They say New Year’s res­o­lu­tions are a bit like ba­bies: They’re fun to make but ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to main­tain. Here are a cou­ple of res­o­lu­tions that are worth keep­ing.

Finweek English Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Edi­to­rial@fin­week.co.za

so, 2016 didn’t turn out to be the year that you ran a marathon, learned French or stopped drink­ing beer on week­days. In­stead, it was a strug­gle for sur­vival amid a weak econ­omy, dis­rup­tion and un­fore­seen chal­lenges (hence the need for beer). You flew by the seat of your pants; things hap­pened, you re­sponded.

For 2017, be proac­tive. See the new year as a chance to take the wheel and steer things in a new di­rec­tion:

Start by tak­ing 2016 in re­view. Ask your­self what worked and what didn’t, says Judy Good­win, a change con­sul­tant and coach in Cape Town. “Take a look at those ac­tions which yielded the re­sults you wanted and those that didn’t.”

For ex­am­ple, if you ex­hausted your­self in pro­vid­ing ex­ten­sive hands-on train­ing for a new em­ployee when you could have del­e­gated this, “what did you learn from that ex­pe­ri­ence and how can you ap­ply it to your ad­van­tage in the New Year?” asks Good­win.

Com­pile a list of things you want to start, stop and con­tinue do­ing to guide you into 2017.

Set clear goals for the new year. You need to know ex­actly what suc­cess will look like at the end of 2017: What do you want to achieve this year? How can you bet­ter meet your clients’ needs and solve their most press­ing prob­lems? Be spe­cific about your end-goals and then work back­wards by break­ing them down into a num­ber of mile­stones or ob­jec­tives that need to be achieved, tied to spe­cific dates. Im­por­tantly, make sure that your team is on the same page; they should share your vi­sion of what needs to hap­pen, and how their own ac­tiv­i­ties tie into the greater pic­ture. Recog­nise that un­fore­seen events may force you to re­vise your strat­egy, and that de­ter­mi­na­tion and new think­ing will be re­quired to achieve your goals.

Have a proper con­ver­sa­tion ev­ery day. “We live in a re­la­tion­ship age where our cur­rency for suc­cess is built on the qual­ity of the re­la­tion­ships we build,” says Phep­hile Sime­lane-Modis­elle, busi­ness strate­gist and di­rec­tor at True North Con­sult­ing. “And re­la­tion­ships are built one con­ver­sa­tion at a time.” She rec­om­mends tak­ing the time ev­ery day to have a con­ver­sa­tion with a team mem­ber that is not task-fo­cused, but aimed at get­ting to know the other per­son. “It doesn’t have to be long – five min­utes will do.” Also, give pos­i­tive feed­back, ev­ery day. This year, make a point of recog­nis­ing good work and ini­tia­tive in your team. Recog­ni­tion is a pow­er­ful mo­ti­va­tor; make sure that you es­tab­lish a cul­ture of al­ways ac­knowl­edg­ing good work in your team. Re­ward team mem­bers with greater re­spon­si­bil­ity and more op­por­tu­ni­ties. Also, make it a pri­or­ity to lis­ten bet­ter this year. Don’t in­ter­rupt con­stantly, and value your team’s in­put. “Learn to hold a strong point of view lightly,” says Sime­lane-Modis­elle. “Test your as­sump­tions and leave room to be in­flu­enced by new and dif­fer­ent points of view. Main­tain your strong point of view, but don’t let it con­sume you such that there is no room for any­thing else.” And when some­thing goes wrong, take care to use ap­pro­r­i­ate lan­guage. Blam­ing and be­lit­tling will un­der­mine trust.

