January is a busy time in most companies, which is normally a good thing. There is a downside of busyness though, which is that you spend so much time working in the business that you neglect to work on the business.
This can be particularly difficult in sectors like hospitality that keep getting plunged into crisis mode, but it’s all the more important as a result.
It’s also something that could be done at any time, but now is as good a time as any. Don’t underestimate the symbolic power of a New Year to inject some energy into your teams. As you prioritise for the year to come, here are some things you need to think about.
Make sure you’ve got the right team
Do you have full confidence that your team is able to deliver? Are they solid or exceptional? Are they still hungry? It can be difficult to ask these questions, particularly when you’ve ridden out the pandemic with these colleagues. But times and people change, and it’s a deceptively gradual process by which teams slip from A+ to B-.
Think strategically about the skills and experience needed to achieve your goals, and map them against the people at your disposal. It may be that there are high fliers ready for a promotion, or that your established war cabinet could do with reshuffle.
Just beware not to jump to a diagnosis that you have a people problem, when it could be a leadership problem – even a dream team will fail if they’re overworked and underappreciated.
Give your strategy an audit
Clarity is a great attribute in a leader: your strategy is far more likely to succeed if you communicate clearly and repeatedly what you’re doing, where you should play, how you should win and why. The only downside of all this clear repetition is that the strategy risks becoming dogmatic.
While you don’t want people to question your strategy week-in-week-out, it’s good to set time aside occasionally just to ensure that your logic and assumptions are still sound. Think through these assumptions, and invite others to do so too, particularly people who weren’t involved in formulating the strategy.
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If the last year was an experiment, has it confirmed or cast doubt on your hypotheses? Are there other ways of interpreting the outcomes than the way you have been? Play devil’s advocate, have an open-minded but time-limited discussion, make a decision about whether you need to change your approach, and then move on.
Plan for the recovery
Technically we’re in recovery already, but there will come a point – maybe this year, maybe next, maybe later – when the uncertainty of the pandemic will falter, and you can go full throttle towards growth. You don’t want to still be muddling through when that happens.
Be ambitious, keep your head up and scan the horizon for new business opportunities. At the same time, account for barriers to growth that are likely to emerge. The current talent shortage, for example, should get you thinking of your employer proposition if it hasn’t already.
There will be any number of opportunities, ideas and initiatives swishing around in your mind, but don’t lose your focus.
Be realistic about your resources – not only in terms of cash and time, but also bandwidth. Can you enact a digital transformation, launch an entirely new product line and open a new office abroad simultaneously, on top of day-to-day operations? If not, prioritise and then scale it back. It’s better to do one or two things really well than six or seven badly.
Make time for yourself
In all this planning for the business, it’s easy to neglect your own needs. Your newfound New Year’s energy will dissipate remarkably quickly if you’ve neglected to put aside time for your own wellbeing, whether that’s protected weekends for family time, or just regular breaks.
Similarly, factor your development needs into your plans. Join a peer discussion group, go to events, get a mentor (or two), grow your network, start an executive education course, or just read a book a month. Each of these will help you to work on your skills and expose you to fresh ideas and opportunities.