Leadership: Reframe your goals and challenges

Suzanne Peterson: On Leadership First published in The Arizona Republic and on azcentral.com The end of each year is a time for reflection and contemplation. Common questions we ask ourselves: Did the previous year turn out how I had envisioned? Did I meet the goals I set? Of what am I most proud? In hindsight, how would I have done things differently? Regardless of how you think about the previous year, the biggest gift you can give the people who follow you is to approach the start of a new year with optimism. Obviously, you shouldn’t pretend problems don’t exist or paint a rosy picture when there isn’t one. However, I suggest you put some time into reframing the challenges and obstacles in your life. One of my MBA students recently shared two quotes with me, both of which perfectly epitomize this principle. They were said by Lt. Gen. Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller, one of the most decorated U.S. Marine Corps members in history: • When surrounded by Chinese soldiers in the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War, he remarked to those in his command, "They are in front of us, behind us and we are flanked on both sides by an enemy that outnumbers us 29-1. They can't get away from us now!" • During this same conflict, he is also famous for saying, "We're surrounded. That simplifies our problem of getting to these people and killing them." Clearly, this is a powerful display of reframing challenges. As you think about what 2014 holds for you personally and professionally, think about new ways to frame the most common activities:
  1. Old Frame: Smart goals or stretch goals.
New Frame: Singular goal. This year, articulate one major goal and make sure you deliver on it. Too many goals spread you and your people too thin and make prioritizing difficult. I recognize that there are many goals that need to be achieved, but always be clear on the one goal that is non-negotiable in terms of its achievement.
  1. Old Frame: What I will do this year.
New Frame: What I won’t do this year. Rather than agreeing on what you will do in the New Year, declare what you won’t do instead. I won’t look at email over dinner. I won’t get on my computer after 10 p.m. I won’t cancel one-on-one meetings with my team. I won’t let my meetings run overtime.
  1. Old Frame: Celebrate big-time results.
New Frame: Celebrate small wins. Rather than waiting for that final big-time outcome, celebrate progress on big projects — winning even the smallest of clients, the way your team responded to a challenge or how your teenager is doing early in the semester (not just when grades come out at the end).
  1. Old Frame: Get end-of-the-year feedback.
New Frame: Frequently ask for feedback. Make a commitment to get to know how you are really perceived beyond the annual review. Ask people whom you trust to keep you honest about how you are measuring up. Ask your spouse how you’ve been doing with family responsibilities lately. Ask your people if you are giving them clear direction or your clients if you are giving them enough time and attention.
  1. Old Frame: Coach everyone on your team equally.
New Frame: Pick one person to invest in this year. Rather than trying to coach everyone to be better in an equal fashion, pick one person to go above and beyond with this year. Invest by putting your time, your network and your skill set into helping that person reach his or her goals. Make it part of your job description to help the individual be successful. Takeaway message: Great leaders find new spins on common activities. To stay motivated and relevant, they find a way to make even something as traditional as a New Year’s resolution, novel. Good luck in 2014!