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3 Things Leaders do at Year-End

Updated: Sep 8, 2022

The last week of the year rushes in. It’s year-end and the pressure to wrap things up includes numbers of tasks. As a leader, the way you finish this year can propel you to your best start next year. You won’t find any tax advice here, but you may find a few borrowed accounting terms.

During my early days of working in a family business, I have vivid memories of physical inventories at year-end. We had multiple maintenance facilities and a diverse fleet of equipment. The arrival of winter signaled the need for an accurate accounting of parts and supplies. We prayed for good weather and started the process of counting, comparing and reconciling the differences. After completing our physical inventory, we emerged with a confident picture of reality.

At year-end, leaders do the same three things.


You must determine what is most important to you. As you finish the year, it’s a natural time to assess yourself, your values, your actions and your relationships. Before you inventory, you must decide what is worthy of consideration. Once you clarify what matters most to you, you can begin to look back and assess your year.

Some leadership practices can be difficult to quantify. Don’t allow yourself to use that as an excuse to avoid personal accountability. It’s essential to devote time to some form of personal reckoning. Find a quiet place, reflect and gauge how well you invested in what you declared to be most important, most valuable to you. Your assessment can be as broad or as deep as you make it. Use this question to narrow your focus:

What did I do this year to invest in the people who matter most to me?

After you reflect, record what you discovered. Write a one-paragraph description of how you invested in the people who matter most to you.


When you look back at your experiences in the past twelve months, what do you see? During those times when you were at your best, how would you describe your motivations, your feelings and behaviors? Explore the same questions with respect to those times when you were less than your best. Compare your experiences.

Comparison can be healthy or unhealthy. It can be constructive or destructive. Instead of feeding your ego or spiraling into regret or self-pity, distill a few lessons learned from your experiences. The purpose of this type of comparison is to identify critical opportunities for development. Keep your focus on how your best leadership helps you serve beyond yourself. When done properly, this becomes a great way to feed a “growth mindset.” Comparing your current reality and your personal vision of what is most important is a way to generate creative tension.

Use this question as your guide:

What are the 2 most critical gaps that exist between my current leadership and my best leadership?

After you reflect, record your answer. Write a one-paragraph description of how positive changes in these two areas will change you in the next year. How will those changes improve your service to others? Identify a trustworthy person in your life and share your reflections.


Year-end is the time to “make things right.” It’s much easier to correct a physical inventory count than it is to navigate personal change. Start with an honest acknowledgment: I cannot change last year. You can reflect, evaluate and learn, but you can’t roll the clock back. Every honest leader can identify opportunities for growth that include behaviors that were committed and omitted. Don’t get stuck looking in the rearview mirror. Look back, consider your ways, deepen your understanding and fail forward.

Reconciliation applies to behaviors and relationships. Forgive yourself and forgive others. Give yourself and others the opportunity to learn from failure and refuse to hold hostages in your mind. A refusal to forgive yourself and others will dominate your focus and drain your energy.

Conversely, forgiveness is empowering. It’s restorative.

Make a list of grievances with yourself and others that you need to let go and choose to forgive.


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