by Asher Raphael, enterpreneur.com, 28th December, 2015 – As many die-hard baseball fans know all too well, you can’t win the pennant in April — but you can lose it. The same sentiment rings true for businesses at the start of each year. While a great first quarter doesn’t necessarily guarantee a banner year, a terrible first quarter will absolutely ensure a year that falls short of expectations. That’s why it’s imperative to make your employees feel energized and motivated — almost as if they are being shot out of a cannon — as the new year begins.
It’s a challenging feat no doubt, especially as many return to the office feeling weary after a long and busy holiday season. However, it’s critical to ensuring a successful year and worth the time, energy and investment it takes to be done right. It’s also the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the natural inclination most of us feel to start the new year with new goals and aspirations on both a professional and personal level.
As your new fiscal year gets underway in the coming weeks, consider the following:
1. Don’t forget to look back.
While everyone views the start of the new year as a chance to wipe the slate clean and get a fresh start, not enough businesses take the time to reflect on both positive and negative trends from the previous twelve months of measurable results. A crucial component of good leadership is accurately communicating the goal and vision of the company, something that, unlike a mission statement, should ebb and flow from year to year.
Just as the President of the United States begins each year with the State of the Union address, it’s important for every business leader to acknowledge the state of his / her business and lay out new, specific goals that are in line with the current vision and realities on the ground.
2. Put success within reach.
Now is the time to define not just long-term goals but also short-term milestones that are both aspirational and achievable. Consider putting out your biggest goals in the first quarter, thereby allowing for some immediate wins and setting the standard for what’s possible for the year. After a huge first quarter, both individuals and departments will redefine their own expectations and set out to achieve year-end goals that on Jan. 1 would have seemed unattainable.
3. Make it personal.
To be a great manager and leader you have to know, understand and care about your people. The goals they are setting for themselves at the beginning of the year are most likely both professional and personal goals and can reveal volumes about their motivations on a number of levels. Make it a point to acknowledge and encourage those goals in some way.
I’ve made it a tradition at the start of each year to ask each employee to write down one short-term and long-term professional goal, one family-related goal, one health-related goal and one spiritual goal. Each list is placed in an envelope, sealed and opened during year-end reviews. Not only does it help people feel accountable and aware of the permanent nature of their goals, but it also allows their managers greater insight into the things that are most important to each of their team members as individuals and human beings.
Perhaps most importantly, every business leader should lead by example. If you want your people to feel energized and motivated at the outset of a new year, you need to feel the same way. Taking time to get away, recharge and reflect outside of your typical day-to-day grind will enable you to look at things from a different perspective and with a clear head as the calendar turns to 2016.