Taking Stock of Your Year: A Leader’s Reflection

As this blog gets posted it is winter solstice eve in the northern hemisphere where I live– the longest day of darkness in the whole year – about 15 hours to be exact. The light grudgingly reverses this in six months, initially at about a minute a day, and then begins to wane again towards another winter solstice. Every year. Amazing really – a grand humbling universal drama that unfolds around us and is barely discernible until we one day have to put on a winter coat instead of a wind breaker, or can shed a sweater for a T-shirt. As the daylight diminished in the fall many years ago the ancient Mayans in Mexico would start ritualistically sacrificing their strongest males as an offering to the Sun God to bring the sun back. Of course it began to work every year on the winter solstice. They didn’t know any better. We have come a long way from this…or have we?  What sacrifices do we make to get the sun to come back in our lives at this time of year? Do we beat ourselves up each year for the same failings we knew about a year ago and that we have done nothing about this past year?

 The darkness and chill of these days pulls us indoors and inside ourselves. It is a time to reflect and take stock of the year as we take our seasonal breaks from work and turn our thoughts to a new season, a new year, and a new start. It is a time to forgive ourselves for actions not taken, or dreams not actualized instead of beating ourselves up. BUT then find the commitment anew to take charge and not let another year go by where these things remain undone. A key question to ask is: Has this really been a year of growing wiser and more knowledgeable or has it just been a repeat of the last year? Over the last five years? Are we really evolving and different? Are we learning?

 As I close out this year and my last blog for 2012 I want to pose some questions that I think leaders like you should be asking – no matter what kind of organization or team you are providing leadership for or what stage of career you are at. These are also questions I ask myself as I write this blog. 

  • Is my team and/or organization in better shape now than at the start of the year?
  • Have I mobilized the ideas and initiatives I really care about and are important for our success?
  • Did I engage, elevate, and develop those on my team and organization that are really part of the future?
  • Did I deal firmly with those who were not aligned with my/our vision and either redeployed them and/or helped them exit?
  • Have I made sure that I have made time and been fully present with those who are important to me in my personal life?
  • Have I been fully authentic and transparent with my constituents?
  • Did I act with boldness, courage, and decisiveness when that was required?
  • Am I a more effective leader?
  • Have I been able to increase the level of trust in my team?
  • Am I happy?
  • Am I evolving as a leader?

 Questions asked in a binary yes/no fashion enable reflection to be sharper. These, and perhaps many other similar questions, call for some deeply honest reflection, which in turn is the seedbed for growth. It is said that enlightenment comes more from asking the right questions than arriving at the answers. I think good answers also lead to more and different questions. And so the cycle continues like the ebb and flow of winter and summer solstice and the differing amounts of daylight and darkness.  How can leadership wisdom not help but evolve on that basis? Have a great year!

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