Reflections On New Year’s Resolutions: Three Questions To Transform Your 2024
Jos Finer in careerchange
25th January 2024 -  8 mins read
Photo by <a href="" target="_blank">Hadija</a> on <a href="" target="_blank">Unsplash</a>

Reflections on New Year’s resolutions

Do you want 2024 to be a year of self-fulfillment, achievement and success in your career? Most people probably do – who would want the opposite?

You may even have made some new year's resolutions about what things you are going to stop doing, start doing, or do more of. How is that going? New year's resolutions rarely outlive the first month of the new year, so I am going to suggest a different approach to making improvements to your working life over the next year.

I am going to present you with 3 important questions to ask yourself. The answers to these questions - and the actions you take to address them - hold the key to unlock the best year you could wish for in your work life, because being fulfilled at work is one of the most important contributors to your happiness, health and wellbeing, and for your career development.

So here they are:

1.      Do your customers/service users/stakeholders value and appreciate what you do?

2.      Do your colleagues, team-mates and peers value and appreciate what you do?

3.      Do your bosses value and appreciate what you do?

If the answer to all three questions is ‘YES’ then I would lay bets that you are highly motivated, highly satisfied at work and have a strong sense of fulfilment with your career. You probably also have a strong sense of loyalty to your employer, low levels of absence and objectively measured perform to a high standard.

If the answer to one or more of those questions is ‘NO’ (based on the evidence you have, whether that be from surveys, formal/informal feedback, performance reviews, or just your own perceptions and experience), then it’s unlikely that you feel as successful and fulfilled as you would like. This in itself is also likely to impact on your confidence, your performance at work, your commitment to the job and your general wellbeing. So you have some thinking and some work to do to address the situation and turn it around.

1.      Do your customers/service users/stakeholders value and appreciate what you do?

If the answer to the first question is ‘NO’, then before too long the answers to the other questions will become ‘No’ as well, even if you think they are currently ‘YES’. You cannot keep your colleagues, teammates and peers on-side if you are not delivering excellence to your customers – whoever they are (and whatever term you use to describe them). And if you fail to deliver for your customers, then your bosses will catch on soon enough – especially if you lose the support and respect of colleagues and team-mates.

So you need to address this as soon as. Providing a poor service, or one which you think is perceived as poor is not a long-term option. You need to do something to change this.

Diagnosis and treatment

Make a commitment to find out why your customers are not happy, involve them in the process, and prioritise some actions to create improvement. Use the Pareto Principle (the 80/20 rule) to help you prioritise your improvement actions. Some problems will contribute more to customer dissatisfaction than others – the top one may even have more impact than all the others put together. These are the ones you need to look at. You can even apply another approach to prioritisation once the issues have been identified, by doing an impact analysis. Look at each priority problem and estimate the cost/effort/difficulty required to fix it on a low-high scale. Then estimate the positive impact of fixing the problem on a low-high scale. The problems in the Low/High quadrant are the ones to do first (low effort, high impact). They will be easier to fix and will create the most positive difference to service delivery and customer satisfaction – and to the way in which your customers value and appreciate what you do.

2.      Do your colleagues, team-mates and peers value and appreciate what you do?

If the answer to the first question is ‘NO’ then that could also impact on how you might respond to this question. If you and/or your team is failing to satisfy your customers/end users, then your colleagues and teammates may have their own feelings about that. They may feel that you are letting them down, they may feel that they don’t have the direction or support they think you should be giving them. Or maybe they don’t appreciate the importance of delivering service excellence. Maybe they suffer from a ‘process in’ mindset where delivering excellence to customers comes second to procedural convenience. Maybe you ARE doing everything right in the way that services are planned and delivered, and customer needs are prioritised. Perhaps the problem here is the way you interact with colleagues or manage your team. Whatever the reason, you need to deal with it. Without your colleagues and team-mates on board, doing your job well - providing a great service, hitting your objectives and enhancing your career – will be much, much harder.

