There’s one more task to add to your year-end retrospective reviews and planning for next year: your personal review. This isn’t about reflecting on your business goals, like achieving product market fit, expanding into a new channel, or getting to $10M ARR. You likely check in on those priorities already.
Your personal review is about assessing your growth as the leader of your company. It relates to your intentions for the unique leadership journey that you’re on.
Notice the progress
As leaders and CEOs, we tend to forget the full breadth of what we’ve accomplished and how we’ve evolved over time. No sooner have we climbed a hurdle than we’re on to the next; barely pausing to celebrate that we achieved what had merely been an idea a year ago.
And as human beings, we also have a negativity bias. We’re more apt to recall (sometimes in excruciating detail) the time we fumbled a critical message, and forget all the times when we accomplished exactly what we’d aspired to do.
In short, we often don’t appreciate how far we’ve really come and how much we’ve grown. What’s more, many of us get stuck in outdated beliefs about ourselves that keep us from recognizing the true progress we’ve made.
The distance you’ve already traveled is the launching point for where you’re going next
If you’re unclear on where you are today, it’ll take longer to evolve into the leader and CEO you want to be.
Here’s the process that my clients follow each year at this time- and the process that I use myself.
1. Take inventory
Open up your personal goals/ vision board/ journal entries from the beginning of the year. What did you envision accomplishing? What kind of leader did you want to be with your team? What kind of life did you want to have– inside and outside– of your company?
Maybe at this time last year you resolved to finally stop being the bottleneck to your leadership team. Perhaps you wanted to expand outside of your company and assert your voice as a thought leader. Or you wanted to learn how to be less emotionally charged at critical moments. Maybe you were determined to claim more time for the things that bring you high energy. Whatever your intentions, they reflect your unique path, personal experiences, and challenges.
Next, go back to the beginning of the year in your calendar. Scan this and other docs that reflect major events and milestones. Take note of the ones- like that funding round, or your product launch, or the podcast you guest hosted- that became opportunities to work on your personal goals.
Think back on the books you read, podcasts you listened to, experts you reached out to, newsletters you subscribed to. Who is now a part of your world that wasn’t a year ago? These people and resources are helping you expand into the leader you’re becoming. They can also be a helpful reminder that you’re moving forward, especially at times when it doesn’t otherwise feel like it or when your original goal was farther out of reach than you anticipated.
2. Reflect on your growth
Once you’ve reminded yourself of everything that happened during the year, reflect on these five questions.
- What did you set out to accomplish? How much of it did you achieve? What did you discover about yourself that made it possible to achieve those things?
- What was on your list that you didn’t achieve? Which outer or inner blocks might have gotten in your way?
- What accomplishment are you most proud of? Why? What did you learn from it?
- What was your biggest disappointment? Why? What did you learn from it?
- What stretched you the most this year or took you most outside of your comfort zone? What did you learn about yourself because of it?
3. Set your new intentions for the coming year
Now that you have a clear idea of the progress you made and what you learned over the last year, decide what you want to move towards next. Don’t think of these as New Year’s resolutions, which tend to be lofty and fail more than 80% of the time.
Instead, take a moment. Close your eyes and picture how you would tackle your vision for your company if you were operating as your best self. What would you be doing that you aren’t doing today? How would you interact with your team, customers, and investors? What’s your approach when the unexpected happens, like when your product launch gets delayed?
Now, imagine the habits you want to build and experiences you want to create that will help you evolve into this version of yourself. As James Clear advises, focus on the behavior you want to create rather than the outcome.