Exercises and reflections to start strong in 2024

Finish 2023 strong and get 2024 off to a bright start.

Start 2024 strong.

Mary Olson-Menzel is the founder and CEO of MVP Executive Development and co-founder of Spark Insight Coaching.

As the end of the year approaches, it’s a good time to reflect on the past 12 months while also gearing up for a fresh start in January. Every December, we find ourselves scrambling to tie up loose ends and taking stock of learnings  as we begin  preparing to capitalize on the clean slate of the new year, with new goals and possibilities ahead.  

This seemed like an opportune moment to share a few exercises that I use with coaching clients to end strong and set the stage for success in the new year. Setting clear intentions is the foundation for any future planning. So as a first step, I invite you to pause, breathe deeply, and then write out what you want the coming day, month, quarter and year to look and feel like. Don’t stop to second-guess yourself. Only you will see this list. But by getting it out of your subconscious and onto the page you will have begun organically the intention-setting process.  



You know you are headed in the right direction when you are intentional about your career and your future and make decisions based on truly knowing yourself. When you can articulate what you bring to the table and what you want, you can chart the course to where you want to go with greater clarity and conviction. Life is a journey and when you follow your heart toward what it is that truly lights you up, you cannot go wrong. 

Finishing strong in Q4 

It happens like clockwork: s soon as Thanksgiving is over, I start hearing from clients who are stressed about everything that still needs to happen in the coming weeks. Whether it’s hitting their numbers, wrapping a campaign or completing a major deliverable, it’s natural to start thinking about what needs to happen in order to feel like the year was a success.  

There’s a limited amount of time at year-end to take focused actions that will help you and your team feel positive about finishing strong. Doing so creates a much better frame of mind going into the year-end break, and helps you step into the new year with confidence and enthusiasm. 

I recommend Identifying two to three achievable objectives that you can back into by creating small goals for each week. What do you need to do? Who do you need to help you? How will you measure and merchandise your success? Nothing beats putting an actual calendar up on the wall — I like the erasable ones — and making the goals, actions, and accountabilities visible. I guarantee that with focused attention and daily actions, you are bound to deliver results that may even surpass your high expectations! 

Take a leadership inventory 

During your holiday break, after the packages have been opened but before you’re clinking glasses on New Year’s Eve, I suggest that all executives and team leaders make time for a leadership inventory. It’s an intention-setting exercise that reminds you how you want to show up as a leader in the new year, what behaviors or patterns are no longer serving you, and what you may want to leave behind in the current year.  

My colleague, Mel Shahbazian, and I created this exercise to help our clients create a leadership signature and build cultures of excellence. It starts with the alignment of the following: 

What is your north star: Think of this as your top leadership declaration. What is the essence of who you are as a leader and as an organization? 

What is your mission: Your mission should be big-picture, long-term, and meaningful. It’s your “why.” 

What is your goal: This is less about values and more about the bottom line. It’s actionable and measurable. 

What is your values proposition: Prioritize the top values that you hold dearest in your role and for your team. What lights you up? 

What is your promise: What is the promise you offer to your employees and to your clients/customers? 

What is your mantra: What do you say to yourself and your team every day to ensure that your culture and your leadership are inspiring? 

Remember, this is a reflective exercise for you alone. Refer to it regularly, both as a reminder to yourself and also to see if anything has shifted or evolved. Keep yourself accountable! 

Set a 2024 framework for success  

Starting the year off right is so important. Whatever you do for yourself and your teams in January sets the stage for the rest of the year. This fun and thought-provoking “Mad Libs” exercise gets the creative juices flowing and helps to clarify expectations and set intentions for 2024. It’s a great team exercise to do during the first week back when everyone is still fresh from their time off. Plus, it’s an enjoyable way to ease back into work and get your team back in sync.  

“Filling in the blanks” enables a team to identify where their professional goals align with their company’s goals. These don’t have to line up perfectly, but it is important to recognize the distinction and use that information accordingly. You can do this for both yourself and your team, but as a group exercise, it helps get everyone to “buy in” right out of the gate. 

Team/Organizational Resolution & Goals: 

 My team’s New Year’s resolution for the business is: 

 The biggest reason we chose this is: 

 In 2023, the three things we were most proud of were: 

 As a team, we also faced three big challenges in the form of: 

What would achieving this resolution in 2024 mean for our team? Our business? 

 One behavior we must eliminate in our team/culture to achieve this is: 

 One behavior we must cultivate in our team/culture to help us achieve this is: 

 Our ‘bucket list’ wish for 2024 is: (dream big here!) 

Now that you have reflected and put intention into your goals, start to create a strategy for how to make it happen. Try not to get overwhelmed. Break it into baby steps and tackle some every day. This is how we make progress! Set up bi-monthly or quarterly meetings to check in on progress and support each other in your shared resolutions. All you need is an hour, a whiteboard, and an open mind in order to set a framework for shared success. 

Here’s to setting your intentions, clarifying what success looks and feels like, staying on track and keeping yourself accountable. These leadership behaviors will deliver dividends to you and your teams throughout the year. To your success! 



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