(WRITTEN DECEMBER 2020)
Newsflash: 5 weeks until the end of the year. And my, what a year it has been.
I, for one, have been feeling the onset of a mild case of end-of-year-itis. Sore muscles. Fatigued. And a bit hazy. (Or maybe its just all of the pie I ate over Thanksgiving weekend).
Perhaps you can relate. It has been a weird, tough, fatiguing year.
But don’t limp into the finish line. Time to #FinishStrong.
Some late-year reflections for leaders on how to make this last month of 2020 your team’s strongest yet. ➤ ➤
ON FINISHING THE YEAR STRONG…
If you’re like most leaders who are up to big things, you’re really starting to really feel the heat at this point in the year.
You have ambitious year-end targets to close the gap on. Important year-end deliverables to get done. Oh, and on top of that, you’re in the thick of planning & budgeting for 2021.
If 2020 was a marathon, we’d be at mile 24. Only 1/12 of the race to go.
But the last leg is always the toughest… especially in the race of 2020, where it feels like we’ve been running on a bummed knee since the start of COVID at mile 6.
If you’ve run a marathon before, or know someone who has, you’ll know that somewhere between mile 20 and 26, you’re bound to hit “the wall.” The dreaded wall. Ugh.
Your legs start to give out. Every sip of Gatorade seems to want to come back up. And that little self-sabotaging gremlin in your head turns up the volume on the negative self-talk. “You’ll never finish the race!” “You don’t have what it takes!” “Give up now!”
But whenever I’ve found myself encountering “the wall”—as a runner and a leader—I’ve found 3 things helpful:
1. Remember why you’re doing this. Reconnecting with your “why” can be highly motivating.
2. Remember how far you’ve come, and be proud. You’ve crushed 24 grueling miles! So… what’s 2 more?
3. Tune out the self-doubt… and bear down. Put the self-sabotaging mental chatter on mute, and keep moving your feet.
ON STAYING FOCUSED, WHEN IT MATTERS MOST…
“There are not enough hours in the week,” said every ambitious leader, ever.
If you’re like most, this feels especially true in Q4. You’re feeling crushed under the weight of all of the stuff… the meetings, the reports, the deliverables, the 2021 planning.
<– Your life feels kinda like this.
You know what needs to happen to close out the year, but it doesn’t seem like there are enough hours in the week.
But here’s the thing: we all have the same 168 hours in the week. Ergo, its not a matter of having time—as we do, in fact, have time.
Rather, our effectiveness and success are determined by how we use that time… and what we use it on.
And it is important to acknowledge that not all of the things vying for your (or your team’s) precious time and attention are of equal importance, nor of equal impact to your business.
Here are 3 things that I found useful in deciding & staying focused on what matters most.
1. Embrace an Essentialist mindset. Great leaders believe that a small number of things are so valuable that they’re worth disproportionate effort—and most everything else is noise. At no time is this mindset more important than at the end of the year, when most of us have tons of things tugging at our attention. (P.S. If you haven’t ready Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism yet, put it atop your 2021 reading list).
2. Get clear on “the vital few.” What are the small number of things that will have the biggest impact on a strong finish to the year, and a strong start to 2021? Here’s a simple 10-min exercise that can help.
3. Refocus your team on these vital priorities. Ensure that you clearly communicate the changes needed to focus your team on the vital few, and defer or discard the “trivial many.” What should your team redouble their efforts on in this last month? What should they stop doing?
ON MOTIVATING YOUR TEAM, WHEN IT MATTERS MOST…
It’s crunch time. And if you want to hit your FY20 goals, you need your team to be bringing their best stuff. You need them bearing down on your company or department’s most important priorities; bringing every last ounce of their talents and passion to “the vital few.”
As luck would have it, I’m hot-off a year of research on human motivation in the workplace as I finished writing my new book, The Blue Flame.
Something struck me as I went deep on the topic: drawing out more of the best from our people isn’t rocket science. Just takes some understanding, and some intentionality. And the cool thing is, many of the tactics that can help us to tap into more of our peoples’ best stuff are totally free.
Here are 4 supremely simple things you can do in 5 minutes or less today to draw out more of your peoples’ best… when you need it most in Q4.
1. Say “thank you.” Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. A simple, specific, and sincere “thank you” can go a long way in putting wind in your peoples’ sails.
2. Publicly praise your teammate(s) for a job well done. People crave recognition. Start each meeting today with shout-outs. Finish your day spending 5 mins typing quick “atta boy/girl” emails to those on your team who are deserving.
3. Create clarity. Make sure your people can see clearly what a successful finish to 2020 looks like—for the company, in your department, and in each of their roles. Many fatigued runners catch a second wind when they can see the finish line clearly.
4. Remind them why the work they’re doing matters. Highlight the importance of the work that your team—and each person on it—is doing. To the company. To the lives of customers. And to the world. Sharing customer impact stories can be especially motivating, as it brings meaning to the work. It makes the year-end grind worth grinding for.