MAKE SURE YOUR YEAR-END REFLECTION ISN’T A WASTE OF TIME

by Trevor Lee

When we had kids my wife started a tradition of doing a “New Year’s Interview” on December 31. It was sort of a personal “state of the union.” She wrote down things like achievements from the past year, favorite foods, and what they most enjoyed doing. As they got older they started doing it themselves and it became a useful way of helping them consider various aspects of their lives. 

While intentional reflection is important for leaders throughout the year, the year’s end has a way of forcing that reflection when busyness has pushed it to the back burner. Reflection on its own won’t really be useful to you or your business though. When my kids fill out their “New Year’s Interview” as fast as they can and never look at it again it’s really a pointless exercise. So how can you make sure your reflection is worth the time?

Be specific.

If you realize your company went through a lull in morale or sales dipped in the third quarter or you spent three weeks in February struggling to get out of bed, that’s good to note, but it won’t be very useful to you unless you get specific. What did the lull in morale look like? Which aspects of sales were lagging? What was happening in your life when you struggled to get out of bed? 

Details help you see the complexity and nuance in the events of the past year. It is this deeper clarity on what’s happened that inspire creativity to meet the challenges more effectively in the future. As you identify a few key things from the past year, take the time to write down as much detail as you can remember about what happened.

Get perspective. 

Every person has a particular perspective on things that happen, and that includes you. There’s no way around it–our previous experiences, personality, mood, relationships, and a variety of other factors deeply influence the way we see the world and to what we attribute events that happen. You’re probably right about the lull in morale your company experienced, but you also don’t have the full picture of what it was like for others. 

There’s no way around it–our previous experiences, personality, mood, relationships, and a variety of other factors deeply influence the way we see the world and to what we attribute events that happen.

Whatever your reflections on the year, talk to a few other people to gain perspective. The point of this is not to debate or get people to see things your way, but to add texture and color to your perspective on events. That will help you as you move to the last thing.

Take action.

Reflection without action is a bit like researching workouts and then never exercising. Of course you won’t be able to act on every reflection you have, but it’s likely a few things will really stick out. Then you can focus on those. Take the time to reflect on the details of what happened, get perspective from a few others, and then decide how you’ll take action in the new year. This could be by addressing something that happened in the past or by learning from what has happened and doing things differently, and more effectively, in the future.

This is even something you can do with your teams. Ask them to reflect on their year, get perspective from others, and consider how they can take action to improve their performance and make the company better in the next year.