Looking Back, Looking Forward

The end of the year is always an exciting time in the workplace. It is often the one time during the year when everyone is a bit more relaxed and looking forward to a moment to exhale. For federal workers, budget closeout is finished, the new fiscal year has begun, and people are taking time off to rejuvenate. It is a good time of the year.

Equally, the end of the year is an important time for team development. As performance evaluations and projects are being finalized, this is a time where teams can pause to look back reflectively on the work they have completed together over the past year, while looking forward to identifying what will be done to advance the mission in the upcoming year.

During a recent team retreat in my office, our leaders completed an exercise that guided us through this process. We asked poignant and difficult questions of ourselves and teams. Some of the questions included:

  • What was my greatest challenge last year?
  • What is the one thing I handled poorly last year and wish I could have a chance to do over?
  • What did I need more help with last year?
  • Where did my team miss the mark last year?

The process of answering the questions required us to be honest and vulnerable, but our eyes were opened, perhaps to some hidden truths. No one enjoys reflecting on the hard things, but this is necessary work if we hope to improve our performance as an individual or group. Having a professional failure does not mean one’s career is unredeemable; instead, it provides us with a learning and growing opportunity. It also reminds us of the finite nature of our minds. We may be a great leader or member of a team, but we alone cannot propel an organization to achieve its ultimate definition of success.

While recognizing our shortcomings, the end of the year also offers a time for us to celebrate our successes. We’ve done good work over the past year and we should find time to reflect on our accomplishments. The end of the year is a time for individuals and teams to begin to identify their goals and objectives, projects, and focus areas for the upcoming year. A key part of success is a willingness to pause and plan. Proper planning can yield great outcomes. Lastly, leaders should also consider how their team has grown in their work throughout the year. This may be the time to help our teams set new stretch goals.

I challenge each of us to engage in the rewarding work of looking back and looking forward!

Dawn M. Wayman is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is a diversity and inclusion practitioner at the National Institutes of Health NIH), is a graduate of Morgan State University and the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and her Master of Health Science degree in Epidemiology, respectively. In 2017, Ms. Wayman joined the NIH Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) as a Diversity and Inclusion Strategist. In this role, Ms. Wayman serves as a consultant to multiple Institutes and Centers providing assistance to them in developing and executing their representational diversity and inclusion strategies. You can read her posts here.

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