25 Things to Say “Yes” to in 2012

When my new assistant, Kelly, requested weekly status meetings, I thought, Meetings just suck up time. But before I could say I’d rather send her e-mails with specific tasks, she explained. “I’m part of your team and need to understand what’s happening. It’s important that we stay connected and on the same page.”

Kelly was absolutely right! Choosing how best to spend our time is critical, especially when we have teams of people looking to us for guidance. And knowing when to say “yes” helps clarify when to say “no.”

As we head into 2012, focused on being powerful leaders, here are 25 things to say “yes” to:

  1. Dedicated, one-on-one time with your direct reports. If those who report to you have their own teams, suggest (or require) that they do the same.
  2. Time with your team outside of work. Have some fun together; you’ll all be more productive.
  3. Community involvement. Doing community service together will strengthen the bond between your team members and your company’s ties to your community. Kathy Alberato, founder and CEO of Helios HR, reports a significant increase in collaboration as result of fundraising with her team.
  4. Vacation. I don’t care how you do it (two weeks at once, or three days here and there), but detach from your crackberry.
  5. Empowering your team. Figure out which skills or experiences would help each of your employees grow, and put them in charge. Highly-motivated people want to grow. Are you providing them opportunities to do so?
  6. Engaging your team. Those who engage themselves engage others. What are you passionate about? Why do you do the work you do? Get clear, share that passion, and reap the rewards.
  7. Inspiration. I’m reading Steve Job’s biography, in which he writes, “We beat [the competition] because we’re passionate about music.” Leaders willing to take a stand for their passions inspire others to do the same. Spend time with people, books or anything else that inspires you.
  8. Communication. Empower employees with the information they need to keep them fired up and clear about their contributions. You could blog every week as a way to educate your employees about the market, solicit their ideas and provide updates. Or perhaps team meetings are more your style. Just make sure you’re communicating.
  9. Valuing vision. When I interviewed Seth Goldman, founder and CEO of Honest Tea, I found myself wanting to help him in any way I could. His whole being, everything he says or does, is energetically focused on his vision. And that passion has paid off – with $71.5 million in sales and a long list of significant awards.
  10. Meaningful values. World-class leaders are clear about their values, which set the stage for decision-making. But far too many companies simply list them on the wall and forget about them. To keep your values meaningful, Jim Ousley’s, CEO of Savvis, suggests focusing on one each month and considering how it shapes what you do and how you work.
  11. Regular assessment. Every single one of us has room to grow, experiences to gain and people to inspire. What shifts can you make to become an even more effective leader?
  12. Appreciation. It takes less than 30 seconds to appreciate someone; say “thank you” and be specific about it.
  13. Acknowledgment. When you acknowledge your own contributions (to your company and/or community), it becomes more natural to do so for others. What are you acknowledging yourself for today?
  14. Trust. Consistent communication, honoring your word and supporting others’ success helps you earn their trust.
  15. Instigating innovation. People are more likely to be creative and innovative in an environment of trust. Remember: Freedom plus accountability equals results.
  16. Getting excited. Are you excited about your work? If not, it’s difficult to elicit the same in others. Excitement looks radically different for different personality types, but it shows through in results.
  17. Fun. When work is fun (the environment, if not the work itself), people are more creative and innovative. Plus, they stay longer!
  18. Providing direction. What does it take to be successful in your organization? Clarify goals, provide support, and then get out of the way!
  19. Authenticity. While it has become a highly-used but vastly misunderstood buzz word, authenticity is one of the most important traits in a world-class leader. Recently, I attended a pajama party, for which the host insisted we wear PJs. I went in the most comfortable pair I could find, sans makeup, and put very little effort into my hair. She wanted comfort; I gave it her! She, on the other hand, was dressed to the nines, which left me questioning her motives and feeling unable to trust her.
  20. Share. Recently, I asked an executive why so few leaders share information and resources. “Fear that person will take your job,” she said. Leadership is about bringing out the best in those on your team. How can they be their best without all the information they need to be successful? And how do you expect to advance to the next level if you’re not capable of creating other leaders?
  21. Strengths-based leadership. Focus on your employees’ strengths. In what areas are each of them naturally talented, and how can you help align their strengths to your company’s mission?
  22. Honor your health. We all know that exercise is important, but few make time for it. Want more energy? Get your heart rate up! I’ve recently fallen in love with Crossfit – a team-oriented fitness program that is also a lot of fun!
  23. Rising to the occasion. In Crossfit, when you get the best score, you’re considered a “marked person.” Every person who goes after you throughout the day strives to beat your score. We all have our own “marked person,” which gives us something to push hard to achieve. Are you helping your team set occasions to rise above? Establish five big goals for 2012 and insist on their success.
  24. Play. A few years ago, I coached an executive who was working like a dog and still not reaching his numbers. His life was stressful; he hardly saw his children, and his marriage was struggling. “Go play soccer with your buddies,” I insisted. “Every week!” Within the year, he not only beat his sales quota, but his employee-engagement scores increased. And he got promoted!
  25. Care. I’ve asked hundreds of world-class leaders how they get employees to give a darn about the work. Almost every time, they respond, “Give a darn about them.” It’s a simple concept, but a powerful one.

I wish you and your team a Simply Powerful 2012, in which you spend your time saying “yes” to the people and things that ignite your passion, purpose, creativity and dedication.