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For most of us, this is the time of the year when hope springs eternal. We’re revved up for an exciting new year, determined to change all of the things that didn’t work last year so we can pound the ball out of the park in 2012.

Nothing wrong with any of that. Commitment, momentum, focus … these are the energies that will fuel our engine and help us jumpstart 2012 with the vigor and rigor that we need to make this year the most successful ever.

Yet, like most New Year’s resolutions we’ve made, the “gum loses its flavor on the bedpost overnight”. We soon discover that it’s much easier to start than to finish. We struggle to keep the engine stoked with the same energy that propelled us into the New Year. We begin to feel some of the air already coming out of the tires, and begin to wonder … “where did that new-found energy go”?

It comes back to that whimpering sound of “hope springs eternal.” Hope is a powerful emotion and inspires great things. It can give us the strength to launch new initiatives, and with renewed conviction, but it doesn’t include the tools we need to sustain those initiatives. If we only needed one big burst of energy, say to set the world’s pole vault record on that one single jump, maybe it would be enough … but only if was built in all the preceding years on a foundation of relentless preparation and training that we could sustain until that one big moment.

So, instead of just revving the engine, focus on building the tools, the infrastructure, the support systems that enable you and everyone on your team to excel in their roles and exceed expectations. To do that, you need to objectively assess the systems and procedures available to execute on the strategy you’ve established. (You have one, right?) Don’t be timid about it. Don’t be afraid to blow up the things that aren’t working, slay the dragons, kill off the tired assumptions that have hampered your success in the past.

Only care about what works today. You know, as well as I, that we live in a world of technology prowess, with powerful tools of global communication, integrated processing, collaborative work processes and a boatload of productivity tools at our command. They’re getting cheaper every day, and younger people entering the workforce are wed to them like sunshine to daylight.  Invest in them … use them … and make sure they’re implemented to help you reach the leading edge of exceptional customer experience and an exciting workplace that promotes growth and success for all of your colleagues.

Empower your people. Set the direction but let them help you figure out “how” to get things done. Let them experiment, let them fail … let them know that “ready, fire, aim” is okay and that you’d much prefer action that occasionally misfires than no action at all. Make them believers in your cause, let them become evangelists for the freedom you give them … to dream with you, to be innovative and enthusiastic about helping you build a successful business that will sustain everyone.

Above all, invest in the tools. Empowering people means enabling them, and that means providing the resources that “walk the walk”. It puts teeth into your strategy execution so that the sweat and tears to develop that strategy weren’t in vain. Of course, if you don’t have a strategy, you’ll probably wish you did as you try to prioritize and sequence the tools that need to be implemented. Yes, the best time to have a map is when you enter the forest … but it’s never too late to develop a strategy that provides the centerpiece around which you can evaluate the tools that are most important to accomplish your mission.

Step one, then, is to recognize that while hope is a soothing balm that inspires us, it quickly dissipates if it’s built on words rather than deeds.

Get moving. Gather the troops. Ask them what they need to carry out your strategy. Marshall your limited resources, certainly, but also invest them to create sustainable momentum that will move the needle and help you build a successful business.

Hope is not a strategy - action is....

Lary Kirchenbauer is the President of Exkalibur Advisors, providing practical business strategies for middle market businesses. Exkalibur works closely with senior executives and their businesses at the intersection of leadership, finance and business strategy. You can subscribe to his newsletter at the Exkalibur web site at www.Exkalibur.com. You’ll also find a library of valuable resources, including a video and podcast library as well as articles and insights related to middle market businesses.