Three Tips for Leading Your Team Into a New Year

Wooden blocks spelling the word plan

As the current year draws to a close, now is the time to establish your plan to begin the new year on a strong note. Here are three tips for leading your team into a new year of goals.


Review progress toward current year goals and define the top five priorities you want your team to accomplish in the coming year.

Why five priorities? Going beyond five annual priorities diminishes focus and jeopardizes effective execution by tending to overwhelm those responsible for implementation. In fact, neuroscientists have discovered that when people feel overwhelmed, brain function shifts from the frontal lobes of the brain, where rational decisions are made, to the mid-brain region, where rash decisions are more likely.

Here is an outstanding example from Chief of U.S. Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Vern Clark’s Top 5 priorities in 2003. Beneath each priority, the document details what the U.S. Navy accomplished. Consider using this format and color-coding the actions under each priority with green for already completed, yellow for on track and red for at risk as you execute the plan throughout the year.


Get your team together to review the Top 5 priorities document created in Step 1. Present the document, explain your rationale, then ask your team to share what’s right, wrong, missing or confusing about your thinking. Don’t challenge people. Just listen to and thank each person who contributes to the conversation. Capture what they share in writing.

Take time to reflect on the feedback and circle back to individuals if you need further clarification. Decide on adjustments then pull your team together to present your finalized Top 5 priorities document.


It helps people to have clarity about their specific responsibilities. Once you’ve finalized your Top 5 priorities document, work with your team to brainstorm W4s for each item under the priorities. W4’s stand for: 1) What needs to be done; 2) Who is responsible; 3) When it has to be completed by; and 4) Who needs to know about it. By doing this, your team members will feel a greater sense of control and ownership in your team priorities and know their role in what remains to be done.

Throughout the planning meetings, be sure to give everyone on your team a voice in the conversation and show you value them by being approachable, friendly and helpful because doing so will help energize your team. If some participants are not speaking up, ask them to share their opinions and ideas and assure them that everyone’s ideas are necessary to get the best thinking.

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