With the arrival of a new year, many of us are naturally caught up in the annual tradition of making resolutions for what we’d like to accomplish over the course of the next 12 months. Regardless of whether we actually commit to achieving these goals beyond the next few weeks or not, there’s something about the start of the new year that motivates us to embrace change and with it, a willingness to roll up our sleeves to improve the status quo.
For leaders, this spirit of open-mindedness and taking on new initiatives can be a powerful catalyst to take the lessons we’ve learned over the previous year to determine what measures we’ll employ going forward to ensure we fulfill our primary function, as opposed to what we think is required from us to help our organization to succeed.
Peter Drucker was known to repeatedly point out how the primary function of the organization is not simply to create profits, but to create more customers as profits should be the outcome and not the goal behind our shared efforts.
As leaders, what we can take from his message is how our primary function is not simply tackling the various tasks on our To-Do lists or addressing whatever urgencies catch our attention and focus in the hopes that this will ensure our organization meets the projected targets for a given quarter or year.
Rather, our primary function is to create an environment where our employees are not only engaged and fully invested in our shared purpose, but one where they are given the opportunity to grow and evolve to ensure that they can remain valuable contributors to our organization’s goals in the future.
While a lot of uncertainty remains about the current state and future direction of the global economy, one thing there should be no uncertainty about in your organization is what your leadership stands for, and how your role will help to keep your organization on course no matter the conditions outside.
Of course, a fundamental truth to embracing change is having the willingness the accept that failure will not only be a part of the transformative change we seek, but that it serves a critical role in shaping our understanding and awareness of what we need to do, and where we need to go to accomplish what we seek.
Often we dismiss the act of making resolutions because so many of us fail to keep at it. And yet, it’s these very failures which can which bring about the greatest clarity by shining a light on what’s getting in our way, if not also why these changes matter to us in the first place.
As we make plans for a new year, it’s important to note how we learned more last year from our failures than we did from our successes, as the latter told us only about what we’ve accomplished, while the former informed us of where we needed to go next.
But in order for us to embrace this reality – of how it’s our failures that serve to guide and direct us to where we need to go – we need to be ready for when these moments arise. We need to set the stage for our employees to look for the lessons they can learn from falling down, and we need to facilitate that learning by giving them space to discover what they’ll need to move forward and continue to press ahead.
In my conversation with retired Cambell’s CEO Doug Conant, he mentioned how “leadership is a sacred trust” and that’s what I’m referring to here. The people you lead need to see that you’re not simply reacting to what’s happening around you, but that you’re making sure you’re ready to provide them with whatever support and opportunities they’ll need to succeed.
Your employees need to see that you’re sharing the responsibility for your shared efforts because you have faith that their creativity, their genius, and their talents will help them to find the right answers to address the challenges your organization will face going forward.
This is why leadership today is less about what you know and more about the relationships you have with those you serve as your employees need to see that you have their backs as much as you expect them to have yours.
It’s also why leadership is becoming harder to do well because it requires that we do more than simply maintaining the status quo, but that we seek out avenues and opportunities to improve things; to make things better both for those we lead and for those we impact through our actions.
Indeed, now more than ever, what organizations and communities need are not leaders who are interested in incremental improvements, but leaders who recognize that we need to do things better; that we need to do a better job aligning our organizational values and beliefs with what we do and why.
Going forward, we need to focus beyond treading water to how we can empower our employees to make things better, while providing them with opportunities to thrive and evolve.
More than any other time of the year, now is the time when we are collectively primed to embrace change to not only do better, but to be better versions of ourselves as well. With that in mind, if you are making a list of resolutions for what you’d like to accomplish this year, I’d like to encourage you to add one more to your list.
That this year, you be ready to not only help your team succeed, but to help them discover where they’re meant to go as revealed by the failures they’ll make along the way to achieving their goals and aspirations.