Five Things Leaders Should Do In December To Ensure Success In The New Year

The Month Of December “Fortune favors the bold.”
                           Virgil (70-19 BC)

There’s a great tendency in the month of December to wind things down.

With the holiday season upon us, and the least amount of sunlight of the year around to energize us, we’re influenced to work in slow motion.   We feel like resting, and to acting upon a conscious or unconscious mindset that tells us things will rev up soon enough – when the new-year arrives on January 1.

But it’s long been my experience that the most successful leaders have an altered state of awareness about December.  They see the month as the true start of the new-year, and purposely work very hard to lay the foundation for high achievement way before Auld Lang Syne gets sung.  For these highly effective people, the last month of the year is all about winding things up.

If your goal is to lead your team to spectacular performance in 2014, here are five things you’ll be very wise to accomplish in December:

1.    Share Your Vision
Ideally in person, but alternatively through a well-crafted and thoughtful written communication, use December to inspire your team.   The wonderful effect of sharing your dreams for the coming year – all you’d like to achieve and become – is that it gets the juices flowing in the minds of every person who works for you.  Weeks before the new-year starts for real, your employees can give thought to how their efforts fit into your aspirations.  And just because you planted the seed, they will begin to prepare themselves for the coming challenges.  One word of guidance: make sure to acknowledge all your team did to support you this year, before you re-direct your focus to 2014.

2.    Meet One-On-One With You Direct Reports
December is a wonderful month to check in with people and to personalize the new-year ahead by discovering new ambitions.  Knowing the greatest reason people burn out in their jobs is a lack of task variability, ask them if there’s a special project they’d like to help out on.  Is there a cross-training opportunity that they would enjoy?  The road to high engagement is making people feel valued and cared for.  That’s the essential goal for these meetings.

3.    Assign Next Year’s Goals
The funny thing about goals is that they are almost always higher than those assigned the year before.   We laugh at this, of course, but new and bigger goals very often have the effect of stressing people out and putting them into a disempowered state of fear.  So, the solution to this is to introduce goals long before they go into effect.  The extra time allows people to get their heads around the higher expectations.  I’ve also found it extremely helpful to ask employees to prepare a high-level plan for how they will go about achieving those new goals.  The exercise typically reveals to people that the mountain isn’t as high as they first imagined.  By the time they submit their plan to you, they’ve already envisioned themselves planting a flag on the summit.

4.    Build A Pipeline
Few things are more exciting for a leader and their team than to have a highly productive month of performance in January.   Come early February, it simply feels great to know you’ve gotten off to a phenomenal start in the new-year and to have established early momentum.  The best way to ensure this happens is to stack the deck in your favor.   Whatever you traditionally do to drive results, do more of it in December.  Challenge each employee to double down his or her efforts, and to build a pipeline of work that can come to fruition in January.  Yes, your team will work harder in December, but the rewards will be worth it.

5.    Get Organized And Reflect
I love the last couple of weeks of December, and have made a habit of using them to get myself organized and emotionally prepared for the coming year.  I clean out files, organize my office, and update my calendar and planner.  Like chopping wood and carrying water, there’s an unseen but powerful reward for doing the mundane.

While not always possible, I also love taking off the last week of the year and spending time in nature, going for walks – having thinking time.   Late December is an ideal period for personal reflection and for becoming fully re-inspired about the future.  Every year around this time I’m reminded of C. S. Lewis who said, “you are never too old to set another goal and to dream a new dream.”

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About Mark C. Crowley

Mark C. Crowley was Senior Vice President at Washington Mutual, one of the country’s largest financial institutions where he led investment product sales nationwide. After leading his division to all-time record performance in 2008, he was named Leader of the Year. A natural leader fresh out of college, Mark C. Crowley gave little conscious thought to his leadership practices. With little formal training on how to effectively motivate human performance in the workplace, he operated from instinct. And those instincts always seemed to work effectively elevating whichever team he was leading. During the first decade of his career, Mr. Crowley built a track record of leading myriad teams to exceptional performance. In his mid-twenties, he successfully launched and managed one of the banking industry’s first direct response centers. Immediately after, he led sales management at one of the nation’s largest thrifts. Regardless of his assignment, it became evident that his intuition-based leadership practices consistently inspired employees to uncommon engagement, commitment and achievement. Upon closer examination, Mr. Crowley came to realize that certain childhood experiences had influenced him to be more sensitive to the needs of employees and, specifically, what would help them thrive and excel. And workers scaled mountains for him simply because they could feel he was someone who genuinely cared about them, and made consistent and varied efforts to express that to them directly. Tied to his own 25 years of leadership experience, and supported by remarkable new research and scientific discoveries, Mr. Crowley has proved that leadership which acknowledges the humanity – the hearts – of workers is a truly transformational and abundant model. Translating what he learned to do instinctively, he shows us the practices of leading from the heart – and how to become an exceptional leader in the 21st century. Mark C. Crowley is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego, in addition to the Pacific Coast Banking School at the University of Washington. He holds five investment securities licenses (Finra Registrations) and also is a licensed California Real Estate Broker. Born and raised in Garden City, New York, he now lives in La Jolla, California with his wife and son. He’s a devoted fan of Van Morrison, great books and the San Diego Padres.
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