One of my goals for 2021 is to create and share more hands-on, working tips for putting your purpose into action. I’ve written a lot about what is purpose and why purpose matters. Now I want to focus more on how to define and share your purpose. I’m starting with ONE thing you can do to prioritize your purpose from the start: write a New Year’s letter. Also, good news, it’s not too late.
Years ago, I worked with a CEO who introduced me to writing a New Year’s letter. Arriving in inboxes on January 1, the letter was a carefully crafted mix of accomplishments, gratitude and goals for the new year.
Working with the CEO to write and distribute this letter each year was one of my favorite projects. It gave us a unique opportunity to pause to celebrate our people and our accomplishments. It also forced leadership to articulate the vision for the upcoming year.
Looking back, I now recognize the New Year’s letters was also instrumental is defining and reinforcing our purpose. Woven into the recognition and strategy was our purpose and key messages. These words would then be worked into presentations, town halls, media interviews and speeches throughout the year.
Tips for Adding Purpose to Your New Year’s Letter
Here are just a few things I have learned writing end of year, New Year’s and mid-year review letters for executives and clients over the years.
- Be sincere and succinct. A year is a lot of ground to cover and people have short attention spans. Prioritize the accomplishments that align with your purpose and use a voice that is personal and genuine.
- Invest in doing it well. December and January are always hectic. Make sure either you have time or you have a team who can assist you with preparing your New Year’s letter. When done well, it can reinvigorate your team and set the tone for the year.
- Reflect your values. A New Year’s letter or end of season recap is also a great time to make good on your company values. If you value transparency, be clear about the financial health of the business. Value honesty? Be open about mistakes and the steps you’re taking to fix them. Use this as an opportunity to hold yourself accountable.
- Reinforce your purpose. A New Year’s letter is the perfect place to reiterate and reflect on your purpose. Identify and share the experiences, accomplishments and goals that demonstrate your commitment to it. In my experience, stories shared by the CEO are often shared by employees throughout the year.
- Plan for it. Because our letter always went out on New Year’s Day, it required extra planning. We often had to work through final edits remotely and coordinate distribution with multiple people. However, knowing we did this every year allowed us to plan for it. Whether you send a letter annually, quarterly or monthly, the key is to develop a cadence and stick with it.
Give Meaning to the Work: One of the greatest benefits of purpose is that it gives clarity to what you do and why you do it. At a time of such uncertainty, unrest and burnout, your letter can also help your employees stay grounded in knowing that what they do matters.
There’s a lot of wiggle room on the timing of your New Year’s letter. Share it in early December as part of a holiday celebration. On New Year’s Day or anytime in the first few weeks of the year. Write your letter once year-end financials are available, in tandem with a strategic planning initiative, to announce a new brand launch or at the end of your busy season.
Or, consider the letter a mid-year review and follow it up in January. The important part is that you’re acknowledging and celebrating your team’s work and using this opportunity to help your team recommit to its purpose.