The Resolution Graveyard

This is the time of year when many of us make resolutions for the New Year. One look at our bank account,  the number that appears when we step on the scale or the guy across the table with whom we are having dinner, and we decide something must change in the upcoming year!

What is it about this time of year that has us focusing on making such monumental changes? And if the change is really important, why do we decide on December 20th to do something that we won’t start until January 1st. Why not start today? Why is tomorrow more promising?

It’s true that many Americans avoid resolutions all together. As a matter of fact, according to data collected by the University of Scranton, 38% of Americans never make New Year’s resolutions. Of course, that leaves 62% of us that still hold to this time honored tradition.

And here’s a staggering statistic. According to a survey conducted by FranklinCovey, 35% of New Year’s resolutions are broken before the end of January. So odds are you and Mr. Wonderful will still be hanging out on February 1st.

So here’s the Four One One…

For leaders, our resolutions are far too important to leave in the Resolution Graveyard when times get tough. The changes we resolve to make impact the lives of the people we lead, therefore, they must be pursued with conviction and dedication. This in no way implies that we won’t break these resolutions along the way, but rather once they are broken we will take responsibility, get back on the horse, and keep riding. Someone once said, “Success is the child of drudgery and perseverance. It cannot be coaxed or bribed; pay the price and it is yours.”

Are you making any resolutions for the upcoming year? Here are a few tips to help you along the way…

Think Long and Think Wrong

It takes incredible courage to admit we need to change and even more courage to execute it. Spend too much time thinking about the challenges you will face and you will find yourself frozen in time; paralyzed by the fear of failure. While it is true that a journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step, it is equally true that you have to take the first step!

 Be Deliberate and Intentional

After you have made the resolution, write down some very specific steps you can take to get there. What will success look like? How will you know it when you see it?  Your resolution should serve to provide context for the decisions you make this year. If for instance, you have resolved to be more thoughtful, ask yourself, “How will (fill in the blank) help me get closer to my resolution to think of others before I think of myself?”

 It’s a Journey not a Destination

Our instant messaging culture has in many ways led us to believe that we can have all that we want by simply typing a few characters on our smartphone. In reality, long lasting change requires a long lasting pursuit. It’s not going to happen overnight, so embrace the journey.

Don’t Be Afraid to Begin Again…and Again

Unless you have been endowed with some supernatural power that prevents you from falling, odds are that somewhere along the way you are going to break your resolution.  I contend that breaking your resolution is not the issue, its failing to start again that is the problem. Do not let yourself succumb to “all or nothing” thinking. Give yourself room to grow and change and by all means remember the words of Thomas Edison, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

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Looking in the Rearview Mirror

A few months ago my 15 year old daughter received her Learner’s Permit. According to the State of Florida, she can now drive the car as long as a licensed adult is in the car with her.

To be quite honest, this is a milestone of which I am not yet ready to accept. It seems like just yesterday that I was holding her in my arms, singing My Cherie Amour, and crying as I pondered the tremendous responsibility that came with her arrival. Now this bundle of joy that was once completely dependent on me and my wife is driving a car.

Interestingly enough, there is a fundamental difference between my daughter behind the wheel at fifteen and me behind the wheel at fifteen; a difference of which I am very pleased. She is cautious, respectful of the road, and seems to understand that driving brings with it a certain amount of danger. I, on the other hand, being blindly confident, took to the streets like a mad man; believing from the very beginning that I had it all under control.

I remember being out driving one day with my mother in the passenger seat. Although she never said so, her death grip on the arm rest seemed to indicate she was more than a little nervous. Of course, I was cooler than the other side of the pillow; completely oblivious to the fact that this 4000 pound hunk of steel (yes steel, it was the 1970s) could do great damage if I crashed.

At some point during our drive, my mother turned to me and the following conversation took place:

My Mother: Are you doing ok?

Me: Yes.

My Mother: Are you sure?

Me: Yes. Stop worrying, I got this!

My Mother: Ok, but be sure to check your mirrors periodically.

Me: Mirrors? What mirrors?

Looking in the Rearview Mirror

Loosely quoted, the philosopher Kierkegaard wrote, “Life must be lived forward and understood backwards.”  Yet oftentimes we are so focused on the next achievement,  we fail to stop, look in the rearview mirror, and celebrate what was been accomplished.

As you wind down 2013 and before you get too focused on 2014, take a moment to look back and evaluate your impact this past year. Here are a few questions to consider.

Who is in the wake of your influence and how are they doing?

Whether you are a mother, father, teacher, coach, pastor, or CEO, if you have been leading this past year, your influence has been felt by those who follow you. How have they faired under your leadership? Have you created an environment in which they were able to flourish? Did you remove obstacles from their pathway, or were you a hindrance to their success?

Rather than hazard a guess, I suggest you go straight to the source by setting up individual meetings with those you lead. Prior to the meeting, ask them to come prepared with answers to the following three questions.

  1. What is one thing I have not done this year that you would like me to start doing?
  2. What is one thing I have done this year that you would like me to stop doing?
  3. What is one thing I have done this year that you would like me to continue doing?

What has the team accomplished?

The end of the year is usually accompanied by a deep exhale, in some cases figuratively, but often literally. So while everyone is catching their breath, take time to reflect on the accomplishments of the team and celebrate success. Did the team set goals this past year and reach them? Perhaps your goal was to increase teamwork; is there evidence that this occurred?

Do not feel pressure to come up with the list yourself. Ask the team to make a list of accomplishments, and then post them on the wall for everyone to see.

What have been the individual contributions to the team’s success?

It is highly likely that everyone on your team made an individual contribution that led to the team’s success; think individual action, collective power. Send a hand-written note to each member of the team thanking them for their contribution. Try to avoid making blanket statements like, “Thank you for your contribution this year.” The most meaningful recognition is individualized, deserved, and specific.

What individual character traits have you seen exemplified?

Has anyone on the team displayed honesty, integrity, or empathy? How about a drive for results, attention to detail, or holding oneself accountable? Make note of what you have seen and take time to tell your people that you noticed. This is great way to encourage them to continue. Admittedly, character qualities can be more challenging to identify. If you need some ideas to get you started, check out the Character First website at http://characterfirst.com/qualities for a great list of character qualities.

So here’s the Four One OneIf you want to increase your team’s desire to follow you in 2014, take the time to recognize them for what they did in 2013?