As the leader of an organization, I know how challenging it can be to take a step out of day-to-day work to really assess what’s working well and what can be improved upon. It’s a balancing act. It’s not always easy. In fact, sometimes charting a course for the future can feel like a distraction. But let me assure you, pumping the day-to-day brakes can bring new clarity and direction to your team and your business. From product planning, customer service, team development, financial planning, etc, leaders can gain new insights and inspiration when they break from chaos and find clarity.
To help you start a new year (and decade) with clarity, we recommend that each member of your leadership team adopt the following practices:
- Step away from your computer
To find clarity, we recommend you start by stopping. It may seem counterintuitive, but have you ever noticed how many great ideas pop into your head while you’re on vacation? Walking the dog? Driving home? It’s when you’re not actively trying to fix the problem. Personally, I find it happens to me a lot when I purposely make the space. I acknowledge that it’s incredibly hard to step away from work when there are so many demands on your time, but the mind clearing pays off. You don’t need to take a full week’s vacation but try to have a weekend where you’re completely unplugged. Embrace activities like hiking, walking your dog, creating art or playing music. The key is finding something that you enjoy that doesn’t involve technological stimulation (like watching a movie or playing a video game). It will help you relax and access different areas of your brain.
- Reconnect with your values
Your values must be aligned with your organization’s values if you’re going to develop a thriving career and be the most effective leader you can be. Values are the north star for what we believe, how we behave, and what we create. Effective leaders must be crystal clear on them at all times. If this foundation is misaligned, internal teams and clients will feel it and won’t benefit from the best work your organization has to offer.
We recommend a gut check. What feels 100 percent right about your work right now? What doesn’t? Are there things you begrudgingly accept because you think you should do them or have to do them? What about your organization’s values? Review your mission statement and think about your vision and values. Do they still ring true? Anything feel off? Just like people, businesses change. Don’t be hard on yourself if something doesn’t feel right any longer. Chances are that means it’s just time for a tune up. It also means it’s a great opportunity to engage with your team to get everyone on the same page. An organization’s mission and values must be embodied by the team or it won’t work. Authenticity isn’t a marketing word – it’s an action word.
- Review the numbers
The first two tasks are about space and values. That’s where to start because it gives you context for this more analytical portion of the program – your balance sheet. You’ve had some space, you’ve connected with your values, now look at the numbers to understand your financial health. What areas of the business are performing well? What’s profitable, what’s not? Which products are your top sellers? Are your expenses in alignment with investment priorities? Are team investments in line with performance? Do you have equal pay across gender, race, and roles? Are you making room to train and develop your team? Are you adequately investing in IT to keep operations running smoothly and keep your data safe? These numbers will tell you two key things: 1) Where you’ve been prioritizing investment and energy. 2) Which products or services are the best fit for your clients. Once you’ve made this assessment, ask yourself how this aligns with your mission and values.
- Assess your personal wins and losses
A new year gives us an excuse for a fresh start. Yes, I’m calling it an excuse because let’s be honest, technically we can do this at any time. But somehow, a new calendar year can feel like a clean slate. We encourage leaders to embrace the new year and use it to their advantage. Look back at the year and identify the things you’re most proud of. Are those the same things you want to keep up in the coming year? What about the things you did but didn’t enjoy or find success with? Is it worth the continued effort or is it time to put them out to pasture? New years are all about assessing the things in your life that do and don’t align with your values and goals.
- Get on the same page
Get everyone in the room and talk it out. As we said above, leaders need to make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to organizational goals and values. Lead a structured group session and ask each member of your leadership team to outline observations and ideas from practices 2-4. Be sure to have everyone share and listen before opening it up for discussion. More likely than not, you’ll leave the meeting with a new and refreshed perspective that will help you and your team prioritize annual goals and objectives. Last but not least, be sure to check in regularly to make sure you’re still on course.
These reminders to slow down to create space for a new perspective and clarity can create incredible positive change in an organization and help you be the best leader you can be. If you have methods you’ve used that help, please share! I’d love to hear about it. Here’s to a transformative and fulfilling start to a new decade.