Resolve to Be a Better Leader This Year

new-years-resolutions-comicI’m a big fan of new year’s resolutions. While most of us can relate to the experience of setting them and ultimately forgetting them, every so often they can propel us to greater success. The most effective resolutions aren’t actually end goals but action plans.  I can resolve to lose 20 pounds this year but without a specific set of behaviors to follow, my resolution might remain in the “wish” category. However, resolving to work out 4 days a week all year long is a clear action plan.  With that in mind, here are 5 actions you can take to be a better leader in 2014:

  • Meet one-on-one with each employee. The social science research is clear. One-on-one time for managers and direct reports can have a significant impact on employee engagement, motivation, and work ethic. If you lead a small team (less than 15 people), resolve to meet with each person for 30 mins, twice a month. If you have a larger team (15 or more), once a month may have to do.
  • Send thank you notes. The people around you want to feel valued. They want to know that they contribute. They need tangible evidence that their work impacts those around them. Resolve to send out a few thank you notes each month. Mix it up by using email, cards, even post-it notes. Be sure to give voice to the employee’s talent, skill, or effort and the difference it made.
  • Job shadow. The most successful leaders are well versed in the nuanced challenges employees face in their roles. How can you advocate for and serve your team members if you have but a passing understanding of their day-to-day jobs? Choose one employee each month and schedule a few hours to shadow them. Make sure you let them know ahead of time it’s not performance related and that they are not being evaluated. Being clear that your primary goal is to better understand the complexities and challenges they face will reduce (but admittedly not eliminate) anxiety they have about being “observed.”
  • Make time for fun. As a leader you have ownership of and responsibility for the culture of the work environment. Give people a chance to interact with each other beyond the responsibilities, tasks, and obligations of work. Hold birthday parties and baby showers as appropriate. Schedule a silly hat day, hold show and tell at a staff meeting, or organize a potluck lunch. When colleagues get to view each other beyond the lens of work it builds stronger team relationships.
  • Do “Stay” Interviews. Most of us have head of Exit Interviews- the set of questions we’re asked to answer when departing a position or organization. The goal is to understand the reasons people leave in an effort to reduce turnover. A Stay Interview acts much in the same way but is far more proactive. During some of the one-on-one time you are setting aside with your personnel, take a few minutes to ask these stay interview questions.

Pick one. Schedule it on your calendar. Do it now. You’ll be better off for it (and so will your team!) at year’s end.

Now it’s your turn! What’s your new year’s resolution for 2014? I’ve resolved to abstain from junk food and run 3 times a week. I’m 6 days in and I’d kill for a Kit-Kat.  Post your thoughts and comments below and thanks for stopping by!  ~Joe

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