New year resolutions. The first step on the road to hell or an opportunity not to be missed?

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and it seems to me that the road through January is paved with failed resolutions.

There is a great deal of good advice about how to make meaningful resolutions – think small, make incremental steps, create habits etc. but I want to focus on how we, as organisational leaders can use the start of the New Year to really drive engagement levels and help provide purposeful support in the development arena.

Psychologically, the New Year is a great time for both reflection and planning.  It provides a natural point in time when we are encouraged to look back at what we have achieved in the previous twelve months and what we aspire to achieve in the following year.

Organisations generally do not take advantage of this process of reflection and planning yet it seems to me to be the ideal time to engage in development planning.

It is a great time to ask employees:

  • What do you want to achieve in your career over the next twelve months?
  • What skills and knowledge do you want to gain this year?
  • How will you add greater value this year than last?
  • What development activities have you considered to enable you to achieve your career goals?
  • How can we help?

It is, of course, vitally important to ask the last question so that employees know that the business is supporting them in their ongoing development and that the process of development is owned by themselves – the organisation should be supporting, not ‘doing’.

These career development resolutions can be as hard to maintain as the resolution about losing weight or going to the gym, so some of the same advice applies – don’t make the steps too ambitious, try to focus on changing behavioural habits with a focus on what you want to achieve as opposed to what you want to change.

Of course the greatest support for any resolution is affirming the positive benefits of the change, being supported in making the change and receiving positive feedback through the process of change – all of which are entirely in the gift of the leadership team of the business.

Having used this time of year many times to stimulate personal growth and career development pathways, I have consistently found that support, encouragement and positive feedback help the New Year resolutions to be grounded, habit-forming and, above all, sustainable.

Happy New Year!

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