The month of December is filled with merriment in many cultures and faiths, drawing to a close with a period that involves both reflecting on the past and planning for the future as the Western calendar prepares to flip over to a new year. It’s said that January was named after the Roman god Janus, who had two faces – one looking forward to the year ahead and one looking backward at the year that had recently come to an end. With that in mind, it’s fitting that this time of year is when many individuals make resolutions intended to improve their lives and those of the people around them.
Some personal resolutions seem as old as the practice of resolution-making themselves, such as improving fitness and losing weight. Indeed, those two topped a list of Americans’ most common New Year’s resolutions compiled by Nielsen in late 2014, along with spending more time with loved ones, learning something new, improving organization, saving money and more. You may even be thinking about adding one or more of these to your own list of personal resolutions – but, as a leader, you might also be considering some business-focused resolutions with which to enter 2016.
Few things are as intimidating as a plain white page, so if you’re an executive who’s drawing a blank in coming up with professional resolutions for the new year, these suggestions could help you build a solid foundation.
1. Improve your work/life balance.
This professional resolution may crop up on your list of personal resolutions as well, and for good reason: Working too much and sacrificing personal time can have a profound impact, and not only on the individual with the imbalance but also the people around him or her at work and at home. Such an imbalance may manifest itself in a host of ways: stress, short-temperedness, inability to concentrate, low productivity, trouble relaxing, and strained relationships with friends and family, just to name a few symptoms. One thing’s for sure: Working too hard has negative consequences.
Of course, many executives would say they got to where they are today by working hard, but there’s a difference between being driven by an inspired, passionate approach and having your nose so close to the grindstone that you miss the other things going on around you, both professional and personal. Improving your work/life balance is a vague goal, so in order to give yourself the best shot at succeeding with this resolution, you’ll need to hone in on the specifics. You’re much more likely to improve your work/life balance with concrete aims like getting home in time for dinner with the family a certain number of days per week, or delegating a certain percentage of nonessential tasks on your plate to other members of the workforce.
“You’ll spend a lot of time at the office in 2016, so why not make your professional interactions more meaningful?”
2. Cultivate more meaningful professional relationships.
Even if you achieve a healthier work/life balance, you’ll still be spending a great deal of time at the office in 2016, so why not work to make your interactions with colleagues more meaningful? This can apply to anyone with whom you have a professional relationship, including the movers and shakers within your industry, the workers on the ground floor of your organization and the people sitting right next to you in the C-suite. For some leaders, instating an open-door policy, holding regular “town hall” gatherings and taking the time to sit down with direct reports for one-on-one discussions can go a long way, but forging stronger professional relationships can begin with an action as simple as taking a few minutes to have a non-work-related discussion with someone in the hallway. As well as being a valuable way to connect with others, these types of conversations also position you as accessible and empathetic – in short, not just a leader, but a human being too.
3. Pinpoint and strengthen corporate culture at your company.
This is one of those resolutions that will not only benefit you as a professional, but also the other members of your organization. As we noted in a previous article, a March study conducted by OfficeTeam found that two-thirds of human resources managers felt their companies had lost workers because they had misjudged a candidate’s ability to fit into the existing corporate culture, or that employees had left their positions after realizing that key elements such as their professional values, working styles and career goals were at odds with those prevalent across the company.
“Employees look to leaders for cultural cues.”
At some enterprises, corporate culture is strong yet not defined on paper. At other organizations, the particulars of the firm’s unique business culture are a source of confusion and even conflict. Regardless of which category your company falls into, you can start 2016 by making sure your mission statement and core values are up to date, true to life and widely known across the workforce. On a personal note, take a self-audit to see how well your attitude and behavior align with those you’re trying to promote. Employees look to leaders for cultural cues, so it’s important to embody what the company stands for through your daily words and actions, rather than taking a “Do as I say, not as I do” approach and hoping it sticks.
“If you can inspire your employees through a vision that has a higher purpose or by having values, then you can actually accomplish so much more,” said Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, in a 2014 speech quoted by the Chicago Tribune’s Blue Sky Innovation publication. Zappos is well-known for its innovative culture that throws out many traditional metrics – customer service call time, for instance – in favor of delivering a positive consumer experience no matter how long a phone call needs to last.
Improving your work/life balance, cultivating more meaningful professional relationships and pinpointing/strengthening corporate culture at your company are three solid New Year’s resolutions for executives eager to enact improvements. In part two, we’ll delve into more ways leaders can help make their professional lives better in 2016 – not to mention the lives of those around them.
About Caldwell Partners
Caldwell Partners is a leading international provider of executive search and has been for more than 45 years. As one of the world’s most trusted advisors in executive search, the firm has a sterling reputation built on successful searches for boards, chief and senior executives, and selected functional experts. With offices and partners across North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific, the firm takes pride in delivering an unmatched level of service and expertise to its clients.