Year-end is the perfect time to wind down and reflect - on wins, losses and goals. Follow this five step checklist to ensure a successful start to 2017...

1. Reflect and regroup

Besides the regular Christmas party, it is also a good idea to have an informal discussion with your team. Before this session, spend some time looking back at 2016 - at major wins and achievements; at losses and areas that need improvement. As a manager, try to be as objective as possible.

During the team discussion, take on the role of

coach or mentor. Guide your team members through a similar reflection process of highs and lows throughout the year.

This is the perfect time not only to express appreciation and gratitude, but to also earmark key development opportunities for the following year. It will also assist your team members, who are often very busy with practical year-end deadlines, to look back and look ahead to 2017.

2. Manage the shared perceptions of your team

At the end of the year, departments, divisions and even entire organisations adopt an unspoken narrative which shapes their behaviour and motivation levels for the next few months (or until the narrative changes).

A narrative or common belief is a shared perception of whether or not the organisation achieved it’s mission for the year. It is influenced by and has an effect on company culture and engagement levels.

“We blew it out of the park in 2016”

“We wouldn’t be where we are now if the service department did their job properly”

“Losing a key member of our team really affected our progress this year”

As a leader of a department or team, your job is to understand what isn’t necessarily said, but what is often felt by your team members. Then, to take this narrative, whether positive or negative, and transform it into constructive shared goals for 2017.

Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What is the narrative?
  • Is it felt by my department or by the entire organisation?
  • Is it accurate or not?
  • How can I, as well as the management team, work to reinforce this perception or change it?
  • What lessons can we learn from this?

3. Examine processes and meetings

Within any team or department exists certain processes, rituals or routines. These can be highly effective, or they can become bad habits that exist only because they’ve always existed and ‘that’s the way we do things here’.

Ask for input from your team members:

  • Are our team meetings useful or do they lack purpose?
  • How can we improve meetings to shorten time and improve outcomes?
  • Are there any department or organisational policies that don’t work?
  • Anything that we continue to do, whether a policy or a routine, that just doesn’t work anymore?

Then, within the management team, discuss and debate the findings. Are there any habits that can and should be changed? Anything that can be improved? Obviously not all unpleasant things can be done away with if they are necessities. In other scenarios, organisations are constrained by certain factors which cannot be changed. But often, concessions can be made and new habits and routines can be put in place.

Make sure to communicate the outcomes, even if there aren’t any major changes, and the reasons why to your team.

4. Assess team performance

A key part of proactive talent management is to assess the progress and performance of your subordinates, on an individual basis as well as via team dynamics.

There are multiple ways to achieve this goal - using traditional performance management practices, assessments, or your own insight as a manager. Sometimes it can also be helpful to discuss this with another manager who may oversee or work with members of your team.

Be aware of your top performers - these talented team members need to be engaged and developed to ensure the future success of your organisation.

Be aware of your lower performers - facilitate a constructive one-on-one goal setting discussion for the year ahead, and consider a plan B if performance does not improve. Perhaps a structured development plan is the solution, or alternatively reshuffling teams to improve dynamics, cohesion and performance.

5. Look inward

Besides assessing the performance of your subordinates, you also need to extend that same objectivity to yourself. This isn’t always easy, but it is necessary to keep growing as a leader.

Exercise 1:

Draw a line down the middle of a page. On the left hand side, make a list of your goals for 2016 - what you initially wanted to achieve at the start of the year. On the right-hand side, list the goals you actually achieved and why, as well as the reasons behind not achieving certain milestones. This can be both personal and work-related.

You could also ask someone who knows you well to complete the same exercise - from their perspective of you. Then examine the lists to see the extent of the differences - we are often harder on ourselves than we need to be.

Exercise 2:

Identify the leadership style that you think you portray, by looking at a) your behaviour, b) your team dynamics and c) any objective data on hand - this can be team members’ perception, the perception of other managers, your boss’s perception or assessment data.

Do some research into this style - if it is effective, how to maintain it and use it to boost team performance. If it can be improved, how?

Exercise 3:

Summarise what you’ve learnt throughout the year. Go back to your notes from conferences, classes, webinars and meetings, and integrate all the information into your top three lessons/learnings for the year. Then, set 2 - 3 action steps to continue learning in the new year.

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