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  • Writer's pictureUlrika Gustafson PCC LL.M

The Power of Year-End Reflections: Unveiling Leadership's North Star

As the year comes to a close, it’s a prime time for leaders to take stock. Reflecting on the past 12 months isn’t just a tradition; it’s a strategic move that holds tangible benefits for leadership growth. I have asked a couple of my Executive Coaching clients for examples of how they use their reviews in their strategic planning, and here are some of their answers.

1. Learning from Experience

Reviewing the year isn’t about nostalgia; it’s about gaining practical lessons. It's a chance to identify what worked, what didn’t, and why. For instance, Jonas, VP of Operations for a global manufacturing organization, found that analyzing the successes and setbacks of their market expansion strategy provided valuable insights for the upcoming fiscal year. Ask yourself what worked really good? What challenges did we have and why? These questions will give you invaluable insights that can shape your leadership moving forward.

2. Realigning Focus

In the midst of daily demands, leaders can and often will veer off course. Year-end reflections realign them with their core purpose. It’s an opportunity to ensure that goals and actions stay in sync with the bigger picture. My client Sarah, Director of Marketing at an international tech company, emphasizes how reflecting on the alignment of marketing campaigns with the company's core values ensures sustained brand integrity. For you as a leader, it's an opportunity to ensure that every decision, every action resonates with The bigger picture.

"Reflection turns experience into insights." - John C. Maxwell

3. Acknowledging Progress

Recognizing achievements isn’t just about patting yourself on the back. It’s about fostering a culture of appreciation within teams, acknowledging collective efforts, and motivating everyone to keep pushing forward. Marcus, Regional Manager at a national biotech company, incorporates team achievements into his year-end review, emphasizing the collaborative efforts that led to significant sales milestones.

4. Crafting the Year-End Review

Summarizing these reflections in a written review solidifies these insights. It’s not just a document; it’s a practical tool—a record of growth, achievements, challenges overcome, and areas for improvement. Genevieve, HR Director at a European manufacturing company, emphasizes how individual and team goals outlined in the year-end review serve as a foundation for employee development plans.

5. Impact on Leadership

Year-end reflections aren’t a formality; they’re a way to prep for the year ahead. Armed with insights, leaders can set clearer, achievable goals and motivate teams towards success. Michael, SVP at a financial institution, notes how his annual reflection process informs strategic planning sessions, aligning the leadership team with the company's overarching objectives.

6. Facing the Future

As one year ends and another begins, leaders benefit from the wisdom gained through reflection. It equips them to tackle whatever lies ahead with a clearer vision and a sharper strategy. Lisa, Executive Director in the healthcare sphere, underscores how reflecting on financial performance informs her decisions for optimizing resource allocation in the coming year.

This year-end, let’s encourage leaders to embrace the practical side of reflection. Let’s promote the habit of crafting a year-end review as a tool for continual improvement and strategic leadership - for a year filled with insightful reflections and the promise of stronger leadership ahead.

Ulrika Gustafson LL.M PCC is a Certified Executive Coach, former C-suite leader and partner of HAMILTON THERRELL Executive Advisors, an international advisory group of experts in leadership and organizational transformation. She advises CEOs and coaches senior executives on succeeding in demanding environments.


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