This is the time of year when responsible leaders and teams are wrapping up the year and polishing off preparations for the new year.
They began in September with strategic planning sessions. From those sessions, they established a 90-day plan to execute specific year-end objectives and prepare new-year initiatives. As they near the holidays, they are on schedule to wrap up the year-end / new-year package with a bow, and after a break, they will return in January to execute the initiatives for which they have prepared.
The bigger reality is this…
On or around December 15, leaders everywhere kick into “reflection and idea” mode and hastily email their teams with a very long and loosely defined list of their year-end and new-year objectives. To this list, they will add all unfinished projects for the year, as they realize the targets that have been missed.
They will pass out the proverbial holiday gifts and leave the office for a much-needed break…while their team works to do in two weeks what realistically should have been done over a 90-day period.
The reality is, this is how many leaders operate by default. They know they need to plan prior to each quarter, but they don’t actually get around to it until the last month of the quarter in many cases. This stresses their teams and ultimately produces less-than-stellar results.
Why does this happen?
One reason is that leaders and teams have more on their plates than ever. Where in decades past, the inputs came via limited means (phone, mail, physical inbox, and in-person requests); the inputs today are limitless and constant.
Another reason this happens can be related to the strengths of the leader and the team. There are leaders with strengths in planning, and there are leaders who do their best work under imminent deadline. Team members have similar patterns of how they get things done. The mix of speeds and thought can be challenging; but it can also be complementary.
What can you do to get things done without frustrating your team?
Know your strengths-based habits and those of your team.
For example, if you are one of those leaders who does your best work under imminent deadline, this is actually a strength. But don’t assume your team operates in similar fashion. In fact, having a team that takes the time to address details is a benefit to the “imminent deadline” type of leader.
The key to ensuring your ideas are carried out without undue stress on your team is to simply set two deadlines – one for you to share the idea and another for your team to complete the process – and to ensure there is adequate space between the two.
Discuss with your team realistic benchmarks, and plan accordingly. If you have team members who thrive under imminent deadline, give them benchmarked deadlines that fall prior to the conclusion of the project. It is a matter of creating a pace that flows together and keeps things moving toward defined goals. The key is to know the strengths of your team and ensure those strengths work together.
Plan the last month of the quarter.
It is likely you are already doing this…except that the quarter you are planning may be the one you are currently in!
If so, it is time to recalibrate. You can do this right now by following these steps. Be reasonable in your assessment and discuss realistic expectations with your team.
- Determine what three things absolutely must be done to finish out this month.
- Determine what three things absolutely must be done in preparation for the upcoming quarter.
- Determine what three things absolutely must be done during the next quarter.
Divide and conquer the six items on the list that must be completed and prepared before the next quarter begins.
Three things does not sound like a lot, but if they are the right things, you will accomplish major initiatives over the course of the year. This is the value of focus and forethought.
In the last month of the next quarter, repeat the process above. By that point, the process will be smoother; and by a third round, if done well, things will be running like clockwork.
Annual planning is a plus, though in the current business climate, expect that you will need to make quarterly adjustments to your course.
Value the different perspectives.
Extrovert leaders tend to move fast and generate ideas quickly. These are strengths.
Introverts are those who do the details that make the ideas a reality.
Their perspectives are different, and both are needed. In taking the time to adjust for the different perspectives on your team and including your team in goal setting and planning, you have the potential to get the new and important things done (the extrovert perspective) and done right (the introvert perspective). In a world of strong competition, this marriage of speed and quality is a win-win.
According to an article on Inc.com, “Research suggests that in an eight-hour day, the average worker is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes.”
This can mostly be attributed to the distraction factor – a combination of all the input mechanisms in the workplace today. Consider the fact that your people may be overwhelmed. As a leader, your role is to create a highly functional team and protect its focus. You can’t do this if you are part of the overwhelm equation.
For the sake of your goals and the productivity of your team, take some time to recalibrate for this quarter and lay a quick framework for next quarter today. Boil it down as shown above to realistic expectations, and you will be that much closer to goal by year-end. You will start the year with three clear objectives and a team that is recharged and ready to go.
As the CEO of Strength Leader Development, Deb Ingino is a highly sought-after international executive mentor, coach, trainer and speaker. Deb is well versed in global business operations and helps business leaders and their teams to discover and leverage their strengths, so they can create highly collaborative teams that deliver great results. With a refreshingly direct style, Deb helps leaders and their teams to deliver profitable results. Connect with Deb to learn more about her mentorship and coaching programs to equip you with advanced strategies to elevate your results.