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Creating 2021

A year-end self-coaching guide for charity CEOs

Running a charity in 2020 has been a roller-coaster for many and more than ever, ‘expect the best & plan for the worst’ has been a supremely helpful guiding mantra. Given that we’re in the season of merriment (I know…turning off the news helps) this guide is intended to help you reflect on your leadership journey in 2020 and build your ‘Expectation of the Best’ for 2021.

There are three sections, reflection, creation and implementation. The numbered questions are the ones to respond to and the accompanying text underneath offers ways to consider and engage with them. Some of those questions will resonate and you’ll have immediate clarity. Some may not have immediate answers but may spark a sense of recognition or insight. You may want to take more than one pass at it, depending on how 'deep' you go. It’s all good, take what you like and leave the rest.

I think of the time invested in this as an important holiday gift to myself and my organisation. Take it slow, it helps to be relaxed and easy about the process. Given that I have a stationery fetish, I tend to use a fancy notebook and coloured pens to scrawl and mind-map and type up the key findings later. There may or may not be mulled wine involved…do whatever feels closest to fun! I hope that you find it valuable.





1. In the last year, what did I enjoy the most? What did I accomplish?

Celebration is a highly effective tool for creating further good stuff, so don’t shortcut, a wee bit of pride in yourself can be your dark secret😊

Note - for this and all of the questions; if you don’t know what to answer just put your pen on the page and start free-flow writing e.g. “I’m not sure what to write here, but I guess I just keep doing this until something helpful kicks in… yep just writing away until my head catches up with my hand…” It’ll come.

2. What did I enjoy the least? What were my biggest disappointments last year?

Time-limited to two minutes, as this is to acknowledge not to dwell!

3. What are my personal core values?

How you are when you are at your best. One of the easiest ways of figuring out your values is to imagine how in a perfect world you’d love others to describe or talk about you, or how you’d want to be remembered…

Try for 3-5 core values and have a short description with each, one or two lines, about what each one means to you.


4. How will I embody these values in the year ahead?

This is the heart of authentic leadership.

Imagine the tough decisions and actions you might need to take over the next year.

When and how may you need to inspire others?

What will the outcomes be if you are 100% true to your core values in those moments? See and feel yourself at the top of your leadership game as you respond to one of the Big Issues in the cold light of some grey rainy day in February (as that’s when this good stuff happens!)

Are there one or two values words that really resonate as your ‘touchstones’ for 2021. Post them up where you’ll see them regularly.

5. What are my personal leadership targets / goals for the year ahead?

(A target indicates a direction of travel and has less of a binary sense of ‘pass/fail’ than ‘goal’ so it may be worth adopting the term.)

The lower the number of targets the better, five is good, three is ideal. You should feel inspired and excited by each of them, an 8/10 or above on ‘enthusiasm to implement’!

A little nervousness is good, as it means you’re being ambitious, but if your self-talk is ‘I REALLY need to up my game this year to deliver these’ then maybe pause and check whether you feel ‘sparkly or serious’ as you read them. They are there to inspire more than ‘motivate’.

6. The Magic Ingredient

Imagine your top three miracles – the crazy or outlandish things you would LOVE to have happen even though you have no idea how. It’s okay nobody needs to know, another dark secret 😊 and this is possibly the most important step of all…Why? Because it puts fun into the serious business of running a charity


7. What will give me the best chance of hitting my targets?

I’m ambivalent about mid-range planning for personal targets and instead a great believer in tenaciously holding a longer-term vision (12 months in this case) and aligning that with regular habits.

What are the daily habits or actions that will move you towards your target? Creating sustainable habits is an art, there’s some interesting behavioural science behind it and a number of good resources out there to help (try James Clear's ‘Atomic Habits’)

At the same time, developing your clarity of vision and belief that It Will Happen provides a disproportionately high return on time and energy invested. A weekly habit of re-writing your targets and imagining them achieved is gold.

Finally, coming full circle to where we started -

celebrate your successes, ‘catch yourself doing something right’

and wherever possible, enjoy…

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