By Craig Perrin
Craig is AchieveGlobal’s Senior Product Manager, Leadership Center of Excellence. Since 1986, he has helped develop many of AchieveGlobal’s performance improvement solutions.
It may be a short vista for a guy with my tenure, but I try to keep looking ahead. “Ever forward!” a colleague used to sign every email (and may yet do, wherever he may be).
Still, as the year winds down, it’s useful for a leader to glance backward and ask, “What can I do differently now to help people close this year with a flourish and start next year with a rush?” While details will differ, depending on who and what we manage, my own reflection turned up a few seeds that might blossom for others.
- Respond without delay. This time of year, associates obviously get caught up in closing out business, projects, or what have you. Leaders, for their part, may become so preoccupied with big-picture goals that they put off responding to urgent requests for information, approval, or action. Few things are more frustrating to associates than a leader gone dark when a deadline looms – especially when that leader set the deadline.
- Get people together. Associates can feel the walls closing in as the year winds down. The resulting tunnel vision may blind them to ready help elsewhere in the organization. Effective leaders stay in touch with associates’ priorities and connect people who have commensurate goals. This fresh or renewed collaboration often endures well beyond December 31.
- Curb the OCD. Micro-managers may get year-end work done as they prefer, but they also neglect a key principle of employee engagement: People want to control aspects of their own work. If we treat people as adults (even if we question that label in some cases), we support individual effort toward shared goals. Measured autonomy to meet clear expectations gets things done right this year and builds momentum for the next.
- Point out the vital few. As a young professor, I was tasked by the chancellor with writing detailed responses to a long list of questions to secure funding for an educational film project. I struggled to find the data to complete items A through J. One late December day I passed the chancellor in a hall and explained my challenge. He thought for a moment, then said: “Just do E.” I recall those liberating words whenever I see associates scrambling to meet multiple priorities, few of which are truly vital.
I can think of other year-end leadership best practices – debunk mixed messages, for example, or recognize others without reservation – but let me ask you: What do you see effective leaders doing to sustain momentum toward and through January 1?
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