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January usually brings with it kick-off meetings and team get-togethers to set priorities for the year ahead and lay out a plan.

You have important things to say and some of them are to address things that didn’t work so well last year or areas that must change if the team and/or organization will take the next step. These might be difficult things for some to hear.

These meetings will set a tone for the year and it’s critical that your message is received with open hearts and minds. Your team’s brain is wired to feel threatened or at risk and it’s incumbent upon you to deliver a message that engages them and moves them towards the changes you desire and the goals you see.

Include one or more of the four elements into your remarks to open their hearts and keep them open throughout the year.

  1. Thanks – You were the beneficiary of your team’s effort and commitment. These are gifts that could have only been voluntarily given to you. The key then to the heart of the one(s) who gave this gift is the thankfulness of the receiver. Express your gratitude for even the smallest act done that contributed to the success you have had. Be as specific as possible with your thanks and don’t muddy it with caveats and flowery language.
  2. Own up – Mistakes and missteps were made last year and these are likely some of the areas of focus in your plans for 2015. Before launching into the list of these improvements, own up to your role in those mistakes and that the “buck stops here” when it comes a lack of discipline or mistakes the team experienced. Owning up to mistakes makes you a bit vulnerable and vulnerability in a leader is highly attractive to followers.
  3. Tell the story – Every organization or team has a story and this story is not about inanimate or soulless objects producing something on an assembly line. It’s a story about your human experience together. Tell the story of last year. Tell of what you all experienced together. The ups and downs and don’t forget the moral of the story. Paint a rich picture that takes your people on the journey again. Stories create connection through these shared experiences and help one another see your and each other’s humanity.
  4. The Bigger picture – As you tell the story of last year, also tell the story of what you see ahead. A gift of leadership is being able to see out ahead a little farther than everyone else and pointing the way to what you see. Share your vision for the year ahead and the cause that the group is working towards. This element of your message takes you out of the spotlight and makes the cause of the organization greater than one individual.

Integrate one or all of these into your kick-off message to your team, use them throughout the year and watch how their hearts and minds open to the direction and sometimes difficult messages you will deliver as their leader.

Jeff Harmon

Jeff Harmon is the president of Brilliance Within Coaching & Consulting which specializes in developing servant leaders while helping them translate their strategies into actionable plans that drive business results. Jeff is the author of “The Anatomy of a Principled Leader.” Jeff has been developing leaders for nearly 20 years and has led the execution of over 100,000 hours of business strategy for information technology, financial services and non-profit organizations.

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