Where Did You Lead in 2013?

by  Alan Derek Utley  |  Self Leadership

This Was a Great Year

I feel proud of the things that my team accomplished this year.  Some of them were goals that we set at the outset and others were unexpected opportunities that just popped up.

Now, despite the bright spots, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses.  There were some low points too.  Some difficult challenges. Times when I personally didn’t know which way was up. When I felt that maybe I was headed in the wrong direction.

But, that’s okay.  Because I can now look back on the year, renewed, refreshed and able to recognize both the successes and failures.  And much can be learned from all of it.

The end of the year is perfect for this kind of rear-view-mirror gazing.  Especially as we switch gears into the next twelve months.  Because the start of each calendar year signifies a new beginning.  A fresh start. An opportunity to ask “where will we go this year?”  Of course, in order to have that conversation with ourselves and others, it is helpful to first take stock of the year that was.

Pause To Self-Reflect

Take some time out over this holiday season for self-reflection. Do it now. Or schedule it.  Whatever works for you, but do it before the calendar rolls to the New Year.

Find your favorite quiet spot in the office, your house, your backyard, your neighborhood coffee shop and ask yourself these three questions about 2013:

  1. What went according to plan?
  2. What were the disappointments?
  3. What were the nice surprises?

Once you have your perspectives about this year, turn your thoughts to one more simple question:

  1. Where will I go in 2014?

Invite Your Team to Self-Reflect

Don’t want to make this all about you?  Okay.  You can ask these same questions in the context of your team or organization. Even your family.  In fact, you should encourage this kind of reflective exercise for anyone within your realm of influence. Start with your individual self-reflections.  Then gather others together for a broader conversation about team successes, disappointments, and goals.

Why Do We Self-Reflect?

Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Observe all men; thyself most.”  

Self-reflection yields self-awareness and understanding, which yields growth.  As leaders we have a responsibility to learn and grow; otherwise, we become stagnant and irrelevant.  This trickles down to our teams and out to our organizations.  Therefore, as openly self-reflecting leaders we encourage learning, change and development in others.

But, be careful.  Self-reflection is not self-loathing.  To quote Charles Dickens, author of A Christmas Carol and other Christmas stories – a fitting reference given the time of year:

“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” 

Remember – dwell not on the negative.  Instead, appreciate the positive.  Avoid turning this exercise into a laundry list of complaints or criticisms. If you find that you and/or your team didn’t end up where you wanted to go this year, let yourself be okay with that.  Cut yourself some slack.   Choose to learn from what didn’t work and use that new-found knowledge to succeed in your next adventure.

Where Did You Lead This Year?

Self-reflection brings self-renewal.  So, pause and take a breath. Learn what you can and then celebrate what went well and prepare yourself for more successes in the year to come.

Happy Holidays.

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About The Author

Articles By alan-utley
Alan Utley is a Regional HR Director for one of the world’s largest vacation businesses. By night he dabbles in executive coaching, blogging, and public speaking and is proud to serve on the management faculty at a major university. In his own words, Alan is a “world-class wannabe expert in all things leadership and careers.” Connect with Alan at and on Twitter @AlanDUtley.

What People Are Saying

Mary C Schaefer  |  10 Dec 2013  |  Reply

Hi Alan! You are reminding me of a story I heard once about Dale Carnegie. After leading a class or program it was said that he would sit down and spend an hour on what could be improved, and then ALSO spend an hour on what went well. It has been years since I went through the Carnegie course and heard that, but it made quite an impression on me about the value of balance in self-reflection. THANK YOU for reminding us today.

Alan Derek Utley  |  14 Dec 2013  |  Reply

Hi Mary! Thank you for sharing this. That anecdote about Dale Carnegie reflects an incredible amount of dedication to self-reflection. Quite an example. Right now I can only dream of being that disciplined, but now I have a goal to shoot for! Off to do some self-reflection…

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