I used to love the sharp, fresh smell of ink and paper as I opened a new book and heard the creak of the spine cracking. Old, musty, and worn school readers gave off a sweet, warm odor that promised hours of entertainment and adventure.

Books don’t seem to smell that way anymore. A New Book of Blank PagesThat’s probably a good thing since the ink and paper was likely toxic. Now I prefer to read books electronically for portability, instantly looking up unfamiliar words, search ability, website links, and ease of copying key research, passages, or insights into my database. But e-book pages and virtual ink doesn’t smell quite the same!

A New Year is like a new book. It promises entertainment, adventure, insights, and learning. And we start the year with blank pages (or screens) waiting for us to write our own story.

The American humorist, and often curmudgeonly Samuel Clements (more commonly known by his pen name, Mark Twain), once quipped, “Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” An unknown cynic piled on with, “Many people look forward to the New Year for a new start on old habits.” Like the dog who resolves not to chase the stick before it actually leaves your hand, changing old habits is tough!

Of course, whether we author empty plans and soon-to-be-broken resolutions is entirely up to us. Our fate is in our own hands. That’s the title of my article that TMS Learning Exchange Update just published in their Hopes, Coming Trends … and Dreams for 2012. Click on Our Fate is in Our Hands to read the article. It features one of my all-time favorite short stories on self-determination; The Man Who Sold Hot Dogs.

TMS is based in Australia. Having just come back from further service quality culture/leadership development work with Qantas Airlines in mid December, I was especially happy to respond to editor Nikki Mead’s request for my contribution.

Sydney is a modern, clean, and gorgeous city nestled in a series of beautiful bays and featuring their spectacular harbor with its iconic Opera House and famous bridge. They were getting it ready for showcasing their world renowned New Year’s Eve fireworks show. I spent a few extra days seeing more of the sights – and pubs – that I missed in my last trip (I’ll see more in February). Our workshop was at the beautiful Fairmont Resort in the picturesque Blue Mountains just west of Sydney. Our executive group took very literally the resort’s motto “change your outlook” during our three-day LEADERSHIFT retreat.

Tomorrow’s issue of The Leader Letter pulls together my December blogs and is aimed at helping you and your team strengthen your culture, leadership skills, and habits. As always, the goal is to move from knowing to doing.

So take the time to get yourself focused and plan how you’ll shift from me to we, as you use all the strength of the people in your organization. Develop your encouragement and support muscles and increase recognition, appreciation, and celebration. And, do you need to have a few courageous conversations to write new chapters on openness, trust, and transparency?