By Carey Nieuwhof
IF you’re like many leaders, you’re busy making resolutions this week. I think that’s a great idea.
Michael Hyatt outlines a number of compelling reasons you should actually write down your resolutions. The most persuasive for me is that you are 42 percent more likely to reach your goals if you write them down.
I was reminded of that this past week. When cleaning out my office recently, I came across a list of written goals from four years ago. There were over a dozen. I was both surprised and grateful to see I achieved 80 percent of them, and am on track to complete them all within the next two years (some were BIG goals).
You will have some resolutions that are specific and personal to you—which is great.
But there are some goals that every leader could benefit from accomplishing.
Here are six that continue to inspire and challenge me.
1. Work on your character as seriously as you work on your competency.
It’s rare that competency fells top leaders; but character does.
As I’ve said before in this space, your competency will take you only as far as your character can sustain you.
A young leader I know recently took a weekend away to work on his character: He chose a time away to pray, reflect, journal and grow. Personally, I think that’s amazing.
Here are a few ways to develop your character:
Pray about it. Seriously, nothing will grow your character as much as direct time with God asking him to show you what you need to work on.
Ask others how you’re doing. I love the question Jeff Henderson asks: What’s it like to be on the other side of me? If you’re prepared to hear the truth, you’ll grow.
Spend some time away working on it, like the young leader I mentioned did.
I realize this kind of effort might sound strange, but the truth is you’d spend three days at a conference sharpening your skills without thinking about it. Why not spend that much time developing your soul?
Think about the benefits of a goal like this.
If you only work on your competency, you become better at work. But if you work on your character, you become a better spouse, parent, friend and person.
The benefits are life-changing.
2. Spend less time in meetings.
This is a pet peeve of mine, but I am convinced too many leaders spend far too much time in meetings.
Meetings are often the enemy of your real work. The reason you work evenings and weekends is because you didn’t get your work done during the day, in great likelihood because you were in meetings.
Take a look at your schedule for a random week two months ago. Now look at all the meetings you were in that week.
Can you remember a single thing from any of those meetings? Probably not, unless they were an annual off-site, a strategic planning meeting or a brainstorming session to launch something new.
Chances are your week was consumed by the drivel of meetings that merely managed what you were currently doing. You could have cut those meetings in half and got your life back.
Need more convincing? Here are five compelling reasons to cut down the number of meetings you do.
3. Schedule the most important things.
Sure, you waste a lot of time in unnecessary meetings.
But even if you cut your meetings in half, chances are you’re still struggle to get it all done.
Which is why it’s a great idea to write your most important commitments into your calendar.
Commitments like family night, exercise, a day off, a message writing day or whatever else you absolutely need to get done that nobody ever asks you to do.
Too many leaders spend their day responding to other people’s crises, and in the process create a crisis for themselves in being unable to manage their lives.
Enter your email here…
I wrote about how to schedule your life in this post, How to Stop Working 7 Days a Week.
4. Get up earlier.
One of the top questions I get asked is, “How do you get everything done (church leadership, writing, blogging, speaking, podcasting, teaching, being a husband and dad)?
The answer is a little more complex than “I get up early,” but the reality is getting up early every day is critical to me getting everything I do done.
You know this is true of traffic patterns.
Say you have four stores to hit on a Saturday morning. Arriving when the first store opens is much smarter than showing up at 2:00 p.m. Traffic is so much lighter first thing in the morning than mid-Saturday afternoon. Errands that take an hour early Saturday can take double to triple just hours later.
The same is true of work.
Nobody texts you at 5 a.m. Nor does anyone email you or call you about a problem that demands your immediate attention.
You can move a LOT of freight before 8 a.m. if you work at it. If you’ve got young kids, even squeezing in an extra 30-60 minutes before they get up can mean you leave at 4 p.m. with your work done rather than leaving at 6 with an hour left to finish up after dinner.
Plus, generally speaking, you’re brighter and sharper in the morning than you are by 8:00 p.m. after a long day.
If you get your most important work done before breakfast, the rest of the day feels like a bonus rather than a burden.
5. Smile more.
Everybody has a default expression on their face. Apparently, mine is that I look stressed and uptight.
I don’t feel stressed or uptight, but that’s how I come across to people because of my default look.
Years ago I had to learn to change that.
The antidote? Smile more.
In meetings. While walking around the office. Even when preaching.
Ever notice more preachers look angry when they teach?
Smile more. You’ll influence more people.
It’s still a daily discipline, but it makes a big difference.
6. Decide your employees don’t work for you, but that you work for them.
The best leaders realize that their employees don’t work for them; they work for their employees.
A servant’s heart beats within the best leaders; they treat their employees with kindness, respect and empathy.
Rather than getting less from your team with this approach, you’ll actually get more. Motivated employees want to help their bosses succeed.
As the economy changes, this is even more important. Employee loyalty is down. Frustration is up. And the best workers today realize they have a lot of options they could pursue.
What will often keep an employee with an organization long term is not just adequate pay or perks; it’s people.
If you start to serve your team with a whole heart, you’ll discover that your team wants to spend more time serving you.
What Would You Do?
Those are six resolutions that will be part of my new year.
What other high-yield resolutions would you add to the list?
What do you think every leader should do?
Carey Nieuwhof is a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church in the US.