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?

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