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Karin’s Leadership Articles

A Fresh, Fast, and Fun Way to Focus Your Team

by | Jan 24, 2017 | By Karin Hurt, Communication, Everything Else, Results & Execution, Winning Well |

If you’re like most managers, you’re neck deep in performance agreements, stretch goals, and the dance between managing your boss’s expectations and warning your team not to sandbag. How you spend January can make the difference between a breakthrough and mediocre 2017.

Too many managers take the goals handed to them, wring their hands for a day or so, and then pull the team together to figure out how the heck they’re going to accomplish all THAT and still “Do their day job.” That approach will get the job done, but it’s unlikely to unleash breakthrough innovation or a head-turning year.

A Fresh, Fast, and Fun Way to Focus Your Team (or Yourself)

One of the most important questions you can ask your team (or yourself) is “What will it take to make 2017 the very best year of your career?” In my exec role at Verizon, this was always one of my favorite questions. It’s amazing how few people start their year thinking that way.

We now build that question into the strategic planning work we do with teams. Here’s one easy DIY exercise you can do to help focus your team (or yourself).

The End of Year Letter

Ask each member of your team to write you a letter, as if it were January 2018.  This can be done in email, or the old fashioned way. Just be sure you save it, so you can review at midyear and again this time next year.

It’s helpful to give them a few prompts. Here are some to get you started.

Dear __________ (insert your name here, if they report to you; if you are doing this for yourself use your bosses’ name).

2017 was the very best year of my career.

From there, pick some sentence starters as prompts for them to complete.

We totally changed the game by ____________.

The most important thing we accomplished was ___________.

Everyone is looking to us to understand how we ___________

I (we) got so much better at ______________.

Our customers are delighted because_______________.

I really improved my working relationships with __________ by___________.

Feel free to make up your own. You don’t need to pick many. The point is to ask your team members to reflect individually about what an extraordinary year would look like and then to identify specific behaviors and actions to help them get there.

I encourage you to proactively write a similar letter to your boss, and to ask them to pull it out mid year. It’s amazing how motivating this can be.

Let Us Help You Jump Start Your Team in the New Year

In our strategic Winning Well workshops and off-sites we always include exercises to get past the “Ugh, how can we get all this done?” mindset to identifying what matters most, isolating key priorities and behaviors.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

6 Comments

  1. Alli Polin

    Love this exercise! What a fun way to set goals and get into a success mindset. Passing along to some leaders I know could use this ASAP.

    Alli

    Reply
    • Karin hurt

      Thanks so much, Alli! I’m glad you find it useful. It’s one of my favorites for this time of year.

      Reply
  2. Renee Ruchotzke

    Hi Karin!
    Would you mind if I riff off this blog post (with attribution of course) to create a similar exercise for congregational leaders?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Karin Hurt

      Renee, I would be truly honored! Thank you.

      Reply
  3. LaRae Quy

    What a great question to ask others, and ourselves, at the beginning of the year! I am going to spend some time answering it myself 🙂

    Reply
    • Karin hurt

      Thanks, LaRae! I like to use this one for myself as well 😉

      Reply

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