As You Start 2011, Ask Yourself: What Can I Do This Year to be Better in 2012?

As we start 2011, it’s a good time to step back and think about what you want to be true when you start 2012.

If you don’t set some goals, you’ll deliver a bunch of work (which is good) but you’ll be starting 2012 in the same shape you are in now (which is not good enough).

What I mean is that you and your team will not have grown. You will have delivered more stuff, but have only the same capabilities and capacity as you do now.

Two things about effective leadership:

  1. As a leader you must deliver stuff AND get better at what you do over time.
  2. It is a primary job of a leader to build a team beneath you that is highly capable, so that you free yourself up to solve higher order problems.

If your team does not get more capable, you all get stuck, and the business gets stuck in the same place. How will you grow yourself, your business and your team? What do you want to be better this time next year?

Here are three questions you should be answering in right now.

It’s January 2012…

1. How will YOU be better or more capable?

  • Is your network stronger?
  • Have your communication skills improved?
  • Do you have a new mentor?
  • Have you mastered something that the people at the top of your field are doing or thinking about?
  • Have you got your ideas into the world more broadly/publicly?
  • Have you become a better mentor to someone?
  • Are you more fit?
  • Have you been a better member of your family?

I’m not at all suggesting you try and do all of these things, or that these are even the right list of things for you to choose from.

But think about it; in what way do YOU want to be better next year? Decide.Do something on purpose.

Hint: start by scheduling some time to think about this!

It’s January 2012…

2. What will your team be capable of that they are not today?

Will you team be better at:

  • Making decisions?
  • A quality improvement process?
  • Managing the backlog of requested work?
  • Communicating more effectively with peer organizations?
  • Dealing with ambiguity?
  • Recognizing and developing talent?
  • On-time delivery?
  • Managing expectations with stakeholders?
  • Building credibility with an adversarial organization?
  • Engaging and understanding customers?
  • Internal or external use of social media?
  • Communicating with employees?
  • Selling more strategically?
  • Business plans with partners?
  • Customer service?

This is a wonderful exercise to kick off the year with your team.

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Have an off-site meeting and decide not only what you want to get done, but what you want your team to be known for externally and internally, and what you want to be better at as team next year.

It’s January 2012…

3. What major things in your business will be fixed or invented?

Every business and every organization has persistent problems that are critical to get fixed, but don’t seem to ever get fixed. (You’re not alone.)

  • List your persistent issues. Face them head on.
  • What did you want to get done and didn’t. Why not?
  • List your unanswered questions.
  • What are the big debates and disagreements in your business and team?
  • What are the most biggest competitive threats that you have trouble addressing?
  • What are you most frustrating execution issues?
  • What systems and skills are your missing?
  • What parts of your organization are not working right?

It’s a very productive and valuable effort, to face your most annoying business issues, and decide to solve just one, once and for all. Then pick the next and solve that one.

It’s not just the work. You need to be really diligent about not getting consumed by only delivering work.

You need to carve out time and energy to rise above the work and improve your game. That is the job of a leader.

If you do focus on work plus capability, the business benefits, the customers benefit, and everyone gets a little happier – including you!

This article was originally published on Patty Azzarello’s Business Leadership Blog.

Patty Azzarello is the founder and CEO of Azzarello Group. She's also an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/business advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35, and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk). You can find her at patty@azzarellogroup.com .

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