This article was based on episode 31 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Get the mini-guide here or the full guide at Patreon.
It’s late December and I imagine many of us are inspired by the age-old tradition of the New Year’s Resolution, taking time to reflect on the past year and plan for the next. According to Daniel Pink, there are 86 days that we consider to be good days for a fresh start, the biggest of them all being the New Year. But the 1st of every month, each Monday, even the first Monday of each quarter, are all equally powerful days for a fresh start. So no matter when you’re reading this article, it’s a good time to consider how your team can develop into a stronger, more powerful collaboration.
NEW YEAR, NEW GOALS
As I prepare for this year to end and another year to begin, I’ve spent some time reflecting on what I want to accomplish next year, what skills or competencies I want to develop, what I want to let go of, and what I need to do more of.
One thing I want to do more of in 2019 is to ask for help. It may seem trivial, but asking for help can be difficult for some people. For me, I struggle whenever I feel incompetent (“I should be able to figure this out on my own, I’m a smart person.” or bothersome (“Everyone is so busy. No one wants to take time to help me when they’ve got so much on their own plate.”)
But both of those feelings are my own self judgement or inner critic. Neither of them are useful or help me accomplish my goals.
Surprisingly, most people actually want to help other people, I know I do. According to social psychologist Heidi Grant, “Human beings are basically wired to want to give help. It’s one of the richest sources of self-esteem, and it has the potential to be a real win-win.”
That win-win is powerful. The ‘asker’ often ends up investing fewer resources and achieving a better outcome. The ‘responder’ often feels positive for the contribution he provides, and possibly even honored for being asked. And, at the end of the encounter, both parties have invested in the relationship, which strengthens it for the future.
SETTING A GOAL IS NOT ENOUGH
I don’t want my goal to become another New Year’s resolution that falls by the wayside. Setting a goal and planning for accomplishing that goal are two separate activities. It’s critical to translate any goal into specific metrics, behaviors, and actions. In essence, treat your personal growth goals in a similar fashion to all your other work goals. Here’s the short version of my plan:
Clarify the goal: The more specific the goal, the easier it will be to measure success. Leverage the expertise of my network to help me make better, faster decisions. Success is: When I asked for help, I learned something that fundamentally changed the course of the work, reduced my resource investment (time/money/energy) and/or produced a higher quality outcome.
Make it visible: Writing your goal and being able to visually see it increases the chances of sticking to it. Create other visual reminders that can act as triggers. I’m working on a hand made calligraphy sign for my wall that says “Did you ask for help today?”
Break it down: It’s often easier to start with the smaller goals or milestones that build toward achieving a larger goal. Or, translate an outcome goal into behaviors that you can take action on. Ask for meaningful help at least once per week in 2019. Identify projects which could benefit from additional expertise. Create a list of people who I can turn to for help with specific things/topics.
Create accountability: Be specific on how you will hold yourself accountable and how often you will measure progress. Add two questions to my weekly reflection: (1) What or who can help me this coming week? (2) How did I benefit from asking for help this past week? Share my goal with my coach so she can also check in with me.
Learn!: Invest in learning to support your development. Find a mentor, coach, book, webinar, course, articles or podcast on the topic. Read The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help.
Reflect and Iterate: Stay dedicated and work towards your goal even if it is difficult, you get busy or frustrated. Reflect on what’s working and what’s not, and update your plan. You may need to break down the goal even further. What’s the smallest action you can take? What’s the one thing you can do to keep moving forward? Schedule 30 minutes once per quarter to reflect on my overall progress toward my goal.
Celebrate: Take some time to enjoy and celebrate the progress you’ve made, no matter how big or small. After each reflection, thank those who helped me.
YOUR TEAM SHOULD HAVE GROWTH GOALS TOO
The new year is not just about you or me individually. Your team has goals and skills and competencies too. By setting a team growth a goal, you’ll not only improve how your team works, but you’ll also reinforce the idea that growth and development are important to success in general.
What growth or development goals do you have for your team collectively? Reflect on what was frustrating about how you worked together over the last year, what was holding you back from accomplishing even more, and how the daily experience as a team member could be even better.
Maybe you know exactly what you want your team to focus on. Or maybe you want the team to generate the goal together. In either case, you’ll need to get the team’s buy-in to the overall concept of a team growth goal as well as the specific goal.
Then follow the same process outlined above. Specify the team goal, make a plan for how everyone will learn and/or act in new ways, schedule time to reflect and share learnings together, identify how you’ll hold yourselves accountable and how you’ll celebrate progress.
Monthly meetings can be a powerful tool for supporting the team’s growth goal. Use these meetings to:
Learn together: bring in a speaker, attend a webinar, read an article, etc.
Debrief learnings: reflect on what you learned from a book you read or workshop you attended, strategies or approaches you tried, what you just heard from the learning portion of the meeting, etc.
Assess: What’s worked and what hasn’t since you last met? What progress has been made toward your next milestone or goal? How is everyone feeling about the progress?
Plan: Revisit the plan and update it as needed. Identify new behaviors, strategies, or approaches to try. Identify new learning opportunities.
Celebrate: Acknowledge wins big and small. Offer praise for effort in addition to results. Remind everyone that progress may be slow, that this is not expected to be fast or easy, but in the end, you’ll all be stronger because of it.
GROW STRONGER THIS COMING YEAR
You’ve likely made a New Year’s Resolution at one point in your life and then probably given up on it a few weeks or months in. This time, this year, make it happen! I’m here to help. Reach out for support and ask for help. I know I will be!
May your next year, whether it starts on Jan 1st or March 17th, be one of learning and growth for you and your whole team.
This article was based on episode 31 The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.