“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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