At this time of year, we like to draw attention to one important ritual of great leaders that often gets too little attention – celebration. Traditionally December is a time of reflection, we celebrate holidays, family, end of year, and many other gifts, traditions, accomplishments and relationships. Celebration as a key facet of reflection is critical to business leaders, and in fact, anyone who wants to be a better leader in any area of their life.
The true impact of celebration is learning. To learn, we must reflect on what we have done, what we have accomplished, and what allowed us to achieve those successes, as well as the things that may have led to failure, incomplete accomplishments or unmet objectives.
With our preprogrammed negativity bias, we naturally focus on how we fell short or failed. While it is important not to overlook areas of failure to try to learn how to prevent them in the future, it’s far too easy for most of us to see our own shortcomings, failures and faults, and we neglect to appreciate the things that have worked well, where we have been successful, and where we have achieved our personal and professional objectives.
Right now, look at what you’ve accomplished over the past 12 months. Take time to go back through your calendar and look at each month, each week and ask yourself, “What did I get done? What was finished? What was started? What got kicked off? What products or services did I launch? What relationships did I strengthen? Which new teams did I build? What problems did I solve? How can I measure the things that I achieved in the span of time I was given?”
If you look carefully, you’ll discover that there are many things that at this point in the year you have forgotten that you accomplished in the first or second quarter, or if you’ve had a particularly busy year, even things that happened as recently as October may have slipped from your mind as you got busy on other activities and the latest goal in front of you. By racing from goal to goal, always looking forward for that next thing, you may never really feel that you achieve success. Taking this time to look back and appreciate your progress this year, you recognize your achievements and know that your efforts are having an impact.
Remember to look both within – what were my particular strengths, my gifts, my achievements, what obstacles did I overcome- and also at your team, your relationships with customers, vendors, and others that helped you succeed. Where were my relationships particularly strong, where did I work particularly well with someone, what new relationships did I establish, and how did I manage to do that? You recognize not only your individual talents, but also the ways that you worked well with others and leveraged the talents of the group to succeed.
We encourage leaders to look back frequently throughout the year, even weekly and review the goals for the past week, what was accomplished, and what actions or behaviors were most successful. Celebrate small wins and efforts that paid off. Commit to using what worked last week again this week and measuring your success again. This reflection encourages you to build from strength to strength, recognizing that what made you successful this time may be the basis of what will make you successful in the future. Learn from success as well as failure, and build your confidence in the strategies that are working and repeat them.
For me and my team, we are celebrating our 10th anniversary in business, and celebrating some of the successes we have had over the years, and this year in particular. We value the feedback from clients that helps us see our strengths in relationships, customized solutions and powerful insights, and decide what to keep doing, what to strengthen, what to expand, and also what to change, to modify, or just stop doing because it isn’t working for our clients.
Examine what 2012 has meant for you, what have you achieved, and what allowed you to do that. Really knowing what you are great at, and how you use that to achieve success, helps you to become a more fearless leader.