Irish News

Think big but start small with New Year’s resolutions

Neil Hughes
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It is at this time of the year, that we usually reflect on the year just past, about how we might want to be a better leader or manager at work going forward. For many of us, it does not get beyond the thought process or indeed the first few weeks of January, before we fall back into our old ways of working.

From my own experience in delivering and sustaining change in leaders, it is about trying not to effect a personality change. Firstly, it is not necessary as your current behaviours and actions usually only need fine-tuning, not a complete overhaul. Second, people do not like change – even change that might ultimately benefit them – if that change is too drastic, unexpected, or unexplained. Apart from unnerving people around you, big changes are difficult to sustain over a prolonged period. Such change tends to fizzle out as quickly as it started – like last year’s resolutions!

Instead, pick one thing from your list and do it well. Focus your efforts exclusively on that.  As a rule of thumb, it takes 30-days to make a habit and 30-days to break a habit.  So, try a 12-stage plan spread over a year, with each stage lasting one month and focusing on one goal – a single element that you may want to stop, start or change.  In addition, if at any stage you suffer a setback or feel overwhelmed, turn to your ‘continue’ list as a reminder of all the things you already do very well.

The key challenge is to plan monthly and visualise daily. Write down this month’s goal.  Describe exactly how you plan to behave as a manager and leader, and how you and your team will benefit. It could be “that I will be a better listener” or  “I will provide feedback to my peers and team on a more regular basis” or” I will listen fully with full eye contact; avoid looking at my phone during meetings and Team calls, to show that I am listening”. The benefits I hope to achieve will be to understand my team better and they understand how I feel about them; and that they know that I value their views and opinions.

Take a few minutes every day to read it. Have it pop up on your phone or computer as a reminder a few times during the day. Your reminder might be a single-word prompt to remind you of the full goal. Set aside five minutes at some point each day to reflect on your progress. If possible aim for the same time each day – for example early morning or on your evening commute if not working from home – so that it becomes part of your normal routine.

Change can be tough.  Some of us like to battle alone; others prefer a listening ear and an encouraging word. Would you benefit from sharing your plans with a trusted colleague or friend? If you have a mentor – formal or otherwise consider sharing your “stop-start-continue” lists with them and asking for their honest feedback.  When the going gets tough, they will remind you why you are doing this, and their support and encouragement will be invaluable as you do the hard work of adopting new habits and behaviours.

Now it is back to visualising the benefits of my ‘Dry-January’!