Article | null

Start the New Year Smart So You Can Finish Strong

Staff Writer
G happy new year cut paper lettering
G happy new year cut paper lettering

The New Year is a time of both reflection and planning. For businesses, it can be an opportunity to take stock of things running smoothly and identify what might need a tune up.

For some people, this time of year comes hand-in-hand with a familiar trope—making and breaking resolutions. But with thoughtful connection and intentionality, business leaders can create realistic expectations, shape company culture, inspire optimism and ensure engagement in the year ahead.

As you and your team set out on the path toward success, keep an eye out for these three helpful breadcrumbs along the way.

1. Be Open and Curious

Ever heard the expression, “You don’t know what you don’t know”? Before you get ankle-deep in the new year or start setting goals for your team, make sure to take a beat and check in with your stakeholders, large and small.

Many companies administer surveys or complete performance reviews just after year-end, and while formal evaluations and anonymous forms are all well-and-good, remember that a face-to-face conversation or a handwritten request for feedback might be more enlightening. Consider a relaxed roundtable discussion about team vision or a state-of-the-partnership meeting with key clients.

If an employee or customer is courageous enough to bring something difficult to your attention, make sure you meet that vulnerability with gratitude and openness. Follow up privately with a one-on-one conversation or send the person a handwritten note letting them know you appreciate the candor.

Some leaders assume it’s enough for an organization to encourage open and honest communication, but the truth is, many employees might not know how to navigate difficult conversations or give/receive critical feedback. Skills like this require experience, so if it’s not something you practice, it’s not something you can do well.

2. Have Fun

The new year can be a great time to energize your team with a gathering or celebration, especially if the end of the year was too busy for a holiday party. Regardless of when it happens, make sure you’re doing something fun to boost employee morale and celebrate successes from the previous year.

And since a new year means a fresh start, before things get too crazy, commit to regularly scheduled activities for marking milestones, celebrating employees and team bonding.

With many companies still struggling to adjust, there’s no doubt the pandemic affected employee morale and engagement. Remote work continues taking a toll on many employees trying to adapt to a new normal.

It makes sense, as so much of what helps people get through the workday is nurturing the relationships made with coworkers. For those still working offsite, the lack of physical connection can feel like a missing piece of the employee experience and impact overall job satisfaction.

If your organization has remote workers, it’s especially important to make time for gathering—off camera and in the real world.

Some groups opt for memorable experiences like a trip to an escape room, an organized volunteer activity or a themed scavenger hunt. If something simple is more your speed, a simple team lunch can create space for employees to recharge, connect or share a laugh.

3. Mind Your Mindset

The new year often comes with new business objectives, new goals for your team, and grand attempts to keep the momentum that comes with a fresh start. Though clear goals are critical to the success of a business, we all know how the saying goes: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Perhaps then, it’s not goal setting that matters most, but our attitudes surrounding goals. Like Henry Ford so famously said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”

So, before you hit send on that invite for setting team goals, take a step back and make sure you’ve done some foundational work to help people get in the right mindset.

For a simple framework that’s easy to wrap your head around, consider a word of the year exercise. In January 2006, blogger Ali Edwards started an annual tradition of choosing one single word to represent a point of focus that she would spend the whole year reflecting on.

Regardless of what thought exercise works for you and your organization, encourage individuals to cultivate a healthy mindset and practice the gentle art of self-respect. Doing so will ultimately serve everyone involved.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re the kind of person who starts a new year feeling hopeful or like you’re already running behind, one thing is poignant and true: if you’re reading this, it means you woke up this morning. Approaching year three of a pandemic that brought the world to a screeching halt, perhaps just being here is something to celebrate.