I’m going to find a new hobby.
I’m going to stick with the diet.
I’m going to finally take my dream vacation.
Sound familiar? These are all perfectly good examples of New Year’s resolutions so many of us tend to make in one form or another. All too often things start out strong, but the best laid plans seem to go by the wayside after a while as other priorities take over.
What about in the office, though? Doesn’t the “out with the old, in with the new” mantra hold water for your business New Year’s resolutions, too? You know, identify shop wrinkles to be ironed, corporate bolts to be tightened, and so on…
Of course. Constantly setting goals and objectives is a hallmark of good businesses everywhere, and there are few better times to do that than right after the shouts of Happy New Year ring! But, just like inevitable resistance in your personal life, excitement inspired by the annual ball drop is likely to fizzle once customer needs start piling up and new fires need putting out, leading to more important balls being dropped at work.
So, this year we’re going to provide you with some ideas for strong business New Year’s resolutions as a first step. Then we’ll offer tips on how to keep them going despite the daily grind. Knowing what needs to be done for your business and laying out a plan can help you end the second decade of the 21st Century as if it were 1999.
You know your organization best, and we’re certainly not here to tell you how to run it. Our goal is merely to plant the right seeds that will help you consider your workplace in a constructive light based on our years of interacting with business leaders across industries.
Resolution #1: Work on Those Listening Skills in the Workplace
“You heard me, but you weren’t listening” may seem like a silly catchphrase to some. But, like most other expressions, it’s grounded in experience. When you lightly respond to employee feedback with words like “Sure,” “Uh-huh,” or “Okay,” you send the message that you hear the feedback, but you’re not actively listening to it.
It’s one thing to offer opportunities for feedback or even a full open-door policy, but employees can see through hollow promises. Like all people, they feel valued when they recognize that their opinions actually matter. Active listening in the workplace boosts company morale from the shop floor to the executive team, which affects work ethic, loyalty, and other important intangibles down the line.
Resolution #2: Empower Your People (Constantly) to Start Enjoying the Benefits of Employee Development
As a business leader, what others say about your company reflects directly on you. This can sometimes translate to micromanagement due to a sense of fear that things won’t be done exactly the way you hope. In no way is this healthy, and it prevents you from leveraging the benefits of employee development.
This style of leadership not only places a greater burden on you by overflowing your plate, it demonstrates quite clearly that you don’t trust your team. Empowerment is the great counterweight to this costly micromanagement threat. You’ve hired people for a reason, let them prove you right! After all, if they’re not stretching, they’re not growing. If they’re not taking risks, they’re not gaining confidence. And if they’re not failing, they’re not learning what it takes to become the leaders you ultimately need them to be.
Resolution #3: If You’re Having Trouble Delegating, Delegate the Delegation
Despite being one of the more cliché answers to the classic interview question “Tell me about one of your weaknesses,” difficulty delegating is nevertheless an affliction we’ve all faced at one time or another. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you can get things done quicker by doing them yourself, or that the only way something will turn out well is by rolling up your own sleeves.
Delegation of tasks is a natural outflow of trust and empowerment, and is an essential piece of any great employee development and growth plan. As a leader, your job is to focus on the big picture. If Bono spent half his time erecting scaffolding or tweaking sound boards before shows rather than preparing his band and business team, U2 would have a lot fewer tour dates. Whether you’re running a Fortune 500 or a rock concert, spreading the division of labor keeps everyone engaged in the right ways to produce the best output.
Resolution #4: Double Down on Your People by Investing in a Plan for Employee Growth and Development
What’s one of the best ways to build up trust in your workforce so you feel comfortable empowering and delegating? Invest in them. The positive outcomes of actively developing your team members into better employees—and, for that matter, better people—far outweigh the time and money you spend to accomplish this. A focus on employee growth and development shows them you care about their careers and want them to have a future on your team. What could be more motivating than that?
And let’s be honest, an employee growth and development plan directly impacts your bottom line. If you’re sending people to conferences and seminars, holding team-building retreats, introducing mentorship programs, and the like, then they’re only going to get better. Among the benefits of employee development is their success becoming your success. Great companies not only have great leadership, they have great talent.
