If you’re anything like me, the start of a new year represents a time to reflect, re-prioritize, and identify how I want to focus my time and energy. In doing so this year, I began thinking about my team; how we work together; how we collaborate; how I’m assisting them day in and day out; how we communicate individually and as a team; the support they need and so much more.
The exercise was a good one and resulted in the following four things that I think will be critical for any leader to focus on in 2021.
We are used to hyper-personalized information in every aspect of our lives. There are so many examples we experience every day: who we follow and what we see on social media; the shows and movies Netflix recommends based on our previous viewing; to what Amazon recommends based on previous purchases. The examples are endless. But for some reason, we don’t seem to apply the same level of personalization at work. Why? No two employees are alike, so why in the world should we think that we can treat them the same? Now, more than ever, is a time to really get to know the people we work with. Doing so will allow us to know how to best relate to them, communicate with them, connect with them, coach them and develop them.
Ask for feedback (and act on it!)
Providing feedback to others is an important and regular part of being a leader. Employees want and need feedback and want to receive it frequently which is why concepts like real-time or continuous performance feedback have become so popular. But a part of this concept that I think is often overlooked is making sure leaders proactively ask for feedback from those who work around them: feedback about something you are working on; feedback about a project; feedback on a meeting; feedback about an initiative, etc. Doing so will not only help you understand what others think and what additional ideas they might have, but it will also make them feel that their input is valued and that their ideas matter.
Be more intentional and planful in 1:1s
1:1 check-ins are common and familiar for most leaders and can play an important part in making sure that there is alignment and clarity around the work that needs to be done. That said, I would argue that, often, these meetings are not as effective as they could be. Why? Because we are all so busy that we rarely take the time to plan and prepare for what needs to be discussed. Taking a few minutes ahead of time to build an agenda will ensure that you are using your time wisely and focusing in on the right things. And don’t forget to make sure that you give the other participant a chance to add to the agenda. Check-ins are as much for them as they are for you!
Focus on the team, not just the individuals
Just like individuals have specific traits, characteristics and personalities, so do teams. Understanding the dynamics that exist will not only help you understand why the team is functioning the way it is, but it will also shed light on what may be missing within your team. From the way they interact, to the strengths they bring to the table, to the way they support each other, there is much to be learned. With this knowledge in hand, you will be much better prepared to build and develop a highly functioning team of complimentary individuals.
I printed these priorities out at the beginning of January and have them on my office wall as constant reminder. With nearly a month into 2021, things are going well but I’m keeping my eye on the end game. I look forward to the end of the year when I can review my goals and see the impact these important changes have had on my personal growth, my team’s cohesiveness and overall performance.
Kevin Sessions joined TalentQuest in 2000. As President and CRO, Kevin is responsible for overall business management, growth strategy and the delivery of TalentQuest’s integrated talent management solutions. His oversight includes sales, marketing, public relations, channel partnerships, and the direction and development of the company’s talent management software suite. Over the course of his career, Kevin has been instrumental in the growth of many companies through strategic planning, effective teambuilding, market and competitive analysis, designing and implementing sales and marketing programs, establishing channel partnerships, and other related brand-development efforts. Prior to joining TalentQuest, he served as Vice President of Business Development and Sales for WebRoomz, a provider of Web-based housing management software.