THE BLOG
11/04/2012 09:44 am ET Updated Jan 04, 2013

End of the Year

Between now and Dec. 31, your focus -- and your performance at home and on the job -- will be compromised. Between elections, holidays, travels and end-of-the-year reviews, you're going to have to think about more... Are you ready?

About 10 months ago, you had a plan and, most likely, some goals. Over that time you undoubtedly made progress on some, while you lost momentum on others. It happens. Now, as the new "New Year" comes in to focus out on the horizon, you have an opportunity to make things better.

"Learning happens in reflection." For a moment, let yourself wonder -- and let your mind wander -- about what you've been a part of this year. The trips you've taken, the meetings you've managed, the products you've launched, the services you've provided. All of these things, and more, are things that could offer you an opportunity to improve your performance.

Consider this your "mentor-in-a-box," an article that shows you step-by-step how to coach yourself to a new level of leadership -- to yourself and for others you work and live with. In a world of busy-ness, it isn't always possible or feasible to attend your industry conference or attend that networking event. However, in just 15 minutes you can make the most of the experiences you have had this year.

John Wooden, the basketball coach in California and later great business thinker and author, once said, "Listen if you want to be heard." Now that the days are getting shorter, the mornings a little colder, your responsibilities a little bigger and the stakes (much) higher, it is absolutely critical that you listen... to yourself. Here are the four questions to ask yourself -- annually to be sure, quarterly will be even better.

"Are my goals social?"

Think about the five people you've spent the most time with this month. Go ahead, make a list in your head (or, better, on a piece of paper). Next to each person, mark a simple YES or NO according to this prompt: "S/He is aware of my three main goals over the next 18 months."

Considering the fact that your five closest friends and/or coworkers can influence which restaurant you eat out in, what book you read and where you go on your next vacation, wouldn't it make sense that they are "on your team" when it comes to goal setting and life achievements? Go ahead, invite each one out for a latte or a lunch and outline where you think you'll be in the next year and a half; they just may have an idea for you!

"Do I promote my progress?"

Do you tell people about how you're doing? Really, ask yourself when you feel the best in relationship with someone -- a friend, family member or a colleague. Chances are it is right around the time when you felt like you were of assistance to them; you helped them get to somewhere they were going. Do you know what people love doing more than helping other people? They like to know we're making progress.

Consider setting up a "quarterly email" that you send out to the five (or so) people who are most influential to you. Then, in 250 words or less (about what they can read in under a minute) share an update. Let them know what you're working on, what you've accomplished and where you're headed over the next few months.

"Am I set up to receive feedback?"

Walk into any bookstore and head on over to the "management" section and you're sure to find all kinds of books on "giving effective feedback." Instead of picking up another one of those, I need to ask you to do something: Find a book that talks about these six areas:

How to recognize when it's time to ask for feedback.
How to identify people who will give you feedback.
How to set yourself up to ask for the feedback.
How (and when) to receive the feedback.
What to do with the feedback you receive.
How to "report back" on the feedback.

As you get closer to the end of the year, you'll most likely meet with someone for a formal (or at least informal) performance review. Make sure you take advantage of that opportunity by "being ready" to ask for, receive and use the feedback you're given.

"What win can I acknowledge and learn from?"

At the end of the project, after a meeting, when a product launches... these are the best times to press the pause button, look around and ask, "How did it go?" Invite the people closest to the project in to a conference room (or a conference call) and discuss your lessons learned, the wins you experienced and the things you could (might) do differently next time.

Acknowledge accomplishment -- especially the effort that others put in to the project -- and you'll experience a boost in engagement and energy from all those involved. According to Carol Dweck and other social psychologists, the influential impact of not simply noticing what someone else has done, but incorporating the work they did to get it done makes it more likely they'll work through other projects at a higher level of engagement.

To get the process of learning through reflection started, notice what effort you've put in to making things better throughout 2012 and get ready to head in to 2013. Take just 15 minutes sometime this quarter (and, consider including this in each quarter for the next year) to acknowledge accomplishment and learn from your efforts both personally and professionally.

For more by Jason W. Womack, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here .

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