Every year at this time people sit down to write a "to do" list of items that they feel will help them improve certain aspects of their life. Looking out at the next year, as we routinely do, is a healthy exercise.
We all know that New Year resolutions about losing weight or organising the garage may not last more than a few weeks, but it's possible to start the year with plans that will persist for a full 12 months - or even longer.
Like the often-repeated resolution of an out-of-shape person that 2012 will be different, resolutions for a business go nowhere if they entail recreating reality. Resolutions that push for incremental progress or for simple clarity of thought are the ones that stick.
So forget about that messy garage or extra inches in your waistline - for now, at least - and instead consider making resolutions which could work.
Indeed, for most businesses, competition is fiercer than ever. Business leaders must be on top of their game in order to survive.
That is why every business leader or manager must ask themselves: What are some points which will help my company or organisation run more smoothly. What can I change, what improvements can be made?
There is no doubt that the list will most likely begin with items such as: increase efficiency, stimulate productivity and enhance job satisfaction.
Here are some 2012 resolutions to build on.
When dealing with staff, notice what is right and not just what is wrong and compliment accordingly and timely; demonstrate the company’s values consistently in all that you do; make sure the instructions that you give are clear and sufficiently detailed otherwise you will be disappointed in the results received and it will be your own fault; step into your position. If you’re a manager act like one else you can’t expect to be treated and respected as one; give people candid feedback. It’s the only way they will develop;
Set goals together with your team that are beneficial to the company while realistic but a stretch; make sure there are no surprises in your team’s performance reviews. Feedback good and bad should be communicated on an on-going basis and delegate appropriately and remember your job is to manage, not to do.
So to complement the above, in 2012, give your goals a reality check; tune in to your employees; get caught in the Web; delegate; admit that you don't know everything, engage with customers; relive your failures, go back to school; embark on innovation and skills development training; make a leadership game plan; bring in the coach and push yourself and others to grow.
So, in 2012, the first thing to do is to give your goals a reality check. One of the keys to success is having an objective you want to reach, but to get there, you need to set a series of smaller goals along the way.
Each smaller goal should stretch you a little more but be reasonable, and as you figure out ways to reach each of them, you move yourself toward your long-term goal.
Tune in to your employees. Is yours the kind of workplace where when one person is swamped, another naturally helps carry the load? Or do your employees keep their heads down and do only the tasks that are theirs? Do your employees expect that for the company to win, they have to lose, or do they think a win-win scenario is possible?
Get caught in the Web. There's no point in waffling anymore: You must have a presence on the Web. So many potential clients are using the World Wide Web to search for vendors. It's the way people do business now. If you want to do business, you have to be there.
Give it up. Although your business may not be sucking the life out of you physically, if you continue to be a control freak as your business grows, you'll probably lose the mental sharpness and energy needed to keep your company successful. If your business is growing, don't be a martyr: Delegate.
Admit that you don't know everything. Your company or business was founded on a good idea. Don't let the flood of other good ideas that rushed in afterward drown your efforts.
It's common practice to check in periodically with major clients and verify that your firm is still on their minds, treating them right and deserving of their business.
Businesses that build strong relationships with their customers are those that will thrive. I encourage business leaders and their employees to engage with customers in person and through today's popular social media tools to foster customer loyalty and drive new business.
Relive your failures. The beginning of the year offers a clean slate, a chance to put problems behind you and move forward. A wiser way of looking at things might be to put any failings of the past year in the middle of the table and let everybody take a long, painful look at them.
Take some short courses. Continuing education, innovation and skills development training and other self-improvement programmes are good not only for employees, but also for the boss.
Continuing your education keeps you stimulated and gives you vital business information. When your employees start to think they know more than you do about your business, the first thing they lose is respect for you, and the second thing they lose is productivity. Let that not happen to you.
Ask your employees what your New Year's resolutions should be. It's a more active form of the open-door policy that many employees assume is just a policy, not a real opportunity for them to open up to you.
Business leaders should ask each of their employees to submit one idea they have for improving any part of the business, no matter how small. The employees see up close where things are bumpy and where they're smooth. If they're given permission, and even an invitation, to come forward with their opinions, they can point out all kinds of opportunities that you might miss on your own.
Remember everything worthwhile hurts at first. So while you're recovering from the holiday cheer, consider the fact that all of us have made New Year's resolutions that we didn't keep, but when executives fail to follow through on leadership and individual development plans, their companies suffer.
Effective development of managers and executives is one of the key differences between companies that are positioned for growth and those that are setting themselves up for failure.
Unfortunately, some companies neglect leadership development. Some companies have built succession management systems but don't truly support them, just as many people buy treadmills or exercise bikes then fail to use them. The only solution is for managers and executives to make and keep firm resolutions to develop their organisations' talent.
Here are some resolutions to help build stronger leaders in 2012:
Make a leadership game plan.
Determine what type of leadership your company will need in the future. Create a plan that identifies potential leaders, diagnoses their developmental needs, lists actions for development and measures progress. Linking it back to your business strategy is key.
Understand what skills, knowledge and competencies your team needs today and in the future. Hire those individuals who can play a variety of positions as your company grows and changes.
Pay attention to derailers. The derailers include impulsiveness, low tolerance for ambiguity, arrogance, micromanagement, self-promotion, volatility, risk aversion, defensiveness, imperceptivity, approval dependence and eccentricity.
Know the ropes of development. The key is to understand which approaches work for the individual and the skills, knowledge or competencies that need to be developed.
Bring in the coach. The manager of a high-potential employee is not always the best coach. Seek out people who may have coaching skills and the competencies your high-potential team member needs.
For 2012, the way to improve business and leadership development is to push yourself and others to grow.