Look Forward or Look Back? Closeout Tactics for Honorable Leaders

celebration beach

By Lee Ellis

So, what should you be doing this time of year as a leader? Looking forward or looking back? As leaders, we’re continually focused on vision-casting and looking ahead towards future goals. But it should also be a natural part of leadership to look back and evaluate past work. In the scientific community, analyzing past results is an essential part of being successful in one’s conclusion. But how do you do it in your particular discipline?

The Model for Evaluation and Reflection

For the past few months in my blog (links to past blogs below), we’ve reviewed the Courageous Accountability Model™ that outlines the simple yet powerful leadership method for building positive accountability with others.

If you’ve followed the model, you’re hopefully ready for closeout by celebrating or confronting your team. Notice the last step –

Lee Ellis Engage with HonorThe Courageous Accountability Model

Barriers and Tips to Celebration

Let’s be honest. Celebration with your team either excites you, or it’s not your cup of tea. I’m not saying you may have a Scrooge-like mentality, but many leaders struggle with celebration. It’s typically because of baggage from the past, being too results-oriented, fearful, or too immersed in life struggles.

“Celebration with others should be a natural part of honorable leadership.” [Tweet This]

Celebration provides the needed recognition and reinforcement for successful performance, lifts morale and raises energy, reduces stress and lets people relax from the grind, and builds esprit de corps, cohesion, and teamwork.

How do you do it well? Here are six tips:

  1. Plan your steps. Be clear about what you are celebrating and how you will affirm the achievements.
  2. Be enthusiastic in your demeanor. It’s been said that communications are 20 percent verbal and 80 percent non-verbal, so your energy, tone, and body language are all going to play a big role in communicating genuine satisfaction.
  3. Be fair and consistent. We humans have very sensitive egos, and people notice what you are doing for others. Take care of the needs of each person individually as you work with them.
  4. Consider temperament and natural behavior. Introverts want to be recognized, but usually in a more private way. Extroverted, outgoing folks love the limelight—the more public attention, the better.
  5. Consider the next challenge. Successful people are generally looking for their next challenge, so be ready with a stretch assignment.
  6. Celebrate team successes as a team. The joy of victory lifts spirits and provides a great time to enhance connection and build camaraderie. Delegate it if it’s not your thing.

Confronting Instead of Celebrating

“Unfortunately, a natural part of honorable leadership is courageously confronting others when it’s needed.” [Tweet This]

You can still celebrate with your team as a whole, but there will always be times when you need to confront individually when things have not gone well. It’s generally not in human nature to move toward being uncomfortable, and for most people confrontation is uncomfortable.

From experience, I believe that you have to have a mindset that recognizes confrontation as being both the right thing and the kind thing to do—for either unacceptable performance or undesirable behavior. That’s why following the Courageous Accountability Model is so important. If you’ve done that, you have done your part to help the person succeed as a leader.

Remember these two important points during confrontation:

  1. Confront with Confidence and Humility. Once it’s clear that confrontation is needed, plan your steps and prepare yourself. Take time to think through the issues logically and emotionally. Logically, you get your facts in order so you can speak objectively. Emotionally, think how you would like to be treated in this situation if you were the other person.
  2. Confront with a Positive Mindset. Above all, keep in mind that you can’t go wrong when you operate with a clear plan and a positive mindset of strength and caring.

My POW Freedom Celebration

After more than five years of challenges and working our strategy in the prisons of Vietnam, you had better believe that we celebrated our release when that day came.

President Nixon gave the okay to “hit ’em hard,” so the bombing of North Vietnam resumed from spring of 1972 through December. By the New Year it seemed their will had been broken. A week after we got back to Hanoi we were brought out into the prison yard to hear the news—the war was over and the peace agreement had been signed.

Celebration Hanoi Taxi

Celebration as Lee Ellis and his comrades fly home from Vietnam on the Hanoi Taxi.

We waited until we were airborne for the celebration, but it did come. But the real celebration came a few days later when we were reunited with our families. The joy of being back to family and freedom was deeply meaningful, and hardly a day goes by that I don’t celebrate in some small way. Primarily I celebrate by being thankful.

Critiquing the Process

Whether you’re celebrating or confronting as a part of your closeout process this year, critiquing your personal leadership process is also critical to making future improvements.

The season of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah is the perfect time for celebration, but it’s also the needed season for confrontation and critique. Being the honorable leader who wants to lean into your doubts and fears to do the right thing is the best gift that you can give your team. Take it to heart–I believe in you.


Other blog articles in this series:

Watch Lee’s Fox and Friends Interview on This Topic:

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