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Step away from your Q1 strategic planning document.
You know you love to take on a good challenge. Regardless of where you are as a leader (CEO, new manager, or somewhere in between), spending some time this month to set intentions around leadership behaviors you want to develop over the course of a new year is a worthwhile pursuit.
We asked BetterUp coaches the question, “what leadership challenges are worth taking this year?” Here are their 15 best pieces of tactical advice.
1. Make something new by breaking down the old
At this time of year, we often think of “reinvention”: reinventing ourselves, reinventing our business, reinventing our relationships. So what is the first step in reinvention? Reinvention begins with deconstruction. Here’s your first challenge:
- Consider something you want to reinvent and break it down into all the subcomponents. Then, examine how you’ll put the pieces back together.
A word of caution: things will fit back together differently than when you started. — CoachTerri Altschul
While you’re at it, check out the book Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, which can help guide you through this process.
2. Choose one word to focus on for the rest of this year
This idea comes from the book One Word That Will Change Your Lifeand challenges you to pick a focus word for the whole year and stick to it. Maybe it’s gratitude, maybe it’s delegation, or maybe it’s solitude. To help guide you in this endeavor, you can check out a free action plan from the authors of the book. I have been doing this for the past 4 years and find that it’s really impactful. — CoachLorisse Garcia
3. Solve, don’t “do”
Instead of thinking about what you want to do, challenge yourself to identify the problems that you want to solve. From this place, you can design solutions and problem solve around those issues. — CoachHilary Romanoff
4. Visualize the concept of time
Starting off a new year is a great opportunity to assess and reflect on how you want to spend your time in the coming year. At the beginning of the year, it can feel like we have so much time ahead of us. But in reality, our time is actually quite limited; much of it is spent on doing things we don’t even think about (sleeping, eating) and the rest we have to consciously allot towards the things we really want to do. To help make the concept of time feel more concrete, I often share this jelly bean video. Watch it and then spend some time reflecting on what’s important to you, then carve out time for those activities. — CoachLorisse Garcia
5. Reflect on behaviors
Take some time to reflect on your work behaviors and consider how they are positively or negatively contributing to your work culture.Your teammates will naturally want to emulate their manager’s behaviors, even if they are not supportive to their own well-being. It’s important that your team see you take micro-breaks, head to the gym, or close your door and put up a sign that says ‘Meditation in Progress.’ Make your own well-being efforts visible this year. — Coach Darrah Wolfe
6. Put your phone away
We are all addicted to our smart devices; breaking the hold they have on us allows us to be more conscious and alert to what’s happening around us and in turn, make room for creative thinking.Create a new habit of not checking your phone until 8 a.m if you typically check it at 7 a.m. Start with baby steps, as this might be easier said than done. Maybe shift by just 30 minutes (7:30 vs. 8:00 a.m). When you’re not checking your phone, notice your surroundings. Talk to a member of your family who happens to be awake at the same time in the morning. Ask them about their plans for the day. Look out the window. Notice the scenery. Try this for a week and evaluate if you learned something. Do you want to continue? What worked and what didn’t? — Coach Sherry Bakhtian
8. Focus your energy on the current path
You’ve probably spent the better part of you career planning and moving towards bigger, better, and more interesting challenges. That’s natural, but consider taking this leadership challenge: find satisfaction in your current path — whatever it may be — and give it 100% this year. — CoachTrixi Menhardt
9. Schedule regular meetings with yourself
Set aside 1 hour, every week, with yourself to review your goals and check on your progress. Think about where you are in terms of career development and personal development and make adjustments and concrete mini goals to help you stay on track. Don’t let anything get in the way of this vital time of self-reflection. — Coach Heidi Lumpkin
10. Take more mental breaks
If your goal this year is to be more present, less anxious, and less distracted, try giving your unconscious mind a break every day. Turn off your thoughts for just 3 minutes every day, focusing on your breath or a beautiful site (e.g., looking out the window at a tree or a photograph of a beautiful location). Set a timer: 3 minutes is doable. 3 minutes of no thinking, no planning, no judging, no anxiety about no thinking, planning or judging. 3 minutes of being with yourself is your gift to you. Try this for one week. Was it torture? Did 3 minutes seem like an eternity? What did this practice teach you? Will you continue doing it? — CoachSherry Bakhtian
11. Commit to “neutral networking”
Set up a 30 minute meeting with someone at your company whose role you’d like to know more about. Approach them by saying something like, “I’m interested in furthering my professional development and am exploring roles within our company. I’d love to get your feedback/advice/take on what you currently do.” This type of internal informational interviewing has impact beyond knowledge expansion. Most people welcome being asked for their advice because it puts them in the immediate role of being an expert, something all of us appreciate. By expanding your contacts within your current organization and not asking for anything other than a bit of their time and expertise, you’ll strengthen your own network of internal champions. — Coach Heidi Lumpkin
12. Practice gratitude
Research has proven that gratitude is not only personally beneficial but but can help your team increase self-efficacy, improve self-esteem, and promote higher job satisfaction while decreasing burnout. Challenge yourself to be more intentional about how you practice gratitude as a part of your leadership. To start, write a gratitude letter to someone who has made an impact on your life and career but whom you haven’t properly thanked or recognized in the past. Plan to take time or even set a reminder for yourself to regularly recognize and express gratitude to your team members. — Coach Michelle Horton
13. Dig into your past for clues
Think about some elements of a previous job that you miss in your current role. When I did this exercise, I came up with the memory of closing the cash register at the end of my work day in a high-end home decor store where I worked during college. There was such a sense of accomplishment and freedom when I locked the register and the front door, got on the subway, and felt freed from any work thoughts until the next morning. I decided to apply that into my current role by turning off my email, which led to no more “quickly” finishing a work project and mentally letting go at the end of the day knowing that whatever was essential got done. — CoachTrixi Menhardt
14. Identify what self-care looks like for you as a leader, then prioritize it
Self-care includes things like sleep, eating, exercise, or time with family and friends. It could also include things that are unique to you and help you feel recharged and engaged, like taking a class, going camping, or scheduling a massage. Being a leader doesn’t mean that you have to be exhausted or risking burnout due to long hours and little time for yourself. In order to pursue your long-term career goals and to be your best self, taking care of yourself is an important tool. If you need some some support, consider turning to a coach or therapist. — CoachMichelle Horton
15. Stay humble
What is the difference between a master and a student? A master corrects his mistakes faster.
I love this unattributed saying: “What is the difference between a master and a student? A master corrects his mistakes faster.” The message implies that mastery of any craft, art, sport, or activity does not mean one has ceased learning or improving. Knowing that you can still make mistakes, no matter how advanced you are (or think you are), also keeps you humble. — Coach Alec Spradling
Original art by Theo Payne.