top of page

New Year's Resolution Retro

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

A New Year's Resolution

Usually when the holidays come around, it is very difficult to maintain focus on teams. Our brains are contemplating parties, presents, and how to avoid weight gain with all of the cookies floating through the office. But amidst all of the festive chaos, I like to give my teams a little time to reflect for themselves and prepare for the next year. Usually I do this in the form of a holiday retro.

Now there are several great Christmas retros already out there, and I would be doing the creators an injustice if I did not credit them:

My idea came from combining a few of these techniques into a retrospective that allows individuals to reflect on the past year and plan for the future with the help of their team. I call it The New Year’s Resolution Retro.

Step 1:

Looking back (reflecting).

Supplies: Post-it notes or Index cards. Pens or Markers

Ask everyone to reflect on their year and to pinpoint their one biggest regret (work related). Then write down that regret on one of the post it notes. This exercise should not be shared, as it is designed for personal reflection.

Next, ask everyone to write down, on a separate post it note, all of the things they could have done to avoid this regret. What they would do now if they were to be in the situation again.

Finally, ask everyone to pick up their regret note and tear it up and toss it into the garbage.

The learning?

We are going to have a fresh start this new year. It does no one any good to dwell on the things that cannot change. But what does a person good, is to learn from it. So what is left after the regret is torn up? What the individual learned from the experience. And THAT is what should be carried forward into the New Year.

Step 2:

Being present (appreciation)

Supplies: Post-it notes or Index cards. Pens or Markers

Ask everyone to take a few minutes to think about what they appreciate today about their team. It could be the way the team works, individual call outs for people on the team, or things the individual learned from the team. The point is to have everyone reflect as to why they enjoy what they have now. Ask them to write them down on the post-its.

The next part is all about sharing. I like to have a ball that gets tossed around the room until everyone has gone. Other times, I have asked the team to create a colorful collage of notes and the individuals can go up and read them (this is handy if you have a team that shy away from public acknowledgement). The point is to get the appreciations recognized and discuss any common threads.

The learning?

Reminding everyone why we are awesome now. What makes us special. What behaviors do we want to encourage in the New Year. If you do this before any holiday breaks, it helps to foster the team mentality and allow them to leave on a good note about each other (hopefully).

Step 3.

The future (resolutions)

Supplies: Post-it notes or Index cards. Pens or Markers

This is a variation on the Gifts & Hooks team exercise.

This is a sharing exercise. Ask your team members to think about the next year. What are the potential challenges the team may face? What are the challenges the team has had previously. What have been the challenges the individual has faced. Once you have given them a bit of time to think about this, ask them to think about what they can commit to for the team. What are their New Year’s Resolutions in order to learn, grow, and help the team.

Ask them to write down those resolutions. Some examples I have heard are “Be more of a team player and stop grabbing work and not telling anyone.” or “Be humble and ask for help when I don’t know how to do something.”.

After they have written down their Resolutions to help the team, ask “Now what do you need FROM the team in order to be successful?” and have them write those down. Once everyone has their New Year’s Resolution and their request from the team, have them share with each other and discuss. As the facilitator, make sure to ask questions to help clarify any vague requests. As an example, if someone says “I want to be more engaged with the team.”, ask them what “engaged” means. Ask the other team members to help the individual brainstorm ways to be engaged. This should be a dynamic discussion that is a retro about both the individual and the team. In the end, the individuals should have drilled down to some clear action items they can take in the New Year to achieve their Resolution. And the team should have action items for how to help them get there.

The learning?

The goal is to have individuals recognize that they need to contribute to their teams' success. It also should highlight that the team is responsible for helping the individual.

The final step:

Secret Santa/Wish Granter.

Preparation: Before the retro, try to identify someone within leadership or that has the power to “make things happen.”. Ask this individual if they could be the team’s Secret Santa/Wish Granter.

At the end of the retro, ask each team member to write down one wish they have for the team that will be read by the Secret Santa/Wish Granter (don’t tell them who it is!). Do not guarantee that every wish will be granted but let the team know that they will do their best. It might help to give them guidelines on realistic wishes. Example: I don’t know many Secret Santas who will give their team a trip to Disney World.

The benefit to this portion or the retro is that the teams can feel a connection to leadership. Someone is listening. And on the flip side, leadership can have the chance to get real, honest feedback from their employees. I have seen requests range from “More board games” to “Transparency into the Company’s product strategy”. You might be surprised by what you get.

After each individual has written down their wish, have them put it into a stocking or a hat and marks the conclusion to the retro. The next step are to review the wishes with your Secret Santa/Wish Granter and discuss what is possible. Make sure you report back to the team as things happen.

My hope for this retro is to bring individuals together for reflection and commitment.

Thank you for your Support



bottom of page