Listen to Les McKeown read this blog post:
The first quarter of the year is a vitally important time for you and your team.
If you’re going to hit your strategic goals, it’s what happens now that provides the foundation for the rest of the year.
Nonetheless, many growth leaders will drift through Q1 with a subconscious notion that ‘there’s plenty of time left to get it right’, and, as a result, they are left scrambling in the middle (or worse, at the end) of the year to achieve the goals they set.
What can you do in Q1 to optimize your team’s performance?
Start with these 7 steps:
1. Identify the low hanging fruit.
Successful teams know how to score. Find the low-hanging fruit in your strategic plans – those goals that are easiest to put a fat green checkmark beside – and convert them early.
Build your team’s confidence early and they’ll stretch further and for ever-larger goals.
2. Watch for adjustments to make.
One thing is absolutely certain: Your strategic plan is wrong.
Somewhere, there’s an incorrect assumption, a wrongly identified challenge, an ill-defined goal. The sooner you spot those things that are wrong and correct them, the more confidence everyone will have in the plan itself.
"Build your team’s confidence and they’ll stretch further and for ever-larger goals." - Les McKeown, Founder and CEO, Predictable Success
3. Murder your darlings.
The renowned English author Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch once observed that good writing depends on the writer having the fortitude to ‘murder their darlings’. (Personally, I’m very well aware of how easy it is to become fascinated with some piece of literary brilliance I’ve penned, only to have a brave editor point out that it’s florid, indulgent nonsense.)
Similarly, we all have pet projects that find their way into our growth plans for our organization - instead of indulging them, you meed to spend Q1 finding them and ruthlessly rooting them out.
Hint: Find a coach or mentor who can help you be ruthlessly constructive in reviewing your goals for those which are core, and those which are your 'personal darlings'.
4. Watch entropy.
Most organizations have their own entropy – an inward gravitational pull back to the decaying shadow of what we did back in our glory days.
Achieving this year’s goals will almost certainly in some way challenge how you have done things in the past (and if they don’t, they’re probably sub-optimal goals).
Your people, even – especially – your best people, will be drawn to the old ways of doing things. It’s your job to step in early and arrest that drift. New processes, new systems, new cultural approach - they're all your responsibility to uphold, maintain and develop.
5. Call out recalcitrants.
Giving in to a gravitational pull is one thing, overtly conflicting with where the organization is headed is quite another.
If you have mavericks on board, Q1 is the time to call them out. Wait longer and they will build a caucus, which will make it harder for you to fix.
6. Make yourself nauseous.
Repetition is a surprisingly large part of success.
Watch a world-class tennis player or golfer, for example, and you’ll see them go through precisely the same pre-shot routine over and over again.
The players who get bored with routine and are unpredictable in the interstices between shots? - those are the journeymen who bulk up the field.
In the first quarter of the year, your goal should be to repeat your business, division, department, project, group or team’s Overarching Medium-term Goal (OMG) so often that you feel physically nauseous at the thought of doing so again.
This is the time to make sure everyone gets it, without exception.
7. Declare amnesty.
Here’s a weird thing: Often strategic goals get little traction in Q1 because everyone is so busy autopsying screw-ups from the previous year’s Q4 (particularly if it was a bad quarter), or, even autopsying the whole of the previous year.
Do yourself, your team, and this year’s strategic goals a favor – declare amnesty on the stuff that’s sucking the air out of the room every time you get together.