• Estimated read time: 5 mins
  • Date posted:12/12/2018
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The holiday season is a natural time to reflect on the past 12-months and set personal and business goals for 2019. This exercise can be especially valuable for business leaders who can use this period of introspection to make an honest critique of what they achieved, and what they missed.

Many life sciences executives shy away from this type of exercise, especially if the year was difficult or disappointing. To them, the past was yesterday.

Although this resistance is understandable, by looking back and gaining important insights from our failures as well as successes, we are in a better position to look forward and keep our organisations and careers on an even keel. We can even bring closure to more unpleasant events and start establishing strategic goals that set us up for success in the new year.

The holiday season in an opportune moment to make these reflections. When you occupy a senior management or executive position, there may be no better time to think about situations that have taken place and experiences that affected us for better or worse. To get you started, here are 5 powerful techniques that will help you reflect and prepare for a prosperous 2019.

1. What was my greatest accomplishment?

If you’re like most executives and assigned yourself some personal goals at the outset of 2018, now is the time to examine them and see how you measured up.

Make a list of your personal accomplishments. Include everything from big wins like the delivery of a successful project or gaining a promotion to smaller achievements, such as polishing your personal brand or learning new skills. Don’t be surprised if this exercise leaves you feeling fired up for 2019 in itself – these exercises are known for creating a sense of accomplishment.

Now think about the one accomplishment that you value above all others.  Ask yourself these simple questions:

  1. Was this accomplishment your personal goal for the year or the product of an unexpected event? In either case, you will feel confident and empowered because of your achievement.
  2. What results did you achieve? Did you receive a promotion? Raise your organisation’s profile? Lead a successful project that gave you more visibility in the industry?
  3. What expertise did you gain? Did this accomplishment help you acquire new skills or insights that you could apply to a future career move or project?
  4. What did you improve? Did you streamline operations at your organisation? Or was it a personal improvement that will stand you well in the future?
  5. What makes it significant? In other words, how did the outcome make a positive impact on your career? Did you achieve industry recognition? An increase in salary?

Think about how you achieved this success. Are there steps or strategies you used that could be employed when pursuing future goals? Or did you sacrifice so much in terms of time and resources that you should rethink your approach to a similar objective in future? However you obtained your accomplishment, take a moment to congratulate yourself.

2. Who was my biggest champion?

As the saying goes, no man is an island. Your professional relationships with colleagues and partners are essential to career success, so nurturing these relationships is just as essential.

Think about who helped you achieve your goals. Don’t limit your gratitude to those who delivered in a really big way. Small gestures matter too. Think about those who:

  • Stepped in to help when you were overwhelmed or at a loss as to how to solve a problem.
  • Provided valuable encouragement when you were discouraged.
  • Listened to your ideas and offered suggestions that made them even better.
  • Brought a potentially difficult situation to your attention so you could address it before it spiralled out of control.

These people are your friends, supporters, and cheerleaders. Make sure that you acknowledge how they helped you and thank them sincerely.

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3. Who did I help?

As the previous reflection suggests, success in the job is all about give and take. So what did you give in 2018?

As you think about all the ways that you helped others, consider who they were. Did you only go out of your way for fellow executives, or were you equally supportive of junior members of the team? Was your help limited to those on your team or across the organisation? Similarly, were you only helpful in the office and less forthcoming with volunteering initiatives?

Depending on your circumstances, you may wish to consider spreading your support to a wider network. Alternatively, if you did not assist anyone, make it one of your 2019 goals.

The more you think about your connections, you may realize that you’ve lost touch with former co-workers, old friends or once-valued connections. Think about reconnecting with them.

4. What didn’t I accomplish?

We start each year with the intention of accomplishing certain goals or personal projects. If you accomplished all the goals in 2018, congratulations! (and we want to know your secret.)

Most people, however, achieve only some of their objectives. Acknowledging this fact is not admitting failure; it’s the first step to avoid repeating the same mistakes in future.

Now that the end of the year is drawing close, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What goals were abandoned or forgotten?
  • Which projects were not started or completed?
  • Which projects did you attempt but could not complete due to lack of time, resources, etc.?
  • If you missed an opportunity, why?

Take some time to think about what lessons these failed goals and uncompleted projects could teach you. Reviewing times when you did not perform to the best of your ability or completed sub-par work can help you assess where you might need help and guidance in future and how you can be more successful the next time around.

5. What excites me in 2019?

What are you excited about in the coming year? Incorporate them somehow in your goals for 2019 and make sure that you plan for the necessary resources to accomplish them. On the other hand, if you really can’t think of anything that you’re looking forward to, it’s time to get creative. For example, you can:

  • Plan to take professional development courses and seminars that will increase your knowledge and help you discover new interests and passions
  • Read industry journals to learn about prominent professionals, research breakthroughs, and other areas that may spark your interest.
  • If you’re really unmotivated for 2019, ask yourself, is it time to move on to pastures new?


The ability to reflect on the past is a valuable skill, one that’s just as important as planning for the future. Looking back provides insight into your personal and professional development, allows you to think critically about good and bad experiences, and strengthens your understanding of both so that you can make more informed decisions in the future.


For more career advice tailored to senior managers and executives in the life science industry…

* Fraser Dove International is a specialist executive search firm operating exclusively in the Life Science industry. Passionate about people, we take pride in helping exceptional life science organisations source the talent they need to design, manufacture and distribute life-changing drugs, treatments and devices which transform and save patient lives.