success in the new year

Looking back: Why reflection is essential for success in the new year


The beginning of a new year always feels like a fresh start, often with a focus on New Year’s resolutions and everything we’re going to start, or do differently, in the year ahead.

But, looking back, isn’t just sentimental or self-indulgent – it’s necessary to achieving success.  A review of the last 12 months helps to evaluate what worked and what could be better. Some of us need to take a moment and remind ourselves of the successes as much as the lessons learned.

At the same time, some folks are hesitant to undertake this process unless it’s been a fantastic year (because then reflection is painless and celebratory!). The truth is, the worst years and the best years all have some wins, all teach us lessons, and can all remind us of our resilience.

So, before you dive into setting goals, plans, and strategies for you and your team this new year, give some thought to these reflective ideas.

Here are five things to consider about the last year as you prepare for success in the new year:

  1. Take stock: What worked with your team? What didn’t? Grab your calendar and start looking back since January 1 of last year make notes about times you and your team members accomplished goals, encountered conflict, or faced challenges.
    Try to take a step back and look at each situation critically – not to judge, but to learn. A question to ask yourself is – “what else was going on at that time?” You may have insight now that you didn’t then. This is important because you may see positive and negative trends or issues that need attention, plus understanding your leadership style can help you facilitate teamwork and manage more effectively.
  2. Be honest: What went wrong and what went right? More importantly, how did everyone react? How did you react? Did you overlook problems? Avoid confrontation? Overreact? Perhaps you’ll decide to have some difficult conversations or delegate more effectively
    Learning from mistakes and achievements is what sets us up for success in the future. Recognizing today’s regret or missed opportunity could help you be on top of your game next time.
  3. Consider change: What does the team look like now versus 12 months ago? What loss and gains in talent have you had? Why? Were there any other disruptions you faced with the clients, workspace, or industry? Take a peek at your roster from last January, and now.
    Hindsight is 20-20 as they say, so shift your perspective on failure: Looking back now may give you insights into what planning, resources, or interventions may have made things unfold differently.
  4. Health check: Does the team feel valued? When was the last time you checked in with your team members? When you consider all of the above reflection you’ve undertaken as you’ve gone back through last year’s calendar, ask yourself whether you are really building a strong team or if you could improve by building team trust.
  5. Lessons learned: After you’ve gone through all of the above, pause and consider everything you have reviewed and reflected on. What did the last year teach you about your leadership and your team? Once you’ve considered what challenges made you stretch and pinpointed some growth opportunities, you can jump into some informed goal setting for your success in the new year (don’t forget our ultimate goal setting worksheet!). This can include refining existing goals and setting entirely new goals.

Pro-tip: Consider starting a journal to make reflection for next year easier!

Set aside time daily, weekly, or monthly to make notes about your successes, failures, challenges, and other observations. Concrete examples will be very informative the next time you want to reflect.

Coach’s Questions:

What surprised you most during the past year? If it was good, how do you make that happen more often? If not, how do you avoid those surprises in the year ahead?
What steps can you take to improve your leadership? Are there things that you could do to strengthen your team? What goals for success in the new year are the most exciting for you?