Planning for 2022? Think About Who, Not What

As I think about what it means to wrap up this year, I reflect on the goals I set for myself and my team and celebrate the progress I’ve made personally and professionally. (As an example, my 40th year has been my best yet! If you want to know more, feel free to send me an email and I will share how shame has lost its grip on me.)

While looking back on what I’ve learned is certainly useful (I’ve learned a lot), I also realize that I need to open the aperture and think about the future. What goals shall I set in 2022? What should I prioritize for my team? With that, I add planning sessions with each of my team members in which we will create development plans, talk career, and dream big—even for a moment—before the new year hits and we are all back at work executing, checking things off, and making what we hope will be a meaningful difference in the world.

So, as a learning professional who cultivates the leadership and human skills needed to create an empathetic, inclusive, and high-performing workforce, what is your priority as you shift your focus to 2022? Really, it should be just one thing: your people. Just them. Not the solution, not the platform, content, technology, or modality.

Often when we think of priorities, we start to list out initiatives such as:

  • We need a new leadership development program
  • We must increase engagement in our learning platform
  • We need to re-evaluate our content strategy so it’s more micro
  • We must create a coaching culture
  • We need to include more simulations to engage our audience

Every item above is likely a worthy pursuit—but in the current way it’s framed, each one becomes about the solution, not the humans we are desiring to impact. When we focus only on the what, we tend to lose sight of our ultimate goal, which can cause us to design and build something that misses the mark.

For example, there is huge value in re-evaluating a content strategy, but why is it necessary? What outcomes are you trying to achieve? How does a content strategy actually have meaningful impact on your audience? If you create short videos, podcasts, and interactive content without really understanding who is going to consume them and what value they’ll provide, you are simply generating more content for a platform no one touches.

So instead of listing your goals from a solution perspective, try to reframe them from the perspective of the individuals you want to impact. When you start with who and keep people at the center, you may rethink your solution. For instance:

Voluntary separations are increasing. Exit interviews indicate our leaders’ inability to build trust is a root cause. How might we help our leaders understand their role in engaging and retaining our best talent?

  • The solution could be a leadership development program, but it could also be an initiative where data shares and targets select individuals for coaching.
  • The solution could be an organization-wide focus on trust, including the behaviors people need to demonstrate to build trust with others.
  • The solution could be an acknowledgement from senior leaders that all the change in the past two years has shifted our focus away from our people, prompting every leader in the organization to have re-engagement conversations with each of their people.

When the solution becomes about people and the outcomes you want to achieve, you’ll start seeing more energy from your team members. People are better able to connect the work they are doing to a purpose that is inspirational and meaningful.

So this year, first reflect on and celebrate the progress and the impact you have made on the lives of the people around you. Now pivot to the future and identify the individuals you want to have an effect on in the coming year. Then—and only then—determine the solution.

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