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Name it before you solve it

December 8, 2020

Even with a raging pandemic and an unrelenting news cycle, the end of the year is a natural time to reflect on your personal goals, the progress of your organization, and, of course, the performance of the individual people on your team that make it all happen.

Whether your reflection process involves reviews and bonuses, or a less formal acknowledgement, you ask yourself the same questions:

  • Did this person reach their goals?
  • Did this person add value to our team in the form of new ideas or unexpected ownership?
  • Did my confidence in this person go up or down?
  • Is there something we need to talk about but haven’t yet?

As you ask those questions, I invite you to ask one more of yourself:

  • Did I give this person the authority they need to do the job at the highest level?

You almost certainly told them they had authority, but did you genuinely and fully give it to them? Did you have the strength and discipline to stay out of their way, to not jump in when you got anxious or stressed about the outcome? If you’re anything like every leader we work with, the honest answer is some form of “yes and no.

”Whatever your answer is doesn’t mean they’re off the hook for their performance. It simply means that you have to acknowledge your part in the relationship. Leaders go first and adding this element to your next conversation is how to set your people up for the next level of growth in 2021.

Here are four sentences to complete on your own to bring with you to that next 1:1. This is not to the exclusion of a performance review but is a way to show up as the leader they welcome and that you want to be:

  1. In reflecting on our last year of working together, I noticed that I didn’t tell you __________________ often enough.
  2. In reflecting on my own leadership during this past year, I see now that I want to get better at _____________ in 2021.
  3. During our conversations in the year ahead, I hope we are able to do a better job of ________________________, so that we can strengthen our working relationship.
  4. I realize now that while I said you had the authority to do specific things in your role, I feel like I disempowered you in the moments where I __________________. I’m recommitting to working on that.

Being a modern people leader requires a little vulnerability. It often means not solving the problem and instead, naming the problem; then you can see what happens when you create some space around it before jumping into action mode. And it turns out, it’s refreshing for your team to hear you acknowledge your own missteps, or the places you can and want to do better.

Don’t skimp on well-deserved bonuses and promotions, but consider that a meaningful gift this year is recognition— of your team, of yourself, and of who we can be when we show up as whole humans together.

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