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Revisiting Your Workplace New Year's Resolutions: A guide to resolutions that work

As a an executive and organizational coach, I hear this every year:

“It's a new year. I need to change.”

“I RESOLVE to change.”

“I will get better.”

“I will get more organized…”

Etc., etc.

And then - somehow - by the middle of January, we’re back to business as usual.

Resolutions are tricky

People tell me:

“I want to change EVERYTHING starting January 1st… Okay, the 2nd because the 1st is a holiday… Okay, the 8th, because that first week wasn’t a full week…”

And on we go. Until we get to:

“It’s too complicated to change everything. So I’ll just change… nothing.”

And now, we're thinking:

“Well, we’re more than half-way through the month, so, let’s let it go.”

Resolutions are rife with over-promise and under-delivery. That's a recipe for failure - and a decrease in self-esteem and self-confidence.

It’s not too late!!

Stop. Wait.

There’s still a great opportunity here. A new year is an event that invites us to reflect. As a coach, I can tell you, it’s the reflecting part that’s the start of success.

And then, you have to take action.

The exact date doesn't matter. Like so many things, success comes from the doing of it.

So let's look at some ways to approach 2018 in the workplace in a way that will make you more successful - and increase your self-esteem and your self-confidence.

Here are my four suggestions for your (end-of-January) successful New Year’s Resolutions.

1. Keep it Simple!

Simple is good. Simple is do-able.

When you accomplish simple steps, you feel better about yourself. And then you can set more simple goals. And feel better about yourself…. And repeat. And improve.

Make your Resolutions simple enough that you can review them every morning in less than a minute.

And then DO review them every morning (in less than a minute!)

2. Goal Alignment

January is a great time to think about your work goals. (It may be a time in your organization when you have to set them for the year.)

If you had only ONE resolution for this year, I would recommend it be answering this question: “How does what I do fit in with the overall mission of the organization?”

This gives you alignment with the business, shared focus, and a purpose you can articulate. In other words, your key goal(s).


Our company’s mission is to provide the highest quality rubber bands, direct to consumer via our state-of-the-art e-commerce site and app.

I run the internal tech help desk, so my goal is to make sure that everyone in the organization has the tech support they need to make and sell those rubber bands. That means I have to focus on speed, accuracy, and service as I lead my help-desk team. When something isn’t working right, my internal clients can’t get their jobs done.”


This activity should take you about two hours, broken into 15-minute bite-sized chunks of time:

  • Review the organization’s goals

  • Review your responsibilities

  • Compare the two and get them aligned in your head

  • Draft a Mini Mission Statement like the example, above

  • Edit it to get it just right

  • Share it with someone

  • Edit it again

Start today. You’ll be finished within a week.

(By the way, the writing, editing, and sharing are integral to the process – and they guarantee self-reflection.)

Bonus tip: If you write it with pen and paper, I predict it'll be a more robust learning experience than if you type it. You can type it after you write it.

Once you’ve answered that, you can incorporate those goals into everything you do:

  • Communicate them frequently.

  • Report to your boss about them.

  • Use them as context in delegating.

  • Align meetings around them.

  • Ask questions that relate to them.

3. Metrics

After you’ve reviewed and refined your overall goal, you want to set up some way of measuring your success. You’ve heard of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)? This is where they come in.

You may have some KPIs assigned to you. How much better would it be if you were to come to your boss with your own set of KPIs, or suggestions on how to better assess and measure your work performance?

How will you measure your performance around those goals? Will it be in dollars, clicks, net-promoter scores, response times? Other metrics?

Chances are, it’ll be a combination of things.


The goal for our help desk team will be combination of

  • Short response time (within 4 hours)

  • High resolution percentage (92% or greater)

  • Net promoter score of 4.2/5”

We will meet those KPIs by end of Q2 and maintain them through year-end.”


Again, set aside 15-minute, bite-sized chunks of time for this.

  • As you look at your Mini Mission Statement, ask yourself how it could be measured.

  • Review and research methods of measurement.

  • Set some goals, using the example above as a potential model.

  • Gear your goals toward improvement.

  • Make them attainable.

You can review and set new measurement standards at any time. You can and should tweak them and refine them as the information they provide helps to guide you toward improvement.

Start as soon as you have your Mini Mission Statement complete. This should take you less than a week.

4. Communication

Most people think they are good communicators.

In my experience, most people can get better at communicating.

For your New Year’s Resolution around Communication, I suggest you start here:

Ask More Open-Ended Questions

There are two types of questions: Open-ended and closed-ended.

Closed-ended questions are the “how many?” or the “when” or the “will or won’t” type questions – such as:

  • How many hours did it take to do this?

  • When will the project be completed?

  • Will we meet our deadline?

Often, we ask the closed-ended question and walk away. We think we have the answers.


The open-ended questions provide the real information we need.

Open-ended questions are questions that invite a story as a response, instead of a specific piece of data:

  • Why did it take so long to complete?

  • What would we have to change to get this done sooner?

  • How can we make this better?

  • What's the most important thing I need to know about this?

In my experience, most people don’t ask open-ended questions because they don’t have the patience to listen to the whole story.

And in my experience, most people take action (or don’t take action – whichever is worse!) based on not having the whole story.

So… your Resolution could be to hear more of the story so you can take better, smarter action. This will be an exercise in patience - and an experience in what happens when you practice patience!

Ask more open-ended questions! Ask people for their thoughts, their input, their reasoning, their points of view.

See what happens when you just ask more open-ended questions.

And listen to the answers.


Make a note or reminder for yourself to ask more open-ended questions. Put that reminder where you can see it.

Some people set an alarm on their phone or computer as a reminder. Some people just leave themselves written notes in plain sight. There are no rules for this; do what works for you.

Look at the reminder and keep doing it consciously until it becomes automatic (unconscious competence).

(BTW, your work relationships will likely improve just from doing this one thing. And developing relationships is a key leadership trait! Bonus!!)

Summary: Your simple, do-able End-of-January Resolutions for 2018

  • Don't worry that it's almost February; start now.

  • Think about what you want to change and make small, simple changes.

  • Goals: Align your goals to the goals of the organization and write a Mini Mission Statement you can tell anyone.

  • KPIs: Think about how you can measure your progress and implement that measurement.

  • Communication: Ask more open-ended questions and listen to the answers

I’m willing to bet those things will make a big impact on your work life this year.

Let me know how it goes (!

All best, Mitch

Mitch Lippman is an executive and organizational coach, facilitator, and trainer. He works with individuals, teams, and organizations on behaviors and strategies that promote leadership and success.

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