Ring in a new year and another opportunity for a fresh start toward achieving your leadership goals. The good news is that you don’t have to make sweeping changes. James Clear, author of the New York Times bestseller Atomic Habits, suggests that if you can live one percent better each day, you’ll be 37 times better by the end of the year.
According to Clear, everybody wants radical change. “But what we fail to realize is that small habits and little choices are transforming us every day already,” Clear says. If you can better direct those regular habits, you can reach your goals.
When you’re the best version of yourself, you help develop others, as well. Why not get started right away? Identify the things you want to work on that give you the most return on your investment. According to Clear, it comes down to creating small new habits. The idea is not to reach your destination overnight. Rather, it is to provide more proof on a daily basis that you are becoming the leader you want to be.
There are five official days in the workweek. That’s five opportunities to work on your leadership skills. Of course, there’s nothing that prevents you from working on these goals at home and in your community.
Here are some of the most important leadership characteristics that you can work on any time and anywhere. Enhance these leadership characteristics, and you will change your outcomes, not just in 2022 but in the long run as well.
Ask Good Questions
Asking good questions accomplishes two goals: It helps you gather the feedback and information you need to make better decisions, and it lets the speaker know that you actually hear them. When you ask questions, it signals to others that you want to learn and that what they have to say is important to you. Make sure that your questions are those borne of genuine curiosity and the need to know more about how the other person thinks. You’ll find that the more you listen, the better your questions will become.
If you’re at a loss for a really good question, remember you’re not a news anchor. No one expects you to know what you don’t know. You can always ask: “I’m not sure that I’m informed enough to ask the right questions. What questions should I be asking you?”
This is a development activity you can combine with managing by walking around (MBWA). Make the rounds in your company and ask questions, not in a looking-over-your-shoulder kind of way, but in a sincere effort to know more. If you have teens at home, this is a great skill to practice with them.
Lead by Example
It’s easy enough to talk the talk. It can be more difficult to walk the walk. One way to ensure that you do is to insist the leadership team holds themselves accountable. Ask others to call you out if you are doing something inconsistent with the organization’s mission and vision. Even better, dig in and do some of the things you ask of your people. If you expect your team to be customer service-oriented, step out of your office and help customers when you see that your frontline staff is overloaded. If you say that family time is an important value in your company, don’t expect employees to answer emails in the middle of the night.
Gravity Payment CEO, Steve Price, is a good example of this. When one of his employees complained that he didn’t make enough to live a decent life, he took action. His employees’ minimum salary is now $70,000 annually. Price, himself, took a huge pay cut and tripled the company’s revenue.
Take the time to mentor and develop others. This is, perhaps, the easiest one on the list. You can delegate current responsibilities, recommend books or conferences, or even take an employee to lunch.
Conventional wisdom says that the best leaders work themselves out of a job. This means that you should be able to walk away from any part of your business, knowing that there are people who can keep things running. Why would you want to do this? It’s not about training your replacement. Rather, the practice allows you to take on greater responsibilities and ensures that both you and your team are continuously learning and growing.
The opposite approach is to hold onto your responsibilities with fierce territorialism. However, that’s not an environment in which leaders thrive and companies grow.
Sustainable companies build strong relationships, both internally and externally. Leaders make it happen. In the new year, one of your leadership goals should focus on developing a trusting culture. This will allow ideas to circulate freely so that decisions are optimized. Siloed organizations will never compete effectively in the digital age. Companies must be able to collaborate and work effectively between departments. There is no “us” and “them.” It’s all about the team.
Talk to other leaders and staff. Touch base frequently and ask good questions. Give them the support they need. Get curious about what they do and why. Ask to attend another team’s meeting and invite them to yours. Encourage your team to be curious, as well. As you make decisions, pull in people from across various departments. Encourage your leadership team to establish goals that serve the entire company.
Plan for Personal Development
In addition to working on your leadership capabilities and developing others, pay attention to your professional development. If you’re going to prioritize learning, you need a plan. Without one, it’s difficult to make progress. Take time to learn, even when you’re busy.
The easiest thing to do is read. Put that best-selling leadership book right next to your bed and give it ten minutes each evening. You don’t even have to read management materials. There are great lessons to learn, as well, in fiction books. If reading in the evening knocks you out, carve out ten minutes during the day or listen to an audio recording during your commute. Everybody has ten minutes to spare.
But whatever you do, make a plan. Choose activities that you will stick with, even on your toughest days. If you can work it in, volunteer in your community. Volunteer work can lead to a board placement opportunity or new partnerships. Even if it doesn’t, it’s a good way to give back, hone your leadership capabilities and gather feedback outside of your usual work circle.
Commit to Leadership Development in 2022
The most important thing is to get started. Set up a routine wherever you can. Commit to spending a few minutes, five days a week, doing something. It doesn’t have to take much time. In fact, it’s probably best if you limit the time to a half-hour each day. Once you get started and the habit is established, you start to see the benefits, and you may naturally want to do more.
If you’d like to expand your leadership team, Y Scouts can help. We go beyond the traditional executive search to look for the human behind the resume. We understand that you build a competitive advantage through the alignment of your team with the brand’s purpose. For that, you need the best leaders. Y Scouts will get you there.