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A leader's New Year's resolutions

Virtually everyone I know begins the new year with the best intentions to eat healthier, work out more, spend more time with family and maybe spend less time in front of a glowing screen. Truth is, those are resolutions that are good at any time, and for everyone.

But if you lead a team or an organization, there are always going to be some items you wish you could check off in the year ahead. Not just the resolutions that can change the way you live your life; I'm talking about the resolutions that could improve the way you lead, the dynamic of your team and, who knows, maybe your entire organization.



Tom Grill | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images

A great resolution moves beyond the usual standards of leadership. For me, it has to be personal. I can't simply put my performance goals on a piece of paper and be done with it. I need to think of resolutions that will change me in a lasting way by forcing me to adopt a good habit, drop a bad one or just think of familiar challenges in new ways.

So here are a few resolutions I'm pursuing to get me where I need to go as a leader in 2014:

1. Be a coach outside of the office. For years, I was a coach or assistant coach to my kids' sports teams, and I've probably learned as much about leadership from doing that as from years in the office. Helping to coach youth — whether in sports or music or theater or somewhere else — requires you to motivate, teach, negotiate and ultimately, manage a lot of egos, all while trying to keep your cool. And if you don't think you have enough time, remember this: President Obama served as an assistant coach for his daughter's basketball team during his first term.

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2. Think like an outside investor. If you lead a publicly-traded company or a partnership, I don't have to tell you what it means to see your personal fortune rise and fall with your team's performance. But look at the world the way an investor does — objectively, without a direct link to the people you lead every day. It will give you a greater appreciation for making investments wisely, building scale carefully, acquiring the best talent possible and taking care with every dollar.

3. Spend more time with artists. I'm the head of a consulting business, and so this goes against a lot of conventions of my profession. But in my few conversations with working artists — musicians, actors, sculptors, painters, designers — I've been amazed by their insights into the process of solving problems, working within teams, understanding the market and creating a distinctive vision. Those of us who are helping organizations innovate and reshape themselves always ask our clients to imagine new ways of doing things. Well, artists spend every day trying to get an often skeptical public to grasp and appreciate something not-yet-imagined — there's power in that skill, and we should learn from it.

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4. Compete with yourself. Take at least one hour every week and assume the mentality and context of a start-up CEO, using your own business as a foil. Think like an entrepreneur would about familiar problems and market opportunities. Strip away the processes and assumptions that shape your sense of the possible. Disruption from outsiders who are motivated to take away what incumbents have is a constant threat to every business. If you spend some time planning to disrupt your own business, you'll be ready — and you may even get to be the one leading the disruption.

5. Get younger. OK, I don't mean to literally go back in time (though, to be honest, I wish I could!). Rather, try to put yourself in the shoes of someone just starting out in your organization. What does life look like? Most likely, you would be thinking about what will sustain your career and align with your passions (or at least hold your interest) in five or 10 years. Think about who your youngest employees would most be drawn to for mentoring — write down their names and ask yourself whether they are available to those professionals. If not, act on that insight. Would you want to work for your organization if you were getting out of school today? These are tough, introspective questions about yourself and your business, but answering them can help your efforts to attract and keep the talent your organization needs to thrive.

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6. Take a vow of silence. One of the best ways to find out if your team is well-prepared is whether they know what to do when you're not around. I'm always stunned by the number of leaders out there who don't take a break from leading and directing — they just don't trust the people around them enough. Others don't realize the shadow they cast simply because of their role. I never wanted to create a culture where people, regardless of their role in the organization, do things without question "because the CEO says so." So, from time to time, I need to consciously choose to be silent. This could mean forcing myself to take a truly "unplugged" vacation or just sitting in a meeting without saying a word, which creates opportunities for people to handle big responsibilities without me. The results are instructive and often affirming. So this year, I will take a vow of silence — at least through one meeting, and maybe I'll be able to go quiet for a whole day. Maybe I won't get there, but it'll be fun to see what happens if I can.

I'm targeting these six resolutions to improve my leadership abilities this year. I'll admit some of them will take a lot of effort, perhaps more than I have time or energy to give. But if you're like me, you know that resolutions aren't successful only when you achieve them. They're successful if they change you just a bit. It's the progress that's important. Whether it's in giving up something you shouldn't eat, or taking on a challenge that you've avoided, a great resolution is a fire-starter. The rest is up to you.

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— By Jim Moffatt

Jim Moffatt is chairman & CEO of Deloitte Consulting. During his 26 years with Deloitte, he has steadily taken on new assignments and leadership roles in the organization, with a focus on health care and companies in crisis. In his role as chairman & CEO, Moffatt is helping Deloitte Consulting accelerate its growth through a variety of meaningful acquisitions and initiatives, emphasizing global growth, integrated services to clients, collaborating with clients to help create a lasting impact, and innovative approaches to leadership and management of Deloitte Consulting's 25,000 employees. Follow Deloitte on Twitter @DeloitteUS.