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2021. Decide to Develop... And Write a Letter.

By Sergey Gorbatov and Angela Lane

2020... What can we say? Many of us will be glad to farewell to 2020. And with the promise of a New Year in the air, it’s the perfect time to reflect. If nothing else, 2020 has taught us a lot. What’s important. How much we can learn when we need to. How much we are all capable of. Let’s not lose sight of that. Let’s build on 2020, and make 2021 an even bigger year for growth.

Write a letter

Every goal starts with the desire to change.

Professionally, what should you change? All of us could work on any number of things.

Deciding where to focus your effort is probably the biggest favor you can do yourself. Not sure where to start? Write a letter.


Dear …. (insert name of credible, fair person whose opinion you respect)

I am looking forward to making 2021 a great year for my professional development. With that in mind, I’m asking my most respected colleagues for guidance. What are one or two skills or behaviors that are important to my performance? I truly value your perspective on what matters.

And because I’m looking to set a growth goal, I want your opinion on how I am doing. Be kind, but honest! Your assessment means a lot.

Finally, if it isn’t too much trouble, I’d appreciate your view on what I should learn that would give my performance an edge. Just one suggestion is enough. Something small that could have a big impact on my growth.

Thanks for helping me find a leverage point,

From (your name here!)


Before you say “I can’t do that”, consider these upsides.

You decide who to ask. Ask yourself … whose opinion means a lot to me? You will get insight into what matters for your performance. That’s important. For the conscious, rational you, its direction on where you can focus for maximum impact. For the more subconscious, emotional you, it’s confirming the importance of what you do towards ultimate success. It confirms why your skills and behaviors matter to results. Either way, it’s motivating.

And consider the alternative. Humans are notoriously poor judges of their own performance. Yep, we think that we are better than we really are at what we do. Such overestimation may lead to misses and disappointment. And you can only control what you are aware of. What you are unaware of controls you. We don’t typically ask for feedback, because we don’t want to be hurt. Anticipate that... ask your credible colleague to be honest and kind.

Asked in this way, you’ll get suggestions for learning. Unlike feedback, this is future-focused. And in the spirit of the season, and with a new year ahead, it's all about possibilities.

Unlike a letter to Santa, which lists what you want, this email provides what you need.

Finally, read the template one more time. Anyone capable of sending this email cares about performance, is respectful of others skills and abilities, and is humble enough to know that learning never stops. It is difficult to see how this approach couldn’t be seen in a positive light. So long as the sender is sincere in wanting to improve.

Gaining awareness is the beginning. Accountability is the engine behind progress. And that's the second letter that you'll write. We'll tell you how, next week.

Angela & Sergey

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