January 9, 2011 in Business

What should be different about the end of 2011?

Jan Quintrall

In December 1998 I left my home, friends and family in Colorado to take on the leadership role at the BBB in Spokane, where I knew nobody. This year, I thought back to how amazed I was on arriving in the Inland Northwest: The way people kept their noses to the grindstone, spending too little time stepping back to set goals, look at the big picture or collaborate with others who had common business plans or missions.

Training and planning were used so much less than in my previous environment that I wondered how progress ever happened here. It was like the woodsman who was so busy cutting trees that he never stopped to sharpen his saw or even see what improvements technology has brought to saws. Rather than buy a new one, he just kept hacking away with that dull, outdated saw.

I still think as a community we do not focus enough on staff training and strategic goal-setting or partnerships: As individuals we can be sure we make plans and focus on where we want to be.

New Year’s resolutions are a common form of goal-setting, but we often set ourselves up for failure when we make one. In most cases resolutions are empty promises made to yourself about habits to stop. They can be quite negative.

However, the end of a year, a project, a phase in life, a relationship or a career is still a great time to reflect about your next path and where you hope to go. So instead of making corrective resolutions, think about this question:

What do I want December 2011 to look like and what would be different than how December 2010 looked? What do I need to do to get there?

You can do this exercise for your business, lifestyle, family or volunteer work. It is sometimes easier to think about what you want the results to look like and then work backward. But before you begin crafting your vision of the future:

Keep it simple. Don’t get so caught up in the planning that you create more moving parts than you’ll ever be able to manage. For example, if you want to get organized, start with one area of your life, one room in your home, one department in your office or just how you manage email, not your entire life.

Limit your changes to a few key items. The enormous list of seven huge projects ensures that you will feel too overwhelmed to even begin moving to your future vision. It is like eating an elephant without the “one bite at a time” strategy.

Know what you can and can’t control. We are so dependent on others that you need to ensure your vision falls into areas you can influence and control. So if you want 2011 to have fewer pointless, time-wasting meetings, know that you will not have the ability to manage other people’s problem meetings. Instead you might want to set the example, hoping others see how effective your meeting leadership is and follow suit.

Be realistic in the largeness of your vision. I doubt there are many among us who would not want December 2011 to be more tolerant and collaborative than this past year, but what can you change? Are you going to solve the Middle East issue? I hope someone does, but don’t set yourself up for failure by thinking too big.

Think about what you’d like to change in the next 12 months and then consider what you need to do each month to bring about that change. Whether you want to lose 20 pounds, create higher staff satisfaction, save more money, reduce your credit card debt or finish a data quality control project, take planned solid steps each month of this year. It will make achieving your goal a whole lot easier than trying to make a big change in January and then trying to sustain it. Nobody crosses this finish line in one step.

Jan Quintrall is president and CEO of the local Better Business Bureau. She can be reached at jquintrall@spokane.bbb.org.

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