Best Of: A Leader’s Resolutions are Calendar Blind

This post is excerpted from my collection: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development. As we head into the new year, it’s important to recognize that for the most effective leaders, every day is New Year’s Day.

I’m as guilty as the next person of finding the impending resetting of the calendar a cathartic cleansing, where the failures of the past year are suddenly washed away and replaced by the empty and unknown space filled with promise and time stretching out in front of us.  There is something remarkably powerful and alluring about the chance to start-over, right wrongs and vow to do things right the next time around.

Resolutions start out as good intentions early in a new year and often end up as regrets later.  At some point during the year, we cross a threshold where we mentally give up on the resolutions for now and resolve to succeed next year.

Full disclosure, I live in Chicago, where the saying “wait till next year” (Cubs) is slightly more commonplace than, “vote early and vote often.”  Waiting until next year is a part of the genetic make-up for anyone born north of Adams Street.

Real Time Resolutions Are Performance Fuel for Effective Leaders:

As a leader, you cannot afford to fall victim to the boom and bust cycle of annual resolutions.  Rather, your challenge is a daily one, requiring you to manage your practices and habits in a program of perpetual self-improvement.  Of course, identifying the right improvements requires you to have a real-time feedback system and the ability to keep your ego in check while as objectively as possible processing the daily evidence on your own performance.

While the simple act of even contemplating the need to improve requires a great degree of self-awareness and emotional intelligence on the part of the leader, remember, we are talking about effective leaders.  Ineffective leaders are blind, deaf and dumb to these issues.

Eight Key Questions to Resolve About Your Own Leadership Practices:

1. How am I positively and negatively impacting the performance of my team members?

2. What are people telling me (directly and indirectly) about my performance?

3. Are people comfortable offering suggestions on how I can help?

4. How do people respond to me?  Do they shrink or grow in my presence?

5. What is the quality of my various interactions?  Are we tackling or skirting the tough issues?

6. Do people treat me with deference or respect?

7. Do my practices stimulate creativity or drive compliance?

8. Are there new ideas and suggestions for improvements flowing from the team?

Armed with insights and feedback, the effective leader strives to improve his/her performance daily, creating a kind of Leader’s Muscle Memory where good habits become ingrained and second nature and bad habits are constantly exercised away.

Rather than annual resolutions to improve, the time for reflection is during the drive or plane trip home, at night before going to sleep or in the morning armed with that fresh promise of a new day…not dissimilar from the promise of the new year.

Effective leaders operate with a constant sense of renewal, driven by an intense desire to succeed and to help others succeed.  While not every effective leader thinks in the exact language and terms of the questions above, they do think in terms of the same issues.  What’s working?  What’s not?  What can I do better?

The Bottom-Line for Now:

The great news about being a leader is that you control the ability to do the right things every day.  Every encounter provides the opportunity to improve.  No more “wait until next year” for you.  Your next year is right now and every minute thereafter.  Resolve to use those minutes wisely and leave no regret in your leadership wake.

More Professional Development Reads from Art Petty:

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