Published in ProjectTimes, January 8, 2014
Often, the holiday aftermath can linger on into January; thus providing a slow start to the year. Instead, those companies who thrive will ensure success by kick starting the New Year with power. Since customers are demanding elevated service levels and quicker deliveries, we must rise to the challenge – or accept the likely alternative of lost business.
In my experience as a business consultant who works across multiple industries, geographies and company sizes, I’ve found that executives base a considerable amount of their profit plans on achieving project results. Thus, why leave it to chance? Instead kick off the New Year by focusing on your key objectives and the supporting projects. Take notice!
A few strategies for ensuring success early in the New Year include the following: 1) Renewed enthusiasm. 2) Re-engage teams. 3) Ask questions. 4) Orchestrate a quick win. 5) Celebrate success
- Renewed enthusiasm: As my HR mentor says, “It begins and ends with leadership”; thus, it starts with you. The top priority is to return to the office with renewed energy and enthusiasm. It has been proven countless times that enthusiasm is contagious and will spread to your project team. No matter how smart or how dedicated your project team, they will perform better with renewed enthusiasm!For example, learn from my mistakes. I am not a morning person. Before understanding the vital importance of this key point, I might have been half asleep and thinking through fog – and it showed! Worse yet, when I wasn’t yet “into the mode”, I appeared uninterested and boring. No one gains energy from a monotonous tone and stiff presentation style. Of course, I didn’t mean it to come across that way but perception is reality. It was amazing the difference it made when I realized the importance of enthusiasm and did a few exercises (and drank a bit of caffeine) to prepare myself to start strong. Suddenly I was interesting and engaging – with the same stories.
- Re-engage teams: Start by re-engaging your project teams. Don’t expect your team to continue where they left off. Even if they wanted to jump back in, it’s likely there have been too many distractions during the holidays. Bring the team together. Remind them why the project is valuable. Create urgency for rapid progress. Bring the team up-to-speed with where they left off. Go over the critical path. And last but not least, make sure to re-engage as the project leader.
- Ask Questions: Asking questions is surprisingly effective. You can stimulate interest with your questions. You can uncover potential roadblocks to address. You can make sure your team understands that you are listening and care. You can massage progress. You can lead. Find out what your team thinks is important to success. You might be surprised. Is timing most important? How about resources? Support of other departments?Find out which upcoming tasks are most critical. Why? Is everyone aligned? If not, why not? Are there opportunities for continuous improvement? Potential roadblocks? The art of asking questions is to listen more than you’re talking.
- Orchestrate a quick win: Choose a small, quick win as a project team. What are the upcoming critical path items and milestones? Can any provide a quick win? What will affect the bottom line? Or impact customers positively? Ask your team for ideas for quick wins. Pick one and go with it.Then, develop or clarify a plan to achieve the quick win. Make sure the leader of each project task understands its importance. Communicate in advance that a critical path task is coming up. Encourage teamwork. Implement measures to track performance and gauge progress to the quick win. Focus additional resources on it if need be. Celebrate BIG.
- Celebrate success: As silly as it might sound, you must celebrate success. Go out of your way to recognize the small efforts each individual puts into the project. Make sure your team knows that you appreciate them. Notice progress. Reward your high performers. Address your poor performers. There is nothing better for a high performer than to see that you are paying attention and not willing to accept sub-par work. If it was easy, wouldn’t everyone be successful? Of course. That’s why you must be different – willing to address the issues others want to sweep under the carpet. I guarantee your team will suddenly re-engage.
The impact of kicking off your New Year powerfully is immeasurable. Not only can you save time which is a hot commodity in today’s new normal business environment but you also can accelerate bottom line business results. Focus on gaining momentum while going in the right direction and the rest will follow.