Diagnosis and treatment

Again, you need to understand the ‘why’ in order to figure out what you need to do to address the root causes and make improvements. You can use the same approach. Talk to the key stakeholders – your colleagues/team members. Do whatever you can to gather views/impression/opinions and to gain insight, both into their attitudes towards customer service, and their attitudes towards you as a colleague/manager.

This may be a difficult process and some of what you hear may be uncomfortable, but try not to go on the defensive. Try to keep an open mind. It has been said that there is no such thing as bad feedback – even negative feedback can be useful if you are open to it. Every piece of critical feedback is an opportunity to learn about how you can make improvements.

Again, once you have gained some insight and have a better understanding of where things are going wrong, you can prioritise the issues where you can make the most impact for the least effort and plan action to address them.

3.      Do your bosses value and appreciate what you do?

This is a big question. Life is hard enough anyway, but without the support and appreciation of your line management, life can an awful lot harder and a lot less rewarding. If you don’t feel that what you do is properly appreciated by your bosses, again, you needed to figure out why.

If the answer is because the answer to the first two questions is ‘No’ then you need to deal with them first before you can change the perceptions and opinions of your managers. In fact, just getting to this point and then sharing this and your plans for improvement can positively change the way your managers see you, before you have even made any substantive improvements in those other areas.

But if you think you are doing all the right things and getting the right results – and the answer to the first two questions is ‘yes’ – then what is going on? Why are you (and maybe your team/service) not appreciated and valued?

Diagnosis and treatment

There could be many reasons.

Perhaps they don’t truly understand your role, the role of your service and of the team that delivers it. Maybe they don’t appreciate the contribution you and the services you provide make to the organisation as a whole. Usually senior managers/leaders will have some relevant operational background, knowledge and experience in your field and will ‘get it’. But not always. Functions in organisations are not always located in the most logical place, with the most logical reporting lines, and therefore the leadership to whom functions report is not always best placed to understand and evaluate the value of what that function does. The business of such functions may seem to them to be a distraction from their ‘real’ business, and their priorities  - and interests - may lay elsewhere.

If you face a scenario like this, then you need to try and gain some influence at the top table. Find out who your friends and supporters are elsewhere in the organisation. Try to get them on board, to influence decision-making, and to get you the recognition you deserve. Maybe even to get your function moved to a different reporting line.

However, the problem may be more prosaic. Perhaps the messages about customer satisfaction and the performance of you and your team are simply not getting through. There may not be the channels or opportunities for you to really communicate your success and achievements. Maybe the messages that do get through are being counter-balanced or even outweighed by different messages coming from other sources.

Whatever the reason, as with the other two questions, you need to gain insight to fully understand the reasons for the opinions and perceptions that mean that you are not – or do not feel – valued and appreciated. Once you have a clear sense of this, you can begin to work out strategies and start building plans to change things and create the improvement you need to become more fulfilled in your work and to progress in your career.

Is 2024 your year for change?

Maybe this year is the year to not just ‘keep on keeping on’. Maybe this year is the year to really and honestly take stock of where you are and ask yourself these three key questions, and once you have found the answers, to do something about them.

Can mentoring and/or coaching help?

If you decide to audit your work and career using these three questions, then having an independent, critical friend to help you work through it can be incredibly valuable. Not only will you feel that you are not alone in your task, but you will have someone equipped with the right knowledge, skills and experience to provide a sounding board, to give constructive feedback, to make suggestions and give advice where you need it, to network you with other people who could help you, to teach you new techniques and approaches, and to equip you with new ways of thinking that will help you in the long term beyond the life of your mentoring/coaching partnership.

Does your organisation provide any mentoring or coaching support that you can draw on? Is there any professional organisation or membership body that might run a mentoring or coaching programme that you can access?

SUMAC works with lots of employers and professional/membership organisations that provide this kind of support and we know how powerful such support can be.

If you work in an organisation where there is no such support available, and you are interested in setting up workplace coaching or professional mentoring, then you can talk to us about how SUMAC can help and support you in your journey.