How to …… get 2013 off to a positive start

So the cobwebs have been dusted off the computer and the cogs are slowly grinding back into gear now that the seasonal festivities are over. Of course January is traditionally the time when we all vow to change things for the better – so with everyone in a (hopefully) positive frame of mind, it’s a great opportunity for HR and senior management to look at what they can do to set their business up for success in the months ahead.

It’s not just about making ‘resolutions’ – which we all know are likely to be broken before the ink is dry on the page – but about thinking how you can create the habits or behaviours that will fuel success.

In her book ‘Confidence’, Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter argues that it is positive relationships that set the stage for positive outcomes. Here are some of her suggestions for what leaders and managers need to do to start building the momentum for success:

Take the temperature

Looking at what is going on around you and taking the temperature of the business is an important first step. In her book, Moss-Kanter highlights the universal warning signs of ‘change in the wrong direction’. These include a decline in communication and an inward focus among employees, as well as a growth in criticism and blame and people becoming increasingly isolated in their roles. If you are aware that internal rivalries are springing up, poor performance is being routinely accepted and people have stopped taking the initiative then you need to take action. With the right approach, it is possible to nip negativity in the bud and shift to a positive, success-oriented culture.

Keep the lines of communication open

Make sure everyone knows what’s going on in the business and talk to people openly and honestly about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Don’t just focus on top-down dialogue. Make it easy for people across the company to ask questions, talk to each other, share information and solve problems together. There is plenty of technology available to facilitate this more collaborative style of working – so make it your business to find out what’s available and how it can help you communicate more effectively.

Emphasise personal responsibility

It’s easy to get caught up in a vicious circle of everyone blaming everyone else when something goes wrong or targets are not being achieved. Refuse to listen to attacks on others and encourage each person to take individual responsibility for his or her part of the problem.

Praise where praise is due

Acknowledgement of a job well done or even a simple thank you can go a long way. Offer frequent public praise to those who are meeting high standards and doing a good job. Equally, you need to identify those who aren’t performing well and help them find ways to improve their competencies and approach to their job.

Explain the big picture

Stressing common purpose is a great way to unite people and get everyone pulling in the same direction. Make sure everyone understands what the business is trying to achieve and can see how their personal contribution can make a difference.

Help each other

In her book, Moss Kanter suggests that reducing inequities and ‘status’ differences can do much to create a positive environment. Actively encourage more senior, experienced managers to mentor others and make sure that learning and development opportunities are available not just to the chosen few. Make sure resources are distributed as evenly as possible so that particular teams or departments don’t feel overlooked – or explain openly why resource-related decisions have been made. Create a feeling of unity by encouraging people to share services and embark on joint projects.

Raise aspirations

An attitude of ‘anything is possible’ can do much to foster success. As a business, don’t be afraid to talk about the big goals or raise the prospect of competing with larger, more established companies. Use small wins to show that there is potential for bigger successes in the future.

Set stretch goals: Set employees realistic stretch goals and support people in achieving them with appropriate coaching, mentoring or learning and development. If you involve people in setting their own performance goals, they are much more likely to buy into them and work enthusiastically towards them.

Reward initiative

Employees on the front line are often best placed to see new and different ways of doing things. Encourage people at all levels of the business to be innovative and give them the time and resources to work on new ideas.

Reinforce the positive

Every business has its ‘nay-sayers’ – the people who are closed to new ideas and insist that new approaches will never work. Try and ignore the voices of negativity and constantly reinforce the positive. Show people that with the right attitude, change for the better is always possible.

What are you planning to do to set your business up for success is 2013? Let us know what new initiatives you plan to introduce or what has worked well for you in the past.

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