For most of my life, the end of summer and the arrival of fall have signaled the beginning of a new year. It’s easy to measure the passage of time when you put on a school uniform and realize that it no longer fits, or discover that the backpack that worked well in elementary school no longer suits a middle-school identity. Whether it’s the leaves changing colors and slipping from the trees or the peppering of back-to-school ads, there are plenty of reminders all around us that a new season is beginning.
In my work coaching women leaders and executives, I’ve discovered how quickly we lose the rhythm of these seasons—this awareness of endings and beginnings—in our professional lives. Without that pause for identifying what we’ve achieved and how we can prepare for our next area of impact, it’s much more challenging to discern progress. And yet, progress matters. We should be moving forward in our work, not necessarily linearly, but advancing in a unique pattern that makes sense for who we are and who we aspire to be. We should be intentional about recognizing these new seasons and taking the time to assess those behaviors and professional habits that may no longer fit the next stage of our career.
I encourage my clients to schedule weekly time for reflection and assessment. As the CEO of your own career, it’s equally vital to periodically pause for a leadership retreat—a time to clarify your vision, redefine your mission, and equip yourself to lead into a new season.
Much like a typical executive retreat, your leadership retreat should equip you for growth. You’ll want to set new goals and identify ways in which to further develop your leadership skills. You may need to determine how to maximize your own productivity, or enhance your ability to communicate more effectively. You may wish to spend time assessing your leadership brand and determining your unique value and attributes. And, of course, you’ll want to determine how best to implement your new plan of action.
I realize that this may feel very tactical and results-oriented. There will be times in your career where you recognize that a tactical approach is precisely what’s needed. At others, you may see that the role you’ve been occupying has given you an expertise in delivering results, but the work you’re aspiring to will require you to become more visionary. Many women step back from their careers to care for family or children and need to assess how best to reinvest in their professional aspirations.
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I speak of seasons in a career because that metaphor offers a helpful reminder that a career is seldom an orderly and rapid progression from point A to point Z. There isn’t one winter and one spring and a specific transition point between the two. The seasons look quite different, depending on where you are and who you are. And there is always a new season ahead, and a fresh chance to live and work with energy and joy.
Your leadership retreat should provide you with time to assess the impact you’re having and begin to nurture fresh ideas and visionary thinking that will equip you for a life of purpose. Here are three questions to reflect on to prepare for a new season of your career:
- Am I equating busyness with impact?
- Which two high-impact areas will increase my leadership authority and brand value?
- What do I want to be known for in my next year of work?
The best leadership retreats enable you to pause, to carve out strategic white space away from the busy everyday demands of a career, and instead to focus on big ideas. I encourage you to schedule that time to identify your goals for your next season, and determine how best to establish yourself as a strategic resource, to know—fully know—where you can add value to your organization, and find confidence in that knowledge.