– By Dr. William Schiemann, Special to The Newnan Times-Herald
It’s that time of year again to think about change, improvement, and new achievements for your company in 2017. But research proves that 92% of New Year’s resolutions fail. So one may say, why bother? Instead, perhaps you should go about those resolutions in a more effective way.
There are a number of reasons why business resolutions fail. But having studied and worked with successful companies for over three decades, there are some secrets to success. So to get your company off to a great start, consider these tips:
1. Set a baseline. Spend some time with your team to reflect on your past accomplishments. The new year is a perfect time to take stock of where you are and where you want to go as an organization at any level – the entire company, a department, or a team. Creating a list of accomplishments for 2016 is a good starting place. Even if your unit is doing routine work such as processing payroll, celebrate your on-time performance or accuracy. It requires work to do those things well. Other departments can celebrate new sales, products, processes, or customers.
2. Reaffirm your vision and mission. Today’s workforce, especially millennials, wants to be a part of an organization that makes a difference. Have you translated your purpose and mission into terms that employees can rally around? If not, take a day to work through this; even better is building or updating a compelling story with teams of employees from different functions, levels, and locations. When done, you have a rallying cry that everyone understands and buys into.
3. Help your employees reflect. Ask your employees to spend some introspective time reflecting on their life goals and the role of their work in that. While this may sound soft and squishy to you, I assure you it is not. Achieving fulfillment in life is important to nearly every person we interviewed recently in our research. Offer them resources to help that thinking – books, training, a webinar, or a mentor. What we are discovering in our research is that fulfilled employees are far more productive because they are more aligned, capable and engaged with the organization. Unfulfilled people either leave or stay in a way that is debilitating for others.
4. Set realistic and stretch goals that will energize people. The realistic targets should be ones that you are fairly confident that you can accomplish. It’s best to break those up into smaller milestones that will allow you to celebrate accomplishments throughout the year. The stretch targets create a bit of risk and challenge, which, as we learned from our research, create greater fulfillment for people. Most of the highly fulfilled people in our study reflected back to times along the way in which they took risks and had some of their best learnings in life.
5. Measure, measure, measure. Vague goals never really generate much momentum. A long history of psychological research tells us that goals which are specific and measureable are the most motivating and likely to be accomplished. Nearly everything at work, even softer things like employee engagement or customer loyalty, can be measured. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth measuring. If you don’t know how to set up measurements, ask your HR or quality department or bring in outside resources – it’s not that hard if you know what you’re doing.
6. Feedback. We also know from years of research that performance feedback is critical in enabling people to make course corrections in pursuit of goals. Without good feedback, we are often distracted by competing demands. Today this is a big issue with the constant bombardment of information and many alternatives competing for our time. Timely, frequent feedback from a respected source – a measure, customers, or a supervisor – will provide that extra momentum boost to reach those resolutions which otherwise will go unfinished.
7. Accountability. While most of us take responsibility for actions leading to those agreed upon goals, stuff happens. It helps to have rewards tied to the accomplishment of goals. Stretch goals should be rewarded handsomely. Rewards are the last element that will provide the finishing touches to keep your resolutions on track.
Lastly, it pays to jump on these early in the year while there is plenty of time to launch new plans and goals. Remember, it will be impossible to accomplish stretch goals by doing the same thing you have done before. If you innovate and take new approaches, you'll set yourself up for success in 2017.
Sidebar: Ready, set, go
Ellie White-Stevens, owner of local marketing company Dirt1x (do it right the first time), said procrastination is one of the biggest enemies to executing a plan.
“When I work with clients, typically I’ll tell them when we’re meeting, my and their enemy is not that they’ll choose a different marketing agency to work with, but the real enemy is that they’ll do nothing,” Stevens said. “We enter the new year with incredible hope for the future and we may even have a great plan, but those are not enough. You actually have to have action.”
Stevens said she recommends a business owner spending time on tasks that generate revenue and build business relationships.
“We can easily get so wrapped up in building a business, and doing things that aren’t revenue generating, that we never light the fire under ourselves. We never light on our own rocket fuel. There are people who spend loads and loads of time putting together detailed marketing plans and they never look at it again. It becomes a shelf book and is no good to anybody.”
“My advice to a business owners is once you get the train running and headed toward the right destination, trains are hard to stop, but they’re also hard to start. Overcoming your own inertia and getting activity in the right direction is the first step to success.”
Stevens said it’s important to set small goals that are effective and measurable.
“You can’t just hope and set goals,” she said. “You’ll have to tackle them and do the right things to reach them.”