Resolution #5: Don’t Be Afraid to Cut Your Losses and Move On
Whether or not Einstein was truly the first to define insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” it’s still a genius insight. Simply stated, if a particular process, technique, philosophy, or some other tenet of your business isn’t working—no matter how endeared to it you may be—then it’s time to change tack. This includes employees. No matter how much promise someone may have shown, if that person won’t respond to your coaching or employee growth and development ideas, tough decisions need to be made for the welfare of the larger team.
Not all pegs start square nor holes round. Sometimes things that used to work well together change slowly enough that you don’t even realize that they’re now working against you. The that’s how we’ve always done it excuse really has no place in the modern working world. So take risks, stay on top of trends, and, above all, listen to your people!
When some people hear that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February, they get depressed and see little hope in their own stick-to-itiveness. Not us. We hear that and immediately focus on the outlying 20% still going strong with their business New Year’s resolutions. Here are some tried and true techniques that can help put you into that fabulous fifth of determined leaf-turners bent on seeing their goals through.
Make Your Goals Public
JFK challenged NASA to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s by announcing his vision to the world. Literally. Quite the approach to accountability, don’t you think?
Documenting your goals is important, but telling as many people as possible is what really lights a fire. When you have the added weight of external expectations, you’re more likely to succeed. It does no good to keep people—particularly employees—in the dark about objectives that not only affect them, but that they could actively contribute toward reaching. Establishing objectives and employee growth and development ideas together and openly discussing them (like in our Best-Self Reviews) creates mutual encouragement and shared accountability.
Keep Asking Why
Talk to advertising wordsmiths the world over about what gets people to say yes to their ads and they’ll tell you it’s the benefits, not the features. You don’t buy a hammer because you want a durable, flat-ended piece of steel to complete your toolkit ensemble. You buy a hammer because you want a hole.
If you’re looking to accomplish a particular goal, keep asking “why” until you uncover the core reason behind it. This is what will keep you galvanized to continue with your resolution. For instance, simply figuring out a flextime system isn’t going to inspire an all-hands meeting to get the ball rolling. What will, however, is conveying the various benefits of such a system. Motivate your employees by allowing them to spend more time with their families and demonstrate trust in their ability to get work done on a schedule that works for them.
Ground Your Ideas and Expectations for Employee Growth And Development in Reality
In 2017, world-renowned rock climber Alex Honnold summited Yosemite’s famous El Capitan, a 3,000-foot wall of sheer 90-degree granite, without the use of ropes or gear. You can call him insane, but you can’t call him unprepared. A climber since childhood, Honnold gradually built up to his unthinkable feat on El Cap. He then spent months climbing it with ropes, practicing every move until he was supremely confident in his ability to make it with no equipment at all.
The moral? Start small when crafting an employee growth and development plan. Use methods like S.M.A.R.T. Don’t overwhelm yourself or your team with an unrealistic vision. The greatest corporations in the world started by chipping away at manageable goals, which then puts them in a position to create loftier ones. No need to set yourself up for failure by trying to free solo El Cap before you can even reach the top of the local indoor climbing wall.
Put Milestones in Place
If the Wright Brothers had started off by simply throwing a motor and propeller on a giant kite and then giving up because of discouraging results, human flight would have a much different backstory. Rather, they began by researching previous experiments and observing how things like birds and kites fly.
Then they added mechanisms to unpowered gliders based on this information that would allow them to control three-dimensional direction. This was followed by introducing propulsion in order to move in the desired direction. Eventually, this sequence ended in self-propelled flight, changing the course of history.
The Wright system was effective because of its focus on one step at a time. Depending on the scope of your goals, you may very well have a lot of moving parts. Putting an employee growth and development plan in place with milestones makes the larger vision more attainable by breaking it into manageable phases. It also helps you track progress, make adjustments, and celebrate wins along the way to stoke that fire.
Consider what you can do to become a better employer, manager, partner, and client. Maybe your business New Year’s resolutions will match the ones we’ve mentioned here, or you might come up with others even more relevant to your mission. Maybe you’ve found our tips and tricks for implementing these effectively to be helpful, or you could already have your own tactics locked and loaded.
Either way, just remember that your people look to you as their north star. Building your resolve with them in mind will only strengthen theirs.
David Mizne is Communications Manager at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, objectives (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and 360 reviews. David’s articles have also appeared on The Next Web & The Economist. Follow him @davidmizne.