Soon, 2013 will be gone and we’ll be welcoming 2014 into our lives. As I near the end of each year, I like to take a few hours and assess my leadership effectiveness for the past year. In doing this, several years ago I made a commitment to myself. I pledged that, each year, I would become a better leader than I was the year before. I realized that every year I made mistakes. I was also aware that, in most cases, I was able to identify the cause or causes of those mistakes. Sadly however, it became far too clear that I rarely made the necessary changes to prevent the same mistakes in the future.
As a result of this revelation, I committed to identify my shortcomings and, at the end of each year, create a plan to become a better leader in the upcoming year. As I come to the end of 2013, I’ve identified five things that I must do better in 2014. Here are those five things:
- Listen. This one is kind of a no-brainer. We all know that listening is important, but we often struggle to actually do it. I’m committing to listening in 2014. I mean really listening to understand, not listening only long enough to jump in and say what I think or to make my point.
- Follow-up. This is a critical in any leaders toolbox. We have conversations or assign tasks and then forget about them, confident that it will all work out fine. Following-up demonstrates, to others, the importance of the proposal, task, or project. If those we’re working with in these cases, become accustomed to our lack of follow-up, they will begin to assume that whatever we’re talking about just isn’t that important. Follow-up is not optional.
- Become a better communicator. I can easily be someone who assumes that, because I understand something, everyone does. I’m sure we’ve all experienced some form of failure or delay simply because we failed to make ourselves clear or we forgot to pass along pertinent information to the right people. As I move into this new year, I’m pledging to be more clear in my communication as well as more intentional in regard to both the quality and the quantity of my communication.
- Delegate more effectively. Does anyone else ever say to themselves, “It takes too long to show someone else how to do this.” Or, “I can complete this task before I can give it to someone else, show them how to do it, and then follow-up to insure it’s done.” How about, “No one here can do this as well as me, so I’ll just do it myself.” I don’t think I have to elaborate on this one. If you’re guilty of it, like me, then you already know it. Next year I plan to spend the time necessary to become a better delegator. Delegation is one of the best ways to begin grooming new leaders, so it cannot be an option for me.
- Be open to change. I champion myself as someone always open to change. However, the truth is, while I am open to change more often than not, too many times the change I’m open to is change I initiated or advocated in some way. In 2014 my goal is to be slower to react to change ideas that I have not previously been a part of. I plan to listen more fully (see #1), seek to truly understand the rationale for proposed change, and finally assess both the pros and cons before I comment further.
I know making an intentional effort to improve in these five areas will make me a better leader. Maybe one of these areas resonates with you and your quest for improved leadership.
Question: In which of the five areas above can you focus in our journey to more solid leadership in 2014?