Recently I was talking with a former colleague, and she said, “Remember when you told me to always keep a running list of my top accomplishments? That was one of the best tips you ever gave me. I use it all the time and recently it helped me to be ready when there was are organization and I had to meet my new boss. Thank you for that tip!”
Sometimes, we get so busy that we forget to celebrate what we’ve accomplished. Instead, we just look to the next hill we need to climb or task we need to finish. However, taking the time to reflect on what we have achieved can help us recognize and repeat the things that created success, and note places we can improve for future efforts.
Draw a “life map” to accelerate growth
When I was going through my graduate program in Organizational Development, we were assigned to draw what the professors called a “life map.” They asked us to reflect on significant milestones on our journey up to that point and label each milestone as positive or negative during an hour-long exercise. At the time I remember thinking, “What is the point – I already know all these things about myself?” and “How does this contribute to my learning?” Being a good student, I did the assignment anyways and tried to shift my initial negative attitude. After the hour, the professor paired us up and asked us to present our life map to that partner who then asked questions and made observations.
The professors knew their stuff! The reflection brought up things I hadn’t thought about for a long time and made me realize that those things had lasting effects on who I am now and how I show up as a leader. My partner pointed out areas in my journey where it appeared I had slowed or stalled out or where my growth as a leader had visibly accelerated. This reflection over successes (and failures) helped me think about the factors that caused that slowing or accelerated growth.
I was able to immediately apply the results of that reflection in my corporate role. I began keeping track of any key milestone I experienced (positive or negative). At first, I wasn’t sure whether or how I would use that information, but it turned out to be helpful in several ways.
Awareness helps you weather the vagaries of leadership
Leaders can use this tactic of tracking key milestones to note the performance for their team and for themselves as leaders. This enables them to stay on top of performance towards goals and to adjust earlier in the process when it is easier to recover. Captains of ships often must deal with the vagaries of Mother Nature. If a storm blows them off course from their intended destination, they act to first successfully weather the storm and then to replot their course to achieve their desired destination. Like those captains, when leaders are reviewing performance regularly it enables them to make any needed adjustments before an issue gets too big and to get back on course to the goal.
Good leaders have regular performance and development discussions with their employees. Knowing the goals they want to accomplish, having regular discussions with them about progress towards those goals, removing obstacles and not holding them back enables success through more engaged and productive employees.
Individually, if you practice the tactic of reviewing your own performance regularly, objectively noting accomplishments and areas for improvement, you will always be on top of what you need to do to be successful in achieving your own goals, both personally and professionally. You can adjust where needed to avoid pitfalls you have experienced in the past and you can repeat successful approaches.
Always keep track of your top five accomplishments
In my roles of leader, mentor and coach, the advice I give is to keep a running list of your top three to five accomplishments. If you always have that list top of mind, it can help you in performance discussions with your boss, in interviews for a new position, and can be motivating when you are facing a particularly difficult challenge.
In an earlier Almanac blog post I talked about self-affirmation and the magic of having a “love me drawer” that was filled with accolades you receive so that when you’re having a bad day, you can open that drawer or file and remind yourself of all the good you have done. Tracking performance is a closely related cousin to this other practice but with implications not only for you and your team’s well-being but for your future. When you look back and celebrate you can then look forward and plot a better course ahead. The improvements may surprise you.
If you would like more leadership tactics like this one you can find them at www.seasonsleadership.com/almanac.
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Image Ales Krivec, unsplash