It’s a new year!   For leaders, it’s a time to reinvigorate the organization.  To inject passion, hope, and belief in the future.  For employees, it’s an opportunity to see something new, different.  To reorient thinking around what’s possible.

For the entire workforce, it’s about choice.  What you will make time for?  Put effort into?  Monitor and progress? Believe? Pursue?

But what can leaders do to ensure that the first few months of a new year are not squandered and that every behavior, action, communication, and decision helps people make sense of the world around them?  And, in doing so, allow them to reconcile the hypotheses they have about the business and the future.

The following proven techniques actually constitute a core competence that leaders should consider adopting to gain acceptance and engagement

1. Don’t assume people comprehend what happened in 2016

They don’t.  It’s important to capture the overarching story for the past year – successes and failures – so people can place in perspective.  CEOs and leaders possess the context to make sense of the past year and seize the opportunity to translate it into a storyline that provides lessons, solutions, and insights to improve organizational judgment going forward.

2. Identify markers for progress in 2017 but don’t complete the picture

The major flaw leaders and communicators make in attempting to motivate the workforce is to overcompensate on platitudes or worse, provide a solution to questions that have yet to be asked. Don’t predict the new year.  Spell out  and highlight the areas the company is focused on in the coming year and maintain a discussion going forward.  This keeps it real. Your workforce and the marketplace will ultimately determine the fate of the business.  Your role is to guide, shape and support where necessary.

3. Eliminate non-value habits

A new year opens up an incredible opportunity for organizations to discard non-value processes, systems, procedures, and behaviors.  It’s how internal cultures transform. So, what are they?  Talk about them throughout the enterprise.  Eliminate them from job descriptions and performance metrics.

4. Listen to your customers

So obvious yet often overlooked.  What are customers telling you via conversations and actions that directly impact your business? What did they tell you via their actions and behaviors in 2016?  What did they buy? Complain about?

5.  Know your interpreters 

Each year opens up new networks of influencers and interpreters – people who follow, comment, share, inform and interpret decisions and opinions about your brand, your business, your future, and your leadership.  Who are they? What are they talking about?  What are they doing?  How are you using digital intelligence to drive relevance and performance?

6.  Trust your people

There is no  better time to convey to employees how important and appreciated they are than the beginning of a new year.   One of the most effective methods is encouraging a discussion in January and February across the business on a specific subject.  Rather than empty rhetoric, engaging people on a real time basis via salient topics conveys trust.

Leaders have an incredible window at the outset of each year to fill the natural void in comprehending the previous 12 months – making sense of myriad activities – to better direct their work in the coming year. Helping people make the argument themselves results in a more confident workforce and a level of organizational clarity necessary to operate in today’s global marketplace.

7. It’s all Culture

Culture is a byproduct of organizational design, structure.  It directly reflects how leadership thinks, behaves, and what it deems important.  It is a blend of logic and feel.

What is your organization’s culture?  Spend time here and strategy becomes gets implemented more effectively.

Why should these become a core competence?

The traditional way leaders usher in a new year is with pro forma message cheerleading the troops to do more and achieve greater results touting all that went well.  The truth though is that people already formed hypotheses about what happened and its impact on them and their careers and work.

Applying the techniques above can improve organizational performance through clear, collaborative and connective communications encouraging people to challenge, react, and assimilate individual and collective growth while strengthening trust throughout the business.

In an age of enlightenment, facilitating peer-to-peer discussions at the start of each year based on a clear organizing principle is essential to opening up minds and freeing people from the baggage of the past year.

As CEO and leaders of the business, there is nothing more important for achieving sustained success.

Happy New Year!