Leaders: Do some reflecting on 2019

You already know the importance of setting goals for the New Year—certainly, you’ve completed yours—but does it make sense to also reflect on the successes and setbacks from 2019? Here are four suggestions on how you, as a leader, can use insights and learnings from the year that just ended to shape your organizational growth plan for 2020.

Look for underlying trendsLet’s say your organization hit budget for the year—congratulations! But take the time to ask: What trends made that possible? How did you hit your budget? Very often we celebrate success but we don’t devote enough time to analyzing it, so we can figure out what happened and replicate it. Of course, we also want to analyze the situations where we didn’t succeed at the level we’d hoped. Ask yourself, and your key people, what major trends made things difficult for you to hit the goals you missed so you don’t face the same problems in 2020.

As an example, look for underlying patterns affecting your sales process. What causes deals to speed up? Where are deals getting stuck in the pipeline? Why? Are there any common patterns that are showing up, within your team, that you should be examining?

Do a process check. This is not about micromanagement or looking over people’s shoulders and checking for minute errors. It’s more about capturing best practices and making sure your people have the tools they need to follow them: prospecting, qualifying, presenting, closing, as examples. Are you up to speed as an organization in terms of updating and sharing the most important processes you used in 2019? Have you updated your business development playbooks for 2020? Are you replicating what you know for certain works, or does everybody still have their own individual way of going to market?

Focus on personal metrics. Leaders should look back on 2019 and ask, “Does every one of my direct reports have an up-to-date personal metric he or she can track—one that connects to daily, weekly and quarterly performance totals?” Look closely at what happened in 2019 and identify a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that individual employees can execute independently and keep track of in 2020. An example of a great KPI for a salesperson might be actual voice-to-voice conversations with new prospective buyers. Notice that this is both quantifiable and something that the individual employee has total control over. It’s not dependent on someone else’s decisions or actions. It’s part of the individual salesperson’s job. Use such KPIs to build daily, weekly and quarterly behavior targets, as part of the employee’s “cookbook.”

Focus on the intangibles, not just the tangibles. As you review all the significant events of 2019—the good, the bad and the ugly—be sure to look for both tangible and intangible areas of potential improvement. Tangibles are things you can count or document, like the strategies above. Intangibles tend to be based on your own personal sense of what should happen next. Typically, they are the personal obstacles you face as a leader—the lessons you know intuitively you must master. Take time to identify at least a couple of events in 2019 that pointed you toward a specific area where you have room to grow in terms of your own leadership potential. For instance, “I should be doing a better job of celebrating victories whenever teams achieve an important short-term goal” or “I need to coach my people more effectively.” If you can’t think of any intangible areas where you could improve as a leader, you may not be looking hard enough.

Jim Marshall is owner and president of Sandler Training of Tampa Bay, which provides sales, corporate and management training to high-achieving companies and individuals. Contact him at 813.287.1500 or jmarshall@sandler.com.

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