Stop do­ing low-value work. These are ac­tiv­i­ties that con­trib­ute lit­tle or noth­ing to your cus­tomers, nor do they fur­ther any busi­ness pri­or­i­ties or goals. Typ­i­cally, low-value work deals with busi­ness “hy­giene” – ac­tiv­i­ties that may be nec­es­sary (like sub­mit­ting in­voices, mak­ing travel ar­range­ments or at­tend­ing meet­ings about in­ter­nal is­sues). High-value work, in con­trast, re­ally adds value for your clients. Some low­value ac­tiv­i­ties (like weekly meet­ings to re­port back on progress in a spe­cific project) are easy to re­place with a sin­gle email, while oth­ers can be out­sourced or del­e­gated ef­fec­tively.

Set clear goals for the new year. You need to know ex­actly what suc­cess will look like at the end of 2017.

Adopt time-block­ing. This tech­nique will help you make the most of ev­ery work­ing hour. Start ev­ery day with a clear idea of what you want to achieve, then ded­i­cate “blocks” of time in your di­ary to those goals. Dur­ing those times you are only al­lowed to fo­cus on a spe­cific task – no email, no Face­book, no phone calls. This will help you achieve “deep work”, the abil­ity to fo­cus without dis­trac­tion on a de­mand­ing task. Deep work al­lows you to fo­cus and quickly mas­ter com­pli­cated in­for­ma­tion and pro­duce bet­ter re­sults in less time.

Re­store the work/life bal­ance in your team. Make sure they know that you re­spect their lives out­side of

work. If you do work at night or over a week­end, set an ex­am­ple for your staff by sched­ul­ing your emails to only go out on Mon­day morn­ing. Al­low for flex­i­bil­ity in when and where your em­ploy­ees work. Man­age your own time wisely and don’t make long hours a badge of hon­our. Judge your staff by their out­puts, not by how long they are in the of­fice. En­cour­age them to take time off.

Fail faster. The world is chang­ing at a break-neck pace, you need to in­no­vate much faster and in­evitably this will mean a higher fail­ure rate of new ini­tia­tives. Don’t cling to ideas (and peo­ple) that do not work. Cut your losses and move on. Also, don’t paral­yse your team with a fear of fail­ure. If you only award suc­cess and doom those who took risks and lost, your team will learn that in­ac­tion is bet­ter than ac­tion. This can­not lead to in­no­va­tion and real long-term growth.

Have the tough con­ver­sa­tions. Make 2017 your year of set­ting bound­aries against be­hav­iour that you find un­ac­cept­able. Voice your con­cerns and fight back. Also, if you don’t get along with your man­ager or col­league, take the ini­tia­tive to sort out re­sent­ments and dis­cuss the things that pre­vent you from hav­ing a con­struc­tive en­gage­ment.

Do good. A re­cent Deloitte study in the US found that four out of five mil­len­ni­als would only feel job sat­is­fac­tion if their work served some sort of greater pur­pose, and re­search by Gallup showed that for the ma­jor­ity of younger work­ers, pur­pose was more im­por­tant than profit. Work with your team to see what you can do to­gether to con­trib­ute to mak­ing the world a bet­ter place.

Make your team a safe space. Google’s ground­break­ing study into its top teams showed that psy­cho­log­i­cal safety was by far the big­gest de­ter­mi­nant of a team’s per­for­mance. Mem­bers of the top teams felt se­cure enough to ask stupid ques­tions or take risks. They didn’t feel judged the whole time, and could ad­mit mis­takes freely, without fear. They un­der­stand each other so well that they don’t get com­pet­i­tive or take of­fense. The Google study showed that teams which have es­tab­lished this safe space were rated as ef­fec­tive twice as of­ten by the management of the com­pany and brought in more rev­enue.

Es­tab­lish psy­cho­log­i­cal safety in your team by get­ting to know each mem­ber re­ally well on a per­sonal level, and cre­at­ing the en­vi­ron­ment for them to so­cialise and un­der­stand one an­other bet­ter.

Make your cir­cle big­ger. Get a larger view of your in­dus­try and the op­por­tu­ni­ties out there by link­ing up with new peo­ple. Join an in­dus­try body or pro­fes­sional or­gan­i­sa­tion, go to con­fer­ences, join LinkedIn and ac­tively seek out new views.

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