Written By Deb Cummins, Vice-President, Northstar Team Development

Here we are. New Year’s Eve. I have to admit that I have never been a fan of the holiday. It seems almost cliché to write about New Year’s  and the cultural phenomenon of making resolutions.

From a historical perspective the origin of making New Year’s resolutions rests with the Babylonians, who reportedly made promises to the gods in hopes they’d earn good favor in the coming year. 4,000 years ago, the holiday was celebrated in March when the spring harvest came in. After Rome became an empire in 27 B.C., New Year’s Day became a time for city leaders and soldiers to swear an oath of loyalty to the Emperor. In around 300 B.C., the ceremony shifted to January 1. January was associated with Janus, a god of home and hearth, The desire to start anew pops up repeatedly in western civilization.

Although I am personally not a big fan of the holiday, I am fully committed to continuous improvement as both an individual and leader. Our company is in the business of people development. As a student of The Leadership Challenge (Kouzes and Posner) I have learned that I frequently practice the behaviors associated with Inspiring a Shared Vision. These behaviors include:

Talking about future trends that influence how work gets done
Describing a compelling image of what our future could be like
Appealing to others to share an exciting dream of the future
Showing others how their long-term interests can be realized by enlisting in a common vision
Painting the “big picture” of what we aspire to accomplish
Speaking with genuine conviction about the higher meaning and purpose of our work.
It occurs to me that “Inspiring a Shared Vision” is a practice that is similiar to making a New Year’s resolution and I am in!  As many of us know, New Year’s resolutions don’t seem to have much of  what we refer to as a “stick factor” meaning that their long term impact is not sustainable.  University of Scranton research suggests that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals which is interesting from a leadership development perspective.

Just google “goal setting”…the evidence is clear that goals are good. Perhaps it is just semantics but our modern mindset has become that resolutions are made to be broken while goals are part of our business DNA. I think we need a new approach to looking at and making resolutions.

How about approaching New Year’s with a “Beginning With the End in Mind” strategy?“ The habit of Beginning with the End in Mind involves setting your own goals and intended accomplishments, identifying the roles you play, fixing your priorities, and then sharing those frequently with others” (www.franklincovey.com).

We are trying this in our family. At dinner this week with our children, we did our own version of the year in review. We had a few ground rules. 2016 saw the lowest of the lows and the highest of the highs in our family. So, my daughter’s edict was that no one could talk about either. Fair enough. Once we shared our one highlight (which ranged from job changes to professional achievements to turning 21) we moved to a beginning with the end in mind mindset. Rather than talking about activities associated with goals, we went big. The question was framed differently and went something like this…It is January 2018 and we are together again. What is that we want to say about the year in review? We supported each other in creating a shared vision for the future vs. ordinary resolutions that we are 92% likely to break.

My daughter added an additional idea that she shares in her recent blog that I will be implementing (https://findingplana.com/2016/12/30/my-word-for-2016-the-giveaway-winner/) Pick a guiding word for the year. This fits nicely into the importance of personal leadership driven by personal values and is tied to the leadership practice of Modeling the Way and being clear about one’s own philosophy of leadership.

Developing a culture of accountability is critical for successful transformation as a leader. If you are serious about looking at resolutions differently, have a conversation with your team about where they see themselves next year? What is their “beginning with the end in mind” statement? What is the shared vision for your team? Ask each team member to pick their guiding word for the year. Ask them to print and post their words in their workspaces. Find a time to check in with them on a regular basis as a team on where they are headed in 2017.

I am looking forward to watching the ball drop on tv. On January 1, 2017 I will exercise more, eat healthier, write more, etc….and I will commit (word of the year) to supporting others in their personal transformations as leaders as I become the best version of me. Cheers to a Happy and Healthy 2017.