In the past, I never put much thought into how the year ended. I focused on January and how people would return from the holidays with drive, ambition, and determination.

What a missed opportunity! The saying, ‘It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish’ has great meaning. So it’s important to know the right tips to finish the year strong. When I shifted my focus in December and decided to finish strong, it set up a great start to the new year.

No matter how rough or off the charts exceptional 2020 has been, how you finish the month of December will set the stage for what comes in January and the rest of 2021.

I’ve become distracted or looked ahead too quickly, and it cost me opportunities. Whether you only have a few days left or you’ve previously been inclined to start winding down as soon as Thanksgiving arrives, I’ve put together eight end-of-the-year tips especially designed for strong leaders to help them finish powerfully.

They helped me in innumerable ways once I learned to end the year strong. Keep in mind that your employees — your team members — are looking to you; how you push and finish is how they will press forth and finish too.

Tip #1: Keep Your Focus 

The closer we get to the holidays and especially vacation time, the tougher it is to stay focused. I became so distracted in my early career that I can’t even tell you how much productivity I missed out on.

You need to remain focused on the goals and tasks you set forth to accomplish in December. The challenge, though, is to not become oppressive. One year I was so focused on the end-of-year goals that I was a bear to my team.

When you maintain focus, be sure not to become oppressive, overbearing, or micromanaging to your team; trust that they will finish their tasks as well.

Tip #2: Call an Extra Meeting (or Two)

Managers are often accused of having ‘too many’ meetings. It’s true that you can sacrifice productivity in bountiful meetings. But at the end of the year, I find it’s a good way to refocus the team and air any issues or questions they had (and might be afraid to ask because there were only a few days before vacation).

Try giving quick pep talks, clearing the air, and focusing on the final tasks that still need finishing. And, you know what? These pep talks subtly remind everyone there’s still a job to do.

It’s also a great time to thank each team member for all their hard work and recognize their efforts. What a confidence booster heading toward the new year!

Tip #3: Give Tokens of Appreciation

I was taught during my earliest professional days as a leader to ‘maintain emotional distance’ from those I led. I assumed that meant not paying attention to anything about their lives.

Some leaders think of a year-end bonus as a way to show appreciation. And, while that’s true, many employees consider a bonus to be part of their ‘earnings.’ Something more personal can often add a lot. A thank you card, a personal letter, and other simple tokens can be more powerful. They carry a lot of weight.

A simple personalized note or gift shows you pay attention to them, listen to their needs, and care about them as more than just a presence in the company. I’ve heard from more people than I can count just how much they appreciated those simple thank yous.

Tip #4: Back Up All Computers and Mobile Devices

Woman backing up a computer

Perhaps most of the work you and your team do throughout the year is stored “in the cloud”. But what about your contact information, email addresses, and other files on your devices?

Before the ‘cloud’, one company I worked for was hacked and lost mountains of information. There’s no need to have your work files at risk; back them up!

Nothing can hamper productivity to start 2021 more than losing everything because of an end-of-the-year hack or attack on your company’s servers. Keep in mind that hacking related activities may increase when more companies are either closed for the final week or relying on a skeleton crew.

Tip #5: Make a List of Goals and Accomplishments from the Past Year

As with everything else in life, it’s easy to forget the small accomplishments and little goals you met along the way to get where you are now. I’ve done it. More times than I care to admit. I’ve also focused on the negatives almost to the exclusion of the positives.

The missed opportunities, the failed deadlines, or the big prospect you didn’t land are usually what we tend to focus on more.

Instead, make a list of goals and accomplishments you and your team achieved in 2020 and post it for them to see before they head off for the holidays. And keep it up for when they return in the new year.

Tip #6: Identify Specific Strengths of Your Team

Diverse group of happy office workers standing together in office setting

There are certainly weaknesses in every team, but it’s a good idea to focus on the strengths, including perceived strength of individuals on your team that you can capitalize on in the new year.

By identifying these strengths now, it could completely transform the start of next year. That’s because there may be certain strengths of team members you’re not taking full advantage of or that could help them become stronger leaders themselves in the organization.

Tip #7: Identify Staffing Needs

When I started taking time at the end of the year to consider what was missing as far as staffing was concerned, I was able to determine which employees were a liability, which ones were adding value, and where there were gaps.

This allowed me to build a stronger team for the next year. Sometimes it meant trimming staff, letting some people go, and while it’s always tough at the end of the year (or the beginning of the year), it’s the right time to do it.

Tip #8: Plan a Welcome Back in the New Year

When people return to work after New Year’s, it might take a few days or even a couple of weeks to “get back in the flow.” To avoid this lag, schedule a meeting and have specific, short-range goals ready to lay out and discuss.

I found that a first-week meeting helped everyone become ‘present’ mentally and laid out measurable goals for that first month. It’s a powerful asset to get 2021 off to the best possible start.

BONUS Tip #9: Bonus Tips To Finish The Year Strong

Here’s a bonus tip. Take a look at your LinkedIn profile. This is an area we can overlook. Maybe you set it up earlier in the year, but haven’t really gone back to check how things have changed or updated details.

The Leverage LinkedIn Career Accelerator allows you to harness the power of LinkedIn to ensure you show up as your best self, connect with key influencers, and position yourself as a thought leader. Access to the training is free here.

Leverage LinkedIN Career Accelerator

Many of these tips to finish the year strong developed over time for me. They are the direct product of experience, and I’m positive that when you incorporate them into your end-of-the-year routine; you’ll be able to finish the year strong.

Cynthia Corsetti is an Executive and Career Coach. Whether you’re looking for a career transition or to make a bigger impact in your current career, Cynthia is the partner you’re looking for. Follow her on FacebookLinkedIn, and YouTube.