Happy New Year!
Not only is it important to set goals for the New Year, but it also makes sense to take some time to reflect on the successes and setbacks from 2018. Below are four suggestions on how leaders can use insights and learnings from the year just past to shape their organizational growth plan for 2019.
Strategy #1: Look for underlying trends. Let’s say you hit your budget. That’s awesome! Congratulations! Celebrate! But you should also ask: What trends made that possible? How did you hit your budget? Very often, we celebrate success, but we don't devote enough time to analyzing it, so we can figure out what happened and replicate it. Of course, we also want to analyze the situations where we didn’t succeed at the level we’d hoped. Ask yourself and your key people what major trends made things difficult for you to hit the goals you missed. Figure out all the underlying trends – changes in the employment market, for instance – that made things come together in the way they did this year. Figure out how you want to address the trends that connect to challenges, so you don’t face the same problems in 2019. In particular, you will want to look for underlying patterns affecting your sales process. What causes deals to speed up? Where are things getting stuck in the pipeline? Why? Are there any common patterns that are showing up across salespeople and across teams that you should be looking at?
A word of advice before we move on to the next strategy: Don’t try to do this all on your own. Ask for help. For instance: Each team in your organization could work on identifying two or three things they did well in 2018 that they want to replicate this year, and also the challenges they definitely would not like to repeat. Study the feedback!
Strategy #2. Do a process check. This is not about micromanagement or about looking over people’s shoulders and checking for minute errors. It’s more about making sure you are capturing best practices, and making sure your people have the tools they need to follow those best practices. Are you up to speed as an organization in terms of updating and sharing the most important processes you used in 2018? Have you updated your playbooks for 2019? Are you replicating what you know for certain works, or does everybody still have their own individual way of doing X?
Strategy #3. Focus on personal metrics. Each manager should look back on 2018 and ask: “Does every one of my direct reports have an up-to-date personal metric he or she can track – one that connects to daily, weekly, and quarterly performance totals?” Look closely at what happened in 2018 and identify a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that the individual employee can execute independently, count, and keep track of in 2019. An example of a great KPI for a salesperson might be Total Voice-to-Voice Conversations with New Prospective Buyers. Notice that this is both quantifiable and something that the individual employee has total control over. It’s not dependent on on someone else's decisions or actions. It’s part of the individual salesperson’s job! Use such KPIs to build daily, weekly, and quarterly behavior targets, as part of the employee’s “cookbook.”
Strategy #4: Focus on the intangibles, not just the tangibles. As you review all the essential events of 2018 – the good, the bad, and the ugly – be sure to look for both tangible and intangible areas of potential improvement. Tangibles are things you can count or document, like Strategies one through three above. Intangibles tend to be based on your own personal sense of what should happen next. Typically they are the personal obstacles you face as a leader – the lessons you know intuitively that you still have to master. Take time to identify at least a couple of events in 2018 that pointed you toward a specific area where you still have room to grow in terms of your own leadership potential. For instance: “I should be doing a better job of celebrating victories whenever teams achieve an important short-term goal.” If you can’t think of any intangible areas where you could improve as a leader … you’re not looking hard enough!