Here are some tips to help you get better at this:
Don’t cling to your assumptions: The right questions can help you gain an entirely different view of a problem. To do so, however, you’ll need to keep an open mind.
More listening, less talking: Really listening to what somebody is telling you will enable you to fully understand a different perspective, which is the perfect basis for identifying a potential bias or any prejudice in your views.
Pose open questions: Questions that need to be answered with either yes or no will only get you so far. Try to motivate your interlocutors to explain their views in detail.
Also consider the exact opposite of what you’re thinking: Every group needs a member who occasionally questions the status quo. This will be especially helpful when it’s time for your team to change tack.
Sleep on it: A restful night’s sleep can help you see a problem more clearly.
We’ve all been there: You vow to stick to a New Year’s Resolution ... and eventually find that you just can’t. Why does that happen? Often we fail because we don’t allow ourselves to be bad at something at first. We don’t get it right a couple of times and give up. But every new habit feels difficult and awkward in the beginning. The key to success is to remain unruffled by setbacks. But how do you do that?
Prepare yourself for the disappointment you might experience when you fail at something that’s very important to you by practicing being bad at things that are not as crucial. A place to start is by writing a daily to-do list for the next day and arranging the items according to their priority. If you’re not sure your list is all that helpful, don’t worry. It’s only a list. Write a better one tomorrow.
Tell others about your ambitions so you will be held accountable when you are tempted to chicken out. This will help you pull through, regardless of initial difficulties and setbacks.
And finally, keep track of your efforts. After a while, this will help you see how far you have come. Instead of getting hung up on the little setbacks that are bound to happen you will be able to see your overall process.
If you know your own bias, you will be better at identifying discriminatory behavior within your team. Spend some time thinking about these questions to increase your awareness:
How would my team describe my leadership style to others?
Do my words and actions reflect my intentions?
What are my core beliefs, and do they limit or empower my team and me at work?
Try to spot fixed thought patterns in your responses to these questions. Don’t forget to also get feedback from your colleagues to gain a more holistic understanding of how others perceive you and what you could improve. You will get the most valuable feedback from people whose views and opinions differ markedly from your own. All of these things will help you become a sentient leader and increase your awareness of prejudice.
The coronavirus pandemic has made it clear that hybrid work is here to stay. For managers, this means that a major chunk of their work as leaders must be done online. Building respectful and strong relationships with staff members (particularly those with little work experience) requires a special effort when most communication takes place in the virtual sphere. This is what you should have an eye on:
Focus on building trust, as it is the foundation of a mutually beneficial relationship. Trust is even more important in a virtual work sphere. Actively address how virtual relationships can offer a safe space for all parties involved, discuss and agree on which kinds of information you can share or will treat confidentially, and, most importantly: honor these agreements. Remote work means that your team members won’t be able to just knock on your door to remind you of your promises. So earn their trust by sticking to your word religiously.
Jointly work out the rules, frequency, and modes of virtual communication in your team. How do you want to stay in touch: via e-mail, Teams calls, or internal messaging services? Or will a mix of these things combined with regular meetings in the office work best for everyone? If the ground rules have been set in advance, misunderstandings will be less likely to occur.
And finally, make sure to be actively involved in projects of your staff members whenever you can. This will not only boost motivation and team spirit but allow you to see strengths to promote and weaknesses to help staff members with.
At times, we invest time and effort in the wrong causes because we don’t prioritize right. This can mean tinkering with status updates nobody will ever read or perfecting the design of a presentation for ages while forgetting about its contents. One of your most important responsibilities as a manager is to help your team avoid pitfalls like these and instead focus on the tasks that are most important:
Set clear deadlines for major strategic decisions, define approximate person-hours for project milestones, and tell staff members if they spend too much time on a given task. In doing so, be careful not to micromanage your team.
Stress that perfectionism can be a slippery slope.
Encourage your employees to use time limits for minor tasks such as writing e-mails or looking for pictures to use in presentations.
Also remind your team that it is perfectly okay to make mistakes: Typos in the newsletter or forgetting to attach a file to a message will not make or break somebody’s career.
What’s more, help them build a network within the organization so that they always know whom to ask when they need help or have a question regarding a specific issue.
And finally, emphasize that you do not expect them to handle everything on their own. Close collaboration with others can ensure that the whole team is working towards the same goal in line with your organization’s mission.
Exhaustion, lack of motivation, and low spirits can occur in the best of teams. Some strategies can help you stock up on fresh and positive energy:
Proactively organize performance reviews – not once but on a regular basis. Your staff members need to know that they are on the right track and that they can leave their mark on the company. Make sure to mention what has been well done, particularly when discussing fields that need to be improved. This will encourage your team to use opportunities when they arise.
Create team rituals that strengthen the bond among team members and team spirit in general. When people feel connected to their colleagues, they will be more engaged and interested in their work. You can kick off meetings with various activities, for instance asking everybody to share what they are grateful for on this particular day or to express their current mood in just one word. The idea is to create an atmosphere of mutual appreciation and trust in the team.
And lastly, don’t worry too much about whether your team is working the hours it’s paid for. Instead, help them prioritize so that they spend their time on the right things. Support them in sorting out tasks that don’t generate added value, and identify a link to the company’s most important priorities in every individual’s job. This will create a positive mindset and a general feeling among employees that “together, we can do it,” as everybody works towards a shared goal and sees a purpose in their work.
Lastly, there’s an aspect that will be important to both managers and employees in the New Year that is often overlooked:
Surveys have shown that fun is among the most crucial factors in professional contexts because it favorably affects commitment, creativity, and staff loyalty. The following tips can help you make your team’s and your own work routines more fun again:
Take a playful approach to your to-do lists: Give yourself a little reward for every task completed, for instance a break to take a walk or call a friend or a little something you get for yourself.
Mix things up. Simple changes can give rise to a new perspective. For example, write difficult tasks on post-it notes so you can crumble them into paper balls and slam-dunk them into your wastepaper basket when you’re done.
Create a soundtrack for your workday. Put together various playlists suitable for different kinds of work. Matching the music to your energy and rhythm can be an effective way to maintain a positive dynamic throughout the day.
Work at different places. Does every day feel the same? Then you might need to shake things up a little. Bring your laptop to your favorite coffeeshop to work on a tricky work challenge, or make your call while taking a walk or from your garden as you are enjoying a latte macchiato. You’ll find that a temporary change of location can be refreshing, rejuvenating, and quite simply fun.
Last but certainly not least: don’t forget to encourage your team members to follow your example. It’ll work, you’ll see!