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Some view New Year’s resolutions with a healthy amount of skepticism. Probably because some of these resolutions can be pretty unrealistic – lose 50 pounds by February or strive to create the next Facebook. We’re not saying those goals can’t happen, but it might be better to start off a little small and take baby steps, if you will.

If you’re a leader and uninterested in making New Year’s resolutions, you should hear us out. Yes, in theory, you are the exact same person when the clock strikes midnight on Jan. 1, as you were at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31. But, let’s face it; whether it’s a New Year or simply another day in March, there are always skills you can improve upon as a leader. So what’s wrong with starting the year working on improving those skills? It just makes it that much easier to evaluate your progress at the end of the year.
Here at Booth Co., we want you to start the New Year right. So here are three key skills that are leaders should exhibit, and since this is New Year’s theme post, we’ll call them “resolutions.”

3. Establish your performance expectations

While we would all like to believe our workers perform the best at all times, that is not always the case. The standard of performance is a measure of how others view your expectations of excellence. Effective leaders expect top performance and do not tolerate mediocrity. They have high expectations of the people around them, and have confidence that they will achieve the goals set forth.

Throughout the year, do you hold your workers accountable or let things slide a little too often? When you don’t set a standard, you probably are not getting the best out of your employees, and you may not know how to inspire them to perform at higher levels.

It’s important for you to be more clear and consistent about your performance expectations and track performance in a more systematic way. Involve employees in setting the team’s goals and objectives, and then track results.

Use your organization’s appraisal system more effectively to enforce the clear and specific goals you have established, but not just annually. Make sure you review progress on a monthly basis.

2. Communication

As the leader, you probably feel like you’re always talking and for good reason, leaders spend most of every day communicating with people – about goals, problems, strategies, and ideas. Once those ideas are clear, the leader needs to communicate how to make them a reality.

The ability to speak and write clearly is a crucial skill here and while most people probably believe they are fine in this area, this isn’t a skill that comes easily to everyone. Some leaders’ lack of communication skills may confuse and frustrate others because their expectations, requests and directions are unclear.

Maybe they ramble in their written or verbal communications, or they’re not articulate in expressing their point of view.

If you believe your communication skills could use some fine-tuning, start first by planning out your communications. Whether written or verbal communications, first write down the points you want to make. Do not bury your main points in the middle of a paragraph.

Another exercise is after you’ve made a speech or held a meeting, confirm that your message was clearly stated so ask your listeners to summarize what you have just said. Take this opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings; make note of what they were and how you can prevent similar misunderstandings in the future.

1. Leadership vision

There are many pieces of jargon thrown around the leadership world, but one word that is truly full of meaning is “vision,” which is really the cornerstone of leadership. Leaders must stimulate others to think in innovative ways. Try not to get stuck in traditional thinking because you’ll lose focus on the issues and ideas that will move the organization into the future.

And as a leader, it’s your job to consider the future. You should be open to change and flow easily with circumstances, and use your creative thinking to be on top of ambiguous situations.

Look at your organization’s environment. Are imagination and creativity encouraged? To encourage others toward creativity, listen to their ideas and allow differing ideas, discussion and reasonable conflict. Here’s a great point to keep in mind – creativity is the ability to generate fresh ideas, and it is a skill that can be learned.

At the same time, you don’t have to do this alone. One requirement of a good leader is to select good people who can work together to envision the future and generate enthusiasm for meeting goals.

Make it a point to create an “elevator message” as part of your plan to communicate your vision. This is a colorful story, metaphor, or saying that captures the essence of your vision and can be conveyed in less than 30 seconds (aka the length of a typical ride in an elevator).

There you have it, three skills for you to fine-tune going into 2013. Now when we get ready for 2014, be sure to look back at the year and see how much you’ve accomplished and improved upon.