I normally don't like the idea of New Year's resolutions because setting or modifying goals shouldn't be something that happens once a year -- it should be an ongoing, iterative effort. In fact, treating resolutions like one-and-done projects is probably why 80 percent of them fail by February. Regardless, to resolve means to have intent, and that is something I can get behind.

In the spirit of making resolutions, I recently sat down with my team to reflect on 2017. Together, we reassessed the past year -- what worked and what didn't -- and we discussed what we could do to make our programs even better next year. Reflection is such a crucial part of being a manager, but it's often a nebulous idea, rather than an action item. Let's work to change that in 2018.

For me and my team, our resolution is simple: Putting our people first is something we're aiming to do more of in 2018. And, because managers play such a crucial role in the lives of the employees they oversee, it's a resolution I encourage every manager to have. Here are three simple yet effective ways you can put this into practice with your team:

1. Invest in learning.

Ask the individuals on your team what learning experiences they want to undertake in the year ahead. After all, if we expect employees to participate in these programs, they should get a say in what they entail. Better yet, make it mandatory for each member of your team to answer: what do you think will move the needle for you and the organization next year?

On my team, I ask for each person to come to me with a personal learning goal for the year, which we include as a small portion of their weighted goal for performance reviews. It can be an industry conference they want to attend, an online course they want to take, a skill they want to master, or something entirely unique to them. The only requirement is that each person be accountable for following through with their goal and share what they learned with the greater team. In doing this, managers can start to create or continue to build a culture of learning, knowledge-sharing and accountability within the organization.

2. Honor individualism.

We all know the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Perhaps more useful is the Platinum Rule: treat others the way they would like to be treated.

It's important to get to know your employees for who they truly are. Learn what drives them, what their passions are, and how they like to receive feedback and praise. And then get creative in the ways you reward and recognize them.

We all have different psychological needs when it comes to recognition. For one person, it may be as simple as sharing in your next team meeting how she went above and beyond on a recent project, creating X amount of value for the company. For another, the thought of any sort of public praise makes him cringe. This is where praise in a one-on-one conversation would be more well-received.

Suffice it to say, the way in which you give praise and recognition is just as important as giving it. And, if you can't figure out their preferences, just ask.

3. Create standout moments.

At Cornerstone, we see the impact that special moments have on the morale of our people. It's essential to create a workplace that's not only safe and welcoming, but fun and memorable, too. It doesn't take much to create a moment that your employees will remember 20 years from now.

This past week, an executive held an all-hands meeting with his team to discuss end of year numbers and to set goals for the new year. To make what could have been a dull meeting more enjoyable, he deemed it "Pajamas and Pancakes Day." Everyone in finance was decked out in flannel pajamas and cozy slippers, and treated to a pancake breakfast. The best part: the executive gave his entire presentation in a hooded unicorn onesie. In planning this unconventional meeting, he created a special moment that his team is sure to not forget. And, thanks to photo evidence, our entire global team got to share in the fun, as well.

We all know it's not easy to set a resolution and actually stick to it for the whole year, but the key is to be intentional. If every manager can strive each day to make their employees' successes their greatest victory, our people (and the companies where we work) will be that much better for it.

Published on: Dec 26, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.