It happens to all of us. We start the year with the best plans and intentions. To use a racing metaphor, our wheels are rolling, our engines are revving and we are off. Just like in racing, we get inundated with caution flags, blown-out tires and competitors taking the lead. Sometimes we just simply run out of gas. At this point, some would call it a game, exit the track and wait for the next race, but not you. You need to maximize your pit stop, get back in the race and position yourself to take that checkered flag.
Like you, every fall I begin working on my strategic plan for the coming year: objectives, budgets and forecasted challenges. I crunch numbers and rack my brains on how to cut spending but increase exposure and ROI, all while taking calculated risks. After laboring through this intensive process for two to three months, it is time to deliver the plan to the senior team and, typically, it is accepted with minor adjustments. Phew, that's done. Next year is going to be great and I embrace the first quarter with well-placed enthusiasm.
Then... just as I begin to hit my stride, the first quarter numbers come out and that yellow caution flag appears. Every organization faces setbacks, but instead of throwing in the towel and heading back to the garage, a successful organization eagerly turns onto "pit row."
Like Jimmie Johnson, you are in the driver's seat. You are seeing little obstacles as they head your way, but you feel that your car isn't driving as smoothly as you were hoping and you are waiting for your next opportunity to pull over.
Give yourself at least one full day every quarter for deliberate reflection. Pull out your strategic plan and review the goals you had written down. Where are you on track? What needs re-adjusting? Are these setbacks within your control?
Your Pit Crew Is There for Support
A driver cannot have a successful career without a successful team behind him. Lean on your team, use their individual and collective strengths to help get you and the organization back on track. After you have taken that time for reflection, go to your team.
Regardless of which team you run (HR, Marketing, Sales, IT, etc.) schedule a quarterly meeting to discuss the organizational objectives, where you are, where you want to go and what needs to be done to get there. Transparency and communication are two of the biggest factors in building a strong team. With a strong team in place, headed in the same direction, you are more apt to not only get to your destination but enjoy the trip because you did it as a team.
Communicate with the C-Suite
Whether your C-Suite is hands-on like Jack Roush or a little more laid back, the fact remains that there are two key ways to keep the C-Suite happy: Results and Communication. Whatever you do, don't wait for the engine to drop out before you communicate.
Keeping them abreast of the challenges, while staying mindful of what they want, is a win. Be prepared to explain how you are going overcome those obstacles to end in the winner's circle!
As the late Dale Earnhardt said, "The winner [isn't] the one with the fastest car; it's the one who refuses to lose."
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