December … family time, festive celebration, yummy food, decorations, music, maybe a little snow. I love it. I always have. It’s easy to get swept up in the magic of December and put your work and career on the backburner for a month. I wouldn’t blame you if you did.
But in my experience, there are a few key things every leader should do in the month of December. Things that will help solidify a great year and set you up for an even better year to come. They won’t take you a lot of time, but if you do them, and do them right, they can make all the difference in the world.
Here are three things every manager MUST do in December.
We’re winding down the year. It’s easy to take your eye off the ball. It’s easy, in between the holiday parties and family festivities, to overlook a few best practices that can be very important to your team’s momentum and your own career advancement.
Today I’m going to share three things I do every December to put the cherry on top of the current year, and to set my team up for success in the year to come. They won’t take you a ton of time, but in my experience, doing these things can be extremely valuable.
It’s very easy for your boss and other company leaders to forget all the great things your team has done this year. Even you may have forgotten some of them. If you’re not careful, some of your great efforts and accomplishments can be inadvertently swept under the rug.
One of the most important jobs you have as a manager is to create visibility for the great work your team has done. That recognition is critical to building a winning culture where people feel their work has value. It’s great for the culture of your team. It’s also great to set you up for a strong performance review in the new year, since your accomplishments will be top of mind.
Each December, I create a highlight real to summarize my team’s greatest accomplishments for the year. I spend time on it. I go back to projects from January and February and March so I don’t overlook anything. I find wins from across the team, and I remind everyone of them.
A highlight real can take several forms … a PowerPoint deck you present at a team meeting, a booklet you distribute to your team members and leaders in the company, a fun video you make with your team. It doesn’t matter so much what format your highlight real is in. What matters, is that you take the time to summarize all the great things your team did this year and tell people about it.
Too many teams start slow in January. Some teams barely get going until February. A slow start makes the rest of the year harder. You can lose momentum. It can cause the leaders in your company to question your vision and plan for the year. It can make you appear to be stagnating. It can cause anxiety on your team.
Every December, I bring my entire team together to share a vision for the year to come. I try to paint a picture for how we will evolve and change to get better. I give context for why this change is important, and how it relates to the highest-level goals of the company. I break this vision down into key strategic initiatives so every member of my team can understand what we are doing and how they factor into it.
By sharing a vision for the year to come, you allow your team members time to process and understand it. This way they can enter the new year with confidence and purpose vs. questions and concerns. By sharing a set of strategic initiatives, you demonstrate to your team (and to leaders in your company) that you have a plan, that you’re evolving, that you’re improving. Every leader needs to do this.
You may think this one is obvious. Maybe it is for you. I’m not sure it is for every manager. We can all agree it’s important to thank our team members for a great year. But I want to highlight how important it is to do this individually – personally. I don’t think it’s enough to send a “thank you” email to your team or hand out some templated holiday cards. I think you need to do more.
I’m not talking about expensive gifts or grand gestures. Quite the opposite. In my experience, the most impactful thing you can do to show your team members how much you value their contributions, is to personally thank each of them. I write a personal letter to each of my direct reports to thank them for their great work and partnership. I spend time on this. I think back on the year, where they’ve come from, what they’ve had to overcome – the ups and downs – and I put it all in there. They’ve worked so hard, on so many things, they deserve this depth of acknowledgement.
My recommendation to managers is to get a little more personal this year. Spend a little more time on your recognitions. It will mean a lot to your team members.
December is an easy month to get distracted. But that is akin to slowing down at the finish line. If you’re not careful, you can dull the impact of all the great things your team did this year, and lose momentum going into next year. I hope these three tips are helpful to you, as you close out another great year.