The beginning of the year is a natural time of transition. Now that the frenzy of the holiday season has passed, it’s a time of re-focusing and getting back down to business. Whether or not you’ve made (or already broken) New Year’s resolutions, this is a good time to re-assess your goals for your business or career and perhaps set new ones. Did you meet your goals for last year? Did your business grow? If not, why? What do you want to accomplish this year? How about in the first 90 days of 2013?
If you’re part of a small company -- like more than 80 percent of businesses in the North Bay -- and you don’t have a formal performance review process in place, setting goals is an essential step for translating your business plan into a road map. Good leaders must be able to communicate where they want to go and inspire others to join them in making it happen. But goal setting accomplishes more than direction. It opens the lines of communication about expectations, yours and others’. Unexpressed expectations inevitably cause problems within organizations of all sizes. The funny thing about expectations is that often we don’t realize we have them until they’re not being met. Or, as someone once put it to me, the definition of expectations is “pre-meditated resentments.”
People working in smaller companies and organizations tend to wear a lot of hats because there are simply fewer bodies to do everything that needs to get done. It can be very easy to get lost in the minutiae of pressing tasks. How do you know whether your work is meeting your boss’s expectations and contributing to the company’s success? Creating and communicating shorter term, 90-day or 180-day goals helps continually define everyone’s responsibilities clearly and keep everyone’s expectations aligned.
If you are the owner or boss, goal setting leads quite naturally to re-assessing the team you have in place, as it should. I advise my clients to reassess their teams annually. Actually, I recommend doing a workforce audit at least once, which is a much more comprehensive undertaking, and developing a workforce plan. Once you have that plan in place, you can reassess your team annually and make adjustments for business shifts and new goals. The purpose of all is this is to ensure that you continue to have the right team in place to achieve your business goals. This requires taking stock periodically to identify potential gaps or redundancies, similar to taking inventory annually.
Talking about this objectively makes it all sound so simple and straightforward but of course this isn’t merely “inventory.” We’re talking about people’s careers and livelihoods -- people you know and work alongside every day. In reality, it’s pretty difficult to be objective. For this reason, it may be more effective to bring in a third-party service, someone external who specializes in organizational development and workforce planning to help you remove your blinders and identify the changes needed. This is true for companies of all sizes, even companies large enough to have human resources staff, and simply more of a practical necessity for smaller companies. Either way, you have to be willing to make the investment in your business.
You also have to be willing to accept discomfort. Making changes is one of the hardest things to do. Most of us have an aversion to change because it’s not safe and comfortable, as we tend to prefer. Change is painful. Change also involves a fair amount fear.