If you’re like most managers right now, you’ve got one eye on this year’s calendar and one eye on next year’s.

Well, stop that. You’ll give yourself a headache.

More than likely, underneath all of the holiday madness, everything is no doubt unfolding exactly as your team planned. You’ve learned the delicate art of delegation, so let your team finish up while you start looking ahead.

This is when you should be quietly planning how you’re going to build an even better team in 2018.

Good Teams Don’t Happen By Accident

No matter how good your team performed in 2017, you want a higher performance in 2018. That means that no matter how awesome you were as a manager in 2017, you need to amp up your awesomeness next year. You set the tone for your team. If you want a more effective team next year, do three things:

  • Establish your leadership.
  • Evaluate the composition of your team.
  • Engage your team in common goals.

These are three tasks that you can’t leave to chance or delegate to someone else. They’re all your responsibility — and how well you do them determines whether your team will thrive or falter in the future.

Nervous? Don’t be. It’s not as hard as it sounds.

Establish Your Leadership

Consider this: only 49% of employees trust their managers. Even worse, only 28% think their company’s CEOs are credible. Given that respect, trust, and credibility are heavily intertwined, that’s something that should alarm you.

How strong is your credibility with your team?

You can’t just put a group of people together and expect them to respect you. If your credibility is weak, the more dominant personalities will end up becoming the de facto leaders of your team. That can create divisions in your team and derail otherwise well-crafted plans.

How do you establish yourself as a leader worthy of your team’s confidence? There’s really no secret formula:

  • Treat every member of the team with respect, both publicly and privately. Employees who feel respected and valued are going to be more loyal and respectful in return.
  • Be caring. Make a point of finding out what matters to each member of your team. Express your happiness for their personal successes and concern for their well-being when necessary.
  • Be transparent. Don’t leave your team guessing about hidden agendas. If your team feels that you’ll lie to them, your credibility may be fatally wounded.
  • Improve your education and competency. Get in there and learn how to do the job you’re asking others to do. Show your team that you don’t expect anything out of them that you don’t expect out of yourself.
  • Give your team your loyalty. If you want their loyalty, you need to show them that they have yours. You do that through delegating tasks and then stepping back. You also gain loyalty through accepting responsibility for your mistakes.

Credibility grows with time and nurturing. However, a single careless instant can destroy it, so consider it one of your most precious assets as a leader.

Evaluate The Composition Of Your Team

Not everyone is going to have the same vision that you have — or be able to get there from wherever they are. That’s okay — but it also means that they don’t belong on your team. If your team hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, take a step back and ask the hard questions:

  • Is there someone on your team that obviously doesn’t belong there? Maybe they simply lack enthusiasm for the project or they just aren’t a “team player” in the first place. If so, it’s okay to admit that you need to make changes.
  • Do you have the right mix of experience and enthusiasm? You can have a lot of experienced employees but every team needs a little youth to help keep it current — especially in today’s environment where there are startups everywhere.
  • Is there anyone who can’t understand how to collaborate with others? Some employees may have come to age in a time when everyone in every industry saw the corporate ladder as a thing to be climbed and conquered. You may need to retrain those employees so that they know how to keep a modern, collaborative mindset.

Engage Your Team In Common Goals

You’re learning to be a true leader, and you have your team. Now, set the goals for your team and let everyone know what’s expected of them. There should be no guesswork necessary about what outcome you want to see.

However, you also need to get the team engaged and enthusiastic about their goals. To keep people engaged and motivated, consider some simple daily tactics:

  • Have a daily check-in where everyone gets oriented around the next steps that need to be taken toward your larger goals. Whether you work in an office with your team or your team is scattered across the country and connected online, short check-ins make it easy to see that everyone is on task and responsive.
  • However, don’t give into the temptation to turn the check-ins into dull, mind-numbing meetings that will suck the life and energy out of your team. This is a particular danger if you work in an office setting. Limit check-ins to 10 minutes or less.
  • Make time for personal check-ins. This becomes more important the bigger or more far-flung your team becomes. Keep a forum open online or an open door so that team members have easy access to you.
  • Also, if a team member hasn’t approached you lately, make a point of approaching that team member. You can talk about work or you can talk about an upcoming vacation. Convey your interest in that team member and your awareness of his or her presence and contributions. No one wants to feel invisible.

Success Is Something You Measure

You have to have a way to measure your team’s progress over the year and give feedback. However you decide to do that, make sure the timing of feedback is consistent.

Don’t just pass out the stats without comment. Instead, show your team how to use the information to determine if they’re meeting, exceeding, or falling short on their goals. Make it clear that you accept the responsibility for how the team is doing, and don’t let anyone play the “blame game” toward another member of the team.

Build a Better Team: The Takeaway

A great team starts with a great leader. If you’re happy with the results you saw in 2017, build on what you started as you move into 2018. If you aren’t happy with the results you’ve had, however, take time to evaluate whether you need to make some changes to your approach as a leader, your team, or your method of keeping your team engaged and focused on common goals.

Either way, lift a glass and make a toast to the start of a New Year filled with a better understanding of what it takes to make a team really work and a clearer vision of your goals!