7 Jan 2013
By Kelli Korducki
Every year it happens, and every year it’s the worst: a return to the office after the Christmas gifts have been wrapped and unwrapped and the new year’s bubbly drunk. The joyful chaos of the year-end holiday stretch is its own ordeal, and snapping back into work mode once it’s ended takes on a special kind of daunting. As a small business owner with staff to gently encourage back into the groove, there’s the added challenge of being an effective manager without being too pushy.
Jason Womack, founder and CEO of The Jason Womack Company and author of Your Best Just Got Better, advises that managers take a year-in-review approach to kick-starting the new calendar year.
“Reach out to five or ten customers from 2012 and ask them, ‘What did our company do last year that really helped you succeed?’” says Womack. “If you ask ten people, two will get back to you. But those two responses are going to make it so much more valid when I go back to my small team.”
This motivational approach is twofold: post-holiday sluggishness (also known as “Hey, where did by brain go?” syndrome) is reversed by acknowledging the successes of recent past and while also, subtly, holding staff accountable for the successes of others; past successes are held up as models for achieving future goals. It’s a kick in the pants that feels more like a gentle, coaxing nudge.
Womack sums it up this way: “What I want to do is listen to the people who are paying us. What did I do last year that really helped them? And then, turn around to the people that I’m paying, and think about them. Let’s acknowledge what we did last year that really worked that we want to continue experimenting with and making better in the new year.”
The old management method of, as Womack puts it, “Okay gang, let’s put our noses to the grindstone,” has been replaced by what he describes as “the concept of mindfulness in business.”
“The way I’m interpreting that is an awareness people are bringing to the present moment,” he says. “We have the past, we have the future, but I’m seeing more and more people grabbing onto the present moment.”
Grabbing onto the present means finding ways of linking past successes with future goals.
“That little bit of awareness, it lets the organization know—even if there’s only two or three people on staff—it lets them know what’s working,” says Womack.
Another key component is relationship building: deepening relationships with more of the customers and vendors that an organization wants to be working with.
“One situation that small businesses continue to find themselves in: taking the work that shows up because it’s there. It’s so easy to say yes to a client, even if there’s a little bit of doubt about taking that work. Alternatively, it’s worth developing the work that they want to be doing.” The new year offers a prime opportunity to foster key relationships to take business to that next level.