How To End The Year Strong – And Start The New One Even Stronger
For marathon runners, they call it the final 6.2. It’s those final miles of the race—the difference between your crazy fit friend who “ran 20 miles today,” and being counted among those that have run the most famous race in human history. Interestingly enough, when you’re training for a marathon, most people never run those final 6.2 miles. Instead, they save them for the day of the race. And with enough mental toughness and proper training, those are the miles that make or break you. We have now entered our final 6.2: what those of us in the world of business call “Q4.”
For some of us, we’ve been waiting for this push all year. But for most of us, it feels like an opportunity to slow down. Clients are in the office less, deadlines are being punted to “next year,” and everyone’s a little more focused on the office holiday party versus their team’s numbers. But not you. Because you know that “next year” is actually just a few weeks away. And the best way to get started on a strong year ahead is to absolutely crush the little bit of this year that you have left. Here’s how you do it.
We talk about goals on here plenty. You’d think that our readers would have had enough of it by now! But as Imagine LLC’s David Fletcher points out, nearly half of salespeople aren’t actually hitting their goals. And we can talk about how that might be the salesperson’s fault, but too often we forget to also see where there may be problems with the goals themselves.
Fletcher goes on: “The key here is to look into where opportunities have been lost in the sales process and begin to build a sales training program around those issues. … Far too often, sales teams are focused on meeting numbers that may not be the true driver of positive results.” So rather than focus on setting goals in the fourth quarter, we want to take stock of the goals that we’ve already been tackling. Which goals are you closest to reaching? Which goals at this point are unreachable? Do you feel that some have proven to be more valuable than others? Have you hit certain goals that don’t seem to be affecting growth in a positive way? As you continue to strive toward a strong finish, take stock of what’s worked for you this year. If it doesn’t fit into that category, it might be worth throwing out as you set goals for next year.
Don’t Go Dark
As managers, and even employees, it can be easy to let things sort of “shut down” in December. You figure that people are going to be away, that things will inevitably slip through the cracks, or that folks simply aren’t interested in “new” topics when closing out the year. But the data shows that that’s far from true. Let’s take sales, for example. HubSpot’s Aja Frost reminds us that for many, December is a month to make the most of use it or lose it budgets: “companies often review last year’s spend to figure out how much to allocate for the coming year. Suppose a senior manager only uses $600,000 of her $700,000 budget in 2016. She’ll probably get $600,000 in 2017. That manager will probably jump at the chance to spend her remaining $100,000 on a valuable solution while securing her budget for next year.”
So what does Frost recommend you do to see where that budget is at in December? “Ask.” But even if you’re not in sales—or even an external facing part of your company, for that matter—communication at the end of the year remains a deeply important part of finishing strong, keeping our employees engaged, and starting off the new year on the right foot.
The companies that post the strongest year-over-year numbers aren’t the ones that get things started on January 1. They’re the companies that are already in motion by then. That means that before everyone goes off for the holidays, you’ve got the perfect opportunity as a manager to communicate your hopes for the new year, and get your employees focused on how they can kick things off with a bang. Whether it’s taking the time to have meaningful reviews, opening your doors for a chat about ways to improve—both at the employee level and at the organizational level—or taking some time to outline KPIs, don’t mistake the end of the year as a time to go dark. Instead, make it a chance to spread a message of motivation on top of all that holiday cheer.
Make The Rest Count
It’s important for us to pause and talk about what a slam dunk pun this one is. Because it’s not just about making the rest of your year count, but making your—and just as importantly your employees’—time off feel like it’s actually time off. Yes, we’re talking about taking a break from work. Some call it “vacation.” As our friends over at the PayScale blog point out, in addition to seeing increased productivity, “Employees who take time off from work report feeling less stress, less anxiety, and fewer instances of depression. … They’re also less likely to seek another job, and they cost less to employ thanks to higher attendance and fewer health insurance claims.”
And if all that wasn’t enough, they go on to point out, “when employees take time away, they actually report that difficult tasks seem easier when they return.” The proof is in the pudding: time off is good for your employees. And since it lines up with school holiday vacations, the end of December is often the perfect time to encourage your employees to take a few well-deserved days away from the office to truly reset. At the end of the day (or year, really), what finishing well and starting strong comes down to is respect: respect for each others’ time, our work, and our goals both in the present and the future. Give yourself and your team the respect we all deserve, and you’ll be amazed at what a productive time December can truly be.