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A checklist for finishing the year strong

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” The Great Gatsby

The year’s cadence naturally increases in September as workers return from vacations and student return to school. Take advantage of the crispness of fall by injecting new energy into your teams and refocusing them on year-end goals.

Students benefit from the excitement of new classrooms, supplies, teachers and subjects so there’s no reason those of us in the working world can’t grab onto a nugget of that crack-open-the-new spiral freshness and use it to attain this year’s annual goals and provide clarity to plans for the year ahead.

The following are five tips leaders can use to focus themselves and their organizations:

  1. Review your personal “Why” and that of your department or company.” Do they make you excited? Are they relevant to your environment? To the marketplace? Are they aligned? If not, figure out what’s changed and if the Why needs to change as well. Then evaluate if there’s a domino effect that requires other changes. Figure out those changes make them fast as you have to now make up for lost time.
  2. Review the goal. Stephen Covey tells us to “Plan with the end in mind.” What does success look like for you? For your department? For your company? Be specific. Are these aligned? Does your success support your department’s success? And does your department’s success support the company? Visualize it then verbalize it to ensure that your department is clear on what it must achieve.
  3. What are the critical things that must be accomplished or go right for you and your organization to be successful this year? What are the “must dos” and how long do they take to complete? The calendar says there’s more than three months left in the year but we all know December can be tight due to holidays and vacation schedules. Are you and your teams working against making goals by the end of November? You should. Use December as a cushion.
  4. How are you going to track against these critical must-dos to ensure that you make your plan? Time is no longer a luxury. Daily status meetings? Visuals depicting how far you are from target volume so that all can see where you are (or aren’t.) Countdown clocks to underscore the urgency of working quickly and effectively?
  5. Invigorate meetings. Meetings are a keystone activity in most organizations. Improving their efficacy can reap additional benefits down the line. If your organizational norm is one hour, slash it to half an hour. If half an hour, go to 15 minutes. Have “standing only” meetings to underscore the necessity of brevity and focus. Consider walking meetings if it’s one-on-one. Eradicate the habit of filing into a room to fake talk while everyone checks their smart phone. In fact, initiate a no-smart phone rule. Maybe these changes are only through the end of the year. Or maybe they set a new norm.

Don’t stop once you’ve worked through these tips. Use them on a quarterly basis to keep on track and provide a regular forum for surfacing issues and initiating incremental improvements. You’ll find that over time the process will become second nature to you and employees.

Kristin Kaufman is the founder of Alignment, Inc., a consultancy that help individuals, corporations, board of directors and other similar groups find alignment within themselves and their organizations. Her book, the second in the “Is This Seat Taken?” series, titled: “Is This Seat Taken? It’s Never Too Late to Find the Right Seat” will be released in January 2015 and focuses on the challenges and rewards of late in life reinvention and encore ‘second halves.

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