How To Close Out Q4
A version of this article appeared at Inc.com
The fourth quarter of the year starts next week. Often it’s a blur of activity as everyone lurches toward the finish line, feverishly trying to complete their goals, reach their targets.
As a leader, you can’t afford for it to be that way. Here’s how to lead in Q4:
1. Complete your strategic plan for next year.
We’ve already seen the importance of the strategic planning process and identified ways to jump-start the process.
Sadly, many smaller and medium-sized businesses start the strategic planning process every year but never get around to completing it – like school homework, there are always other things that seem more enticing to spend one’s time on.
If you haven’t finished your strategic plan for next year, grab your calendar, schedule three half-day sessions over the next four weeks, and get it done.
2. Select 1 or 2 ‘nearly theres’ to push over the line.
If you review your key objectives for this year, you’ll likely find some out-of-the-park successes, a few ‘nearly theres’, and a bunch of ‘never-going-to-happens’.
The successes are done and dusted, and there’s little you can do about the last group of sad sacks. So choose a couple of the nearly-theres (two is quite enough for the remaining time available in the year) and identify the two or three things you could do to push each of them over the line. Jot down the clear next actions you’re going to take – with whom, and by when – to get them over the finish line.
By now you know the two or three main barriers to even greater success this year. Those barriers may be misbegotten initiatives, poor processes, injudicious goals, or, sadly, the wrong people in the wrong place.
Don’t wait until Q1 next year to tackle the barriers you already know are slowing the growth of your business. Write them down, stare long and hard at what you’ve written, take a deep breath, and start weeding.
4. Get a third-party view.
We all get a little too close to the trees to see the forest. By Q4 in the year, you can bet that this applies to you.
Call a friend – someone whose judgment you respect, but not someone with a fiduciary or other interest in your business, and trade something (mutual affection, bourbon, chocolate – whatever floats their boat) for a few hours of their time. Find a quiet place, bring a bunch of relevant data, and start talking about this year and how it’s turned out.
Be honest, be open, be non-defensive, then invite questions. Answer the questions in a way that builds a dialog, rather than shutting down discussion. I guarantee you’ll be surprised by what you get asked, and even more so by your replies. Make notes for later reflection. Later, reflect.
5. Hunt down outstanding commitments.
The one thing that undermines your credibility faster than anything else is not following through on commitments.
Most leaders fail to do so, not because they’re jerks, but because they simply lose track of all they’ve said they will do for others.
Now is a perfect time to fix that. Walk around to where your main direct reports and your peers live. Ask for three minutes of their time, then ask a simple question: “What have I committed to do for you this year that I haven’t followed through on?”. There’s no harm in explaining that you’re taking inventory now, so you have a chance to deliver on those outstanding commitments before the end of the year.
Oh, and take notes. You don’t want to be the person who asked that question and still failed to deliver.