We usually move into the new year with one night of celebration, take a deep breath and dive into the next year. On a personal level this might include a few new resolutions and organisationally we go through a process of prioritising and planning for the year ahead. The problem with this is that we assume that we have left the previous year behind us, but it doesn’t work that way does it? All the challenges and upsets that we had last year linger and affect our view of how things will go next time around. The quality of our relationships with those around us can be permanently affected by the upsets that happened last year. For example, the brilliant idea you created a solid business case for. When your boss shelved it, you felt angry and frustrated and decided subconsciously or even consciously that you are certainly not going to go through all of that again this year, your boss clearly doesn’t value your ideas! Then there was the difficult performance review with one of your team. You always had such a close and friendly relationship with David before, now he complains and gets angry at any opportunity as a way of showing his dissatisfaction and anger about last year’s review. We drag the judgements we made and the upsets of the past along with us all the time and the new year is an excellent opportunity to clean them up.
On the other hand, accomplishments are quickly forgotten and too frequently left unacknowledged, the new year is a great time to make sure that the successes of the previous year are celebrated. One of the most valuable and powerful tools in creating a culture with positive behaviours and high performance, is to acknowledge what people are already doing brilliantly. The bias of our feedback and comments is completely skewed to the negative. Our brains are wired to look for inconsistencies between what happens and our expectations. We look for what is wrong and focus on making clear our point of view and showing how to do things as we expect them to be done. It is of course useful and important to give people the skills they need to do their work. However, if you want to shift your team and organisational culture to one with a mind-set that naturally has people make better judgements, using the knowledge and training they already have, much more powerful is to reinforce what your team members are already doing well. Specificity is golden here. What exactly have they done well? What does that demonstrate about them and their commitment, values and attitude? What difference has it made to you and the business? The benefit to your team is that you will grow an environment of trust and safety, leaving them with more energy and will to focus their attention on high performance, future goals and vision. Simon Sinek talks brilliantly about the difference that creating this kind of environment makes to organisations, in his book Leaders Eat Last, here is a Ted Talk about it here.
So my suggestion is to gather your team together and facilitate a conversation where it can all be said and acknowledged; the challenges, the upsets, the successes and the difference we and the people around us made in 2016. What you will have then is a pristine space to create 2017. The final part of the conversation is to create a vision for the year, have the team come up with what they would love to have on the list of acknowledgments this time next year. Give it a try and see what comes up. It can work extremely well to partner with a coach or facilitator to run this exercise in a team coaching session, do get in touch if you would like to know more.