The best executives have realized that for them to succeed, their team needs to be successful. However, a high-performance team isn’t built overnight. It takes continuous improvement and multiple performance conversations. You’d be lying if you said your team had zero room for improvement.
The start of a new year is the perfect time to think about how you will help your team do even better. Here are five ways to start the year strong:
- Start with yourself. Most leaders jump to thinking about how they can help their team get better. Actually, team performance and accountability starts with you. Are you modeling the correct performance and behavior that you want your team to follow? Nobody is perfect, so let’s start by improving ourselves. Go ahead and schedule the performance conversation with your mentor, manager or coach. If you don’t have a coach, maybe it’s time to consider getting one. For now, schedule a conversation with your spouse or a friend. Even though you don’t work for them, they can still help you think about how you performed in the past year. It might feel uncomfortable at first and as you’re reading this, many of you probably feel reluctant. You might be thinking “I don’t need this” or “I don’t have time for this.” That’s great, because it’s exactly how your team members might feel when you schedule performance conversations with them. Making yourself go through the process helps you develop empathy.
- Ask the right questions. Preparing for a performance conversation doesn’t need to be complicated. Keep it simple and ask the right questions. Remember to listen actively, be more empathetic and give less advice. Let your people conclude on their own which areas to improve. If they realize independently how or where they could have done better, they’ll be much more likely to actually improve.
Here are four questions you should ask:
- How did you do?
- What did you do well in this year?
- What do you need to improve for next year?
- What is one leadership skill you should focus on developing further next year?
- Share lessons learned from your own performance conversation. Share with your team members that you also participate in your own performance conversation to develop yourself. Share with them your successes and what you want to improve for the new year. Being vulnerable is how you can model the way forward for your team members. And of course, you need to be sincere, because you cannot fake vulnerability.
- Begin with the end in mind and celebrate successes first. A good starting point is what you wanted to achieve this past year. Look for victories and bright spots that can help you have an even better year. Most straightforward, fast-charging executives want to go quickly to what can be improved. Slow down and spend some time on what worked well first. Plan on doing more things that worked well, as opposed to fixing more things that did not work well. It is a shame to not work on improving a skill or a leadership trait further, when you’ve already proven that you’re pretty good at it. Become the best in what you are already good at.
- Be resilient. Grow a thicker skin! It is hard not to get defensive when you are in a performance conversation, but the best way to learn is from both your successes and your mistakes. Basically, mistakes are like tuition for something you’ve learned. The only real mistake happens if you don’t learn anything from the tuition you’ve already paid. Resilience is a key characteristic in great leaders. You’ve got to be able to learn to take it and get stronger in your areas of growth. Being able to bounce back quickly is key to your success. Resilience does not come naturally for many people. It needs to be built over time.
Being able to bounce back from failures will be your key to succeeding in 2017. Instead of ignoring the things that didn’t go well, learn from them and do better in the new year.
Patrick Thean is a successful serial entrepreneur who has started and exited multiple companies. As founder and CEO of Metasys, Inc., he grew that company to a ranking of 151 on the Inc. 500. An international speaker, he has presented before thousands of businesses in the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe. Currently, he is CEO of Rhythm Systems.