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Millions of people watch the Times Square ball drop during the last 60 seconds of every passing year. According to the Official Site of Times Square, the actual notion of a ball "dropping" to signal the passage of time dates back long before New Year's Eve was ever celebrated in The Big Apple. The first "time-ball" was installed atop England's Royal Observatory at Greenwich in 1833. This ball would drop at one o'clock every afternoon, allowing the captains of nearby ships to precisely set their chronometers (a vital navigational instrument).

Wouldn’t it be nice if we, as learning leaders, had a 1 p.m. daily reminder to set our navigational instruments? 

You probably started 2014 with a strategic plan and had a handful of high priorities for you and your team to tackle. As the year has come to a close, you’re now reporting on that plan and setting a new one for 2015. You, like many, may have found you’ve dropped the ball (a different ball) on a few things. It’s likely that the “balls” on your strategic plan are made of rubber and nothing broke —strategic plans are meant to be flexible because conditions change all the time as we work. 

If you’ve ever read or heard the commencement speech given by former Coca Cola CEO Bryan Dyson, he offered a great visual illustration of juggling the balls of our life: Work, Family, Health, Friends and Spirit. His powerful message reminds us: “work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls — Family, Health, Friends and Spirit — are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for it."

As you reflect on closing out 2014 and ringing in 2015, remember to keep these four resolutions in mind:

Set your course, but keep re-calibrating 

Just as the ship captains in the 1800’s had a daily reminder to set their chronometers, set regular alarms and reminders in your calendar to see if you are still navigating in the right direction with your strategic plan. As learning leaders, I’m sure you get daily requests for what others (even the CEO sometimes) deem as higher priority needs and you have to redirect your resources. We’ve all received the phone call to put together “emergency” training based on an isolated incident. We create brand new programs or courses all because of one bad customer experience or one major error in reporting. These periodic reminders will bring you back on track to achieving the strategic learning goals you and your team set forth to ultimately benefit the bigger picture strategic learning needs of the organization.

Remember what bounces ...

Strategic plans are made of rubber, not glass. If the conditions have changed, reset your course to avoid any major “scuffs, marks, nicks, damage or shattering.” There may be economic shifts that take your organization in a new direction or you may have to reduce your training budget because revenue goals came in low two quarters in a row. In either case, it’s time to look at your strategic learning plan to adjust to the current conditions within the organization.

... And what will break

Start the year with a strong commitment to focus on the glass balls: Family, Health, Friends and Spirit. Learning leaders are givers. We want nothing more than to see people thrive and succeed in their work. It’s easy to focus so much on caring for the people in our organizations that we neglect caring for our own personal wellbeing, which includes healthy relationships with our family and friends. Sometimes we have to practice what we preach. Strong leadership starts with self-awareness. How self-aware are you in self-care? Find the balance to do what you do best — not only for the people in your organization but also for yourself, your family and your friends.

Nurture your support network

When they are lowered slowly with support (as is the fragile Waterford crystal Times Square ball), even glass balls don’t break. Surround yourself with great people and resources. Great ship captains had quality ships and the best crews. Don’t set sail alone or in a leaking boat! There are too many great people and resources out there to ensure smooth sailing on any journey.

Photo: Can Stock