December 10


Leaders: Are you hitting the reset button or slogging to the finish line?

By Sara Canaday

December 10, 2021

2022, business leaders, leadership, leadership behaviors, leadership skills, work life balance

Some leaders approach the end of the year as a time to reflect on their achievements in the previous 11 months or to start creating goals for the new year. But to be honest, most of the leaders I’ve spoken with lately say that it simply represents a shorter distance to the finish line. “If I can just make it through until the end of the year…” Perhaps that resonates with you, too. You’re not alone!

What’s behind that? Many of these leaders said they felt like they were operating in a daze. They had survived the train wreck that was 2020 and were expecting a little emotional relief in 2021. No such luck. The vast majority of them said that 2021 didn’t give them any time to pause, to regroup, or to feel a sense of control over their work. Many leaders added that the only plan for the New Year would involve trying to start it with less chaos.

My question for you: Why wait until 2022 to hit the reset button and to be more inspired about your work life? Instead of hanging on by a thread until the end of the year, try asking yourself these questions.

1.    If I could change one thing within my organization (no limitations!), what would it be?

Just pondering the answer to that one shifts your leadership mentality from scramble-to-get-through-the-daily-deadlines to the excitement of potential discovery and new opportunities. It might also give you a sense of empowerment that you’ve been lacking since you’ve been busy doing what is necessary to survive. We can all relate to that!

Now I’m going to give you a challenge. How could you put your answers into action? The truth is, nothing feels more gratifying than a chance to directly impact the evolution of your company. Consider bringing your ideas to a Senior manager or the person responsible for the targeted area. You might even prepare some talking points or a brief deck to help organize your suggestions.

I can guess what you are probably thinking right now. “Yeah right, Sara. No one is going to do anything with this information…”

Point taken. But what do you have to lose? Nothing, but a chance to think and plan on a high level. To demonstrate your thought leadership. And perhaps an opportunity to grow your network and interact with a new set of people in your organization. Why not give it a try?

2.    How can I be a better leader, not just a great manager?

Yep, here’s another challenge for you—with a surprisingly easy solution: Ask your team members for input. Be honest with your employees about your desire to make improvements as a leader. Besides possibly inspiring them to make their own changes, your request for feedback may uncover some valuable information to guide you in the coming year.

Here are some examples of questions you might ask:

  • Is there anything that we did during the pandemic that you would like to continue or stop as we move into 2022? Why?
  • Do you think we should change the way we communicate and collaborate moving forward? And if so, how?
  • What would you like to commit to as a team moving forward?
  • How can I better support you in reaching your goals next year?

Invite your team members to be candid. I know it can be intimidating to open that door with the possibility of receiving some constructive criticism. On the flip side, think about how those conversations might help to build your relationships with these employees. Even better, their insights could be exactly what you need to help enhance your leadership skills and the team’s performance.

3.    How can I make a bigger contribution to the professional growth of my team members?

Though it may seem counterintuitive right now, one of the most rewarding things you can do as a leader is to help your employees progress. Schedule one-on-one conversations with them to find out about their career aspirations. What type of development or experiences would better prepare them to meet their goals? Take an active role in supporting them along that journey. You’ll reap the rewards as these team members become more valuable and more loyal.

If you don’t feel equipped to handle those types of conversation, you may want to listen to a recent LinkedIn Live session I did with special guest Ronnie Dickerson Stewart. The topic was, How to Have Meaningful Career Conversations With Your Employees.” As an alternative, you might want to per-order a copy of Julie Winkle Giulioni’s upcoming book, Promotions are so Yesterday: Redefine Career Development. Help Employees Thrive.  

4.    How can I expand my impact beyond the workplace?

Sometimes the joy and satisfaction of helping others in your community will spill over to energize your professional life. Take a moment to think about how you could personally make a difference for someone else during these last few weeks of the year. Which of your skills, talents or connections could you share with others in your area?

Maybe that involves volunteering at your nearby food bank or donating your time as a committee member for a local nonprofit. For me personally, I volunteer as Board Chair with an organization called LifeWorks of Austin that is committed to ending youth homelessness.

Find a cause that tugs at your heart, and make the time to get involved. Besides helping to make the world a better place, giving back feels good. And you will likely return to your work deadlines with a fresh perspective and a renewed spirit.

Do you have a great suggestion for ways that leaders can end the year on a positive note?

In the meantime, I’d like to wish all of you a happy and healthy holiday season!


Sara Canaday

About the author

Sara began her journey working full-time while she earned an MBA. As she climbed the ladder of corporate America, she repeatedly observed a surprising phenomenon: the most successful people weren’t necessarily the ones with the highest IQ or best job skills. She recognized instead that career advancement was much more closely linked with how people applied their knowledge and talents — their capacity to collaborate, communicate, and influence others.

Today, Sara is happily fulfilling that commitment as a keynote speaker, author, and executive coach. These venues have given her the opportunity to mentor and support thousands of people in diverse situations, inspiring many of them to move from insight to action with dramatic career results.

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