There’s no one right style of leadership. Each manager needs to make decisions based on the people who make up her team and what works best for them. However, it’s also true that there is always room for improvement. And that’ll be time well spent since good leadership is strongly associated with improved results overall. The good news, it’s not that hard. By taking some time for some self-reflection and study, you can become a better leader in the new year.
Reflect on What Went Well
Figure out what your leadership wins were in last year so that you can build on them in the new year. This starts by writing down your own impressions of where you think you were successful. Think in terms of what you did that got you to a goal instead of just what was accomplished. Hint: you are looking for your own ‘pattern of success’ here.
You should also talk to employees and your manager to see what they think about the year we’ve just finished. What did they feel was especially effective? What did they find surprising or innovative?
… And on What Didn’t
None of us hit it out of the park every time. That’s ok. We are not supposed to. But we are supposed to take the opportunity to learn from what didn’t work. After writing down your wins, take some notes about what you felt did not go well. Were there times you fell short of goals? Times that you felt that you did not make yourself clearly understood to team members? Times you dropped the ball and didn’t delegate as well as you should?
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When asking others for their impressions on where there was room for improvement, it can sometimes be better to allow people to be anonymous. Consider sending around a survey or putting out a box where people can drop notes about what they think could have gone better and their suggestions for the new year. One word of caution: make sure that you yourself get into a powerful state before you review feedback. Some of it will not be pleasant. Don’t make it personal even when it feels personal. Remember, you are a leader and the aim is to take what you can out of it and learn how to lead better, not to go into a pity party. If you need to vent, go and vent with someone you respect and can guide you with wisdom, such as your executive coach.
When you are looking at how you did, you should also look at metrics that spell out hits and misses in numbers. Were there more sick days in your department this year than in others? Did you have a higher average than other departments in the company? Were your rates of turnover higher than normal or about average for your company and your industry?
Look Outside for Inspiration
If there were situations that you did not feel you handled as well as possible or areas where you feel your team has untapped potential, look for ways to change or improve your leadership to bring out everyone’s best in the coming year.
Sometimes the best thing we can do is find an example of what we want to be. Modelling your style on the style of someone who you find successful can be an excellent place to start. By looking to others, you can adopt some of what gets them their great results. Who’s the leader you admire or like the most? What is it about them you like?
A leadership coach or a mentor can help provide actionable advice about how to take your current leadership strategies and tweak them to be more effective. These individuals will have the outside perspective you need to see what you are doing well and how you can improve.
Challenging yourself in the workplace is another way to make yourself a better leader, as well. When the people who work with you see you stretching, they often feel more confident about your abilities. You will also likely learn new skills that translate well into better leadership.
Communicate with Your Team
To be effective, change can’t be unilateral. If you want to change procedures in your workplace so that you are more effective, be sure to talk about this with your team. Get them meaningfully engaged. Explain where you feel you all are at the present time, what new results you want to see and what you see as the ways to get there. Make sure you ask them for their ideas and suggestions of what they feel will help you, as a team, get there. Remember – sudden changes can make people feel unsettled or even worried about their jobs. This sort of open communication makes people feel more at ease. It also helps them understand your expectations better so that they are more able to shape their efforts to fit your needs.
Better leadership is, in many ways, the result of deliberate and thoughtful choices. By making decisions based on what you want instead of being in a place where you are purely reactive, you are better able to coax and work together with your team in the direction that will be more successful for you all. Be patient as you try putting new strategies into place. It can take some trial and error to get the results you want. Over time, however, it will lead to better results from your team and a happier, more productive workplace.