The end of the year is always an interesting time. Both in our personal lives and work spaces, our days seem to take on a different pace as we inch closer to the new year.
Some go on vacation. Others are in a mad-dash to make last-minute deadlines. Depending on your industry, you might be working tirelessly to meet the demands of the holiday season. And many of us fall somewhere in between – physically present at work, yet filled with anticipation for the new year.
It’s safe to say that 2020 was a uniquely challenging year. While it might be tempting to close this chapter and never look back, the year’s end provides a valuable moment to reflect on our choices as people and professionals. This is especially true for business leaders, many of whom faced a slew of trials and tribulations this year.
Whether you’re a C-suite executive or you just earned your first leadership title, there is always room to strengthen your leadership abilities and techniques. Self-reflection is a powerful tool that can make you a better leader, and what better time to reflect than before we step into a new year?
In this article, we’re bringing you four vital questions to ask yourself in your 2020 leadership self-reflection. These questions will highlight where you performed your best as a leader this year. And most importantly, they will show you where you can improve in the coming year.
Here are our 4 year-end reflection questions for business leaders going into 2021:
- What leadership skills did I develop this year?
- Are my team members/employees growing?
- What steps did I take to create a safe and inclusive work environment?
- Do my team members understand and exemplify the company culture?
1. What leadership skills did I develop this year?
The first question you want to ask yourself is what leadership skills you developed – or improved upon – this year. Nobody wants to be stagnant, but leaders must be particularly committed to growth and development.
As leaders, it’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day operations. But it’s important to take up leadership development opportunities and expand leadership-specific skills.
Why? Well, as 2020 taught us, the world – including the little bubble of our work world – is constantly changing. The best way to lead in a changing world is to equip yourself with new skills and refine the ones you already have.
Granted, it’s not every year that a global pandemic turns your workflow on its head. But even smaller, subtler changes will require you to call upon new leadership skills throughout your career.
New technology, generational changes in the workforce, new company policies, promotions, updated compliance regulations – all of these workplace changes require a different mix of leadership skills.
So as we move into the highly anticipated new year, ask yourself what new leadership skills you’ll be bringing with you. Did the WFH revolution make you a better virtual communicator? Did you learn new strategies to protect employee health and well-being? Maybe you’ve embraced technology a bit more.
Whatever skills you acquired or refined, take a moment to think about how you can incorporate them into next year’s goals. And better yet – ask yourself what skills you want to acquire or strengthen in 2021.
2. Are my team members/employees growing?
Employee growth is an important subject for self-reflection because it is a strong indicator of how you, as a leader, are performing. If your employees are expanding their skill sets and moving up in the company, then you’re probably doing something right.
Employees who thrive, grow, and strengthen their skills are often a reflection of strong leadership. Plus, giving consistent development opportunities to staff can fuel overall business performance. In fact, according to this eLearning industry analysis, spending $1,500 on training per employee every year can increase profits by 24 percent!
Here are some questions to help you assess employee growth:
- Do my direct reports take on new responsibilities and handle them well?
- Are my team members being promoted?
- Do my direct reports receive praise from other departments?
- What formal opportunities for development do my team members have?
If you find that your employees are less dynamic than you’d hope, don’t fret – this is a perfect chance to step up as a leader! Make employee growth a priority in 2021 by ramping up your learning & development strategy.
3. What steps did I take to create a safe and inclusive work environment?
Though 2020 was rife with trying times, it also taught us some important lessons. In particular, this year advanced the conversation on diversity and inclusion in all areas of public life – including work.
As protests for racial equality swept the nation, business leaders from all industries publicly committed to promote diversity and inclusion both in and out of the office. In a matter of weeks, organizations like Slack, Invitae, and Salesforce announced plans to:
- Diversify leadership
- Partner with more Black-owned businesses
- Invest in minority communities
- Close gender and race pay-gaps
- Launch inclusive Employee Resource Groups
- And other ambitious reforms
In 2021 and beyond, business leaders will be expected to actively invest time and resources to promote workplace inclusivity. The key word here is “active.” If the social unrest of 2020 taught the business world anything, it’s that inclusivity does not happen by accident. It requires active, purposeful effort.
Therefore, it’s vital to reflect on what steps you’ve taken to combat bias in your workplace. This is an area where everybody has an important role to play, whether you hold an official leadership title or not. This is because inclusivity starts at the individual level. The way you speak, act, and interact with coworkers can either foster – or hinder – an inclusive environment.
4. Do my team members understand and exemplify the company culture?
Employees at every level are responsible for upholding the company culture. But leaders have the greatest effect on whether or not everyone understands and acts in accordance with company culture.
An organization can be filled with well-intentioned staff, but if leadership promotes an unhealthy culture, it will trickle down and infect the entire business.
So, as a leader, it’s important to subject your company to regular “check-ups” to assess the health of its culture. The end of the year provides a perfect opportunity to check in with your organization’s culture.
Some questions to help you assess the health of your company culture include:
- Do we have high turnover rates?
- Do employees of diverse backgrounds feel safe and respected?
- Do I exemplify the company values in my behavior?
- Do our policies reflect our values and mission?
- Are employees aware of the company values and mission?
- Do employees feel their health and well-being is respected?
As a leader, it is your responsibility to ensure the company culture is upheld by your team members. Leaders should also have a vested interest in fostering a healthy company culture because it directly impacts business performance. A positive company culture can increase employee engagement, help staff adapt to changes, and encourage innovation.
Want to learn more about the benefits of a healthy company culture? Check out our article: The Impact of a Healthy Company Culture During Times of Crisis!
The year 2020 was riddled with challenges. Business leaders were tasked with the responsibility of guiding others during an unprecedented global crisis. While many of us are ready to leave this year behind, these last few days of the year can provide a meaningful moment for self-reflection.
With these reflective questions, you can assess how far you came this year as a leader. And more importantly, you can discover opportunities for growth and improvement in the new year. Need a new leadership development strategy for 2021 and beyond? Contact us today!