Finishing Strong Every Year - A Lesson from the Racetracks
As we approach the end of any year, everyone is understandably apprehensive, some in fact worried about the likely outcomes of their various pursuits since the beginning of the year. Targets, indeed, must be met, salaries paid, and stakeholders kept happy. The question on everyone’s mind right now is “how do I finish this strong”? What strategies to adopt and needs to be done to achieve the desired objective at the end of the year. If you are in this mode, hang on. A little lesson from the racetracks may help!
A Lesson from the Racetracks
Like our struggles through the years, a relay track meet can be like a structured tumult. There are so many activities which produces a definitive, but well-ordered noise, especially one caused by a large mass of athletes preparing for the race by running on tracks, walking in the stands, warming up in parks, socializing with other athletes, etc. For every meet you attend, you would notice it is structured in a systematic way. Oh! How wonderful it is watching relay races. That excitement one gets watching teammates applauding each other on, running as fast as possible, and passing the baton to their teammate. A well-organized relay team is so amazing to watch as the baton flows around the track from one athlete to the next in a systematic order.
For the benefit of those not familiar with relay races, relay racing at a typical track meet is a race made of four legs each, run by a different runner on the same team. The typical relay races are the 4 by 100 (each runner runs one-quarter of the track), the 4 by 800 (each runner runs two laps of the track), and the 4 by 400 (each runner runs one lap of the track). In building a successful team, coaches create an order of second-fastest, slowest, third-fastest, and then fastest), or an order from slowest to fastest (an order of slowest, third-fastest, second-fastest, fastest). In either of the order the fastest is positioned on the fourth/final lap. The message is clear to the team and its opponent: To win, we must put our best foot forward in the final lap!
No doubt the desire to finish strong is common to all. What is not common is the level of activity and positioning going on within each enterprise towards the accomplishment of the objective. The efforts made in the final quarter of a year can mean the difference between significant profits and employee bonuses or sluggish sales, layoffs and employee discontent. As the year comes to an end, enquiries may diminish gradually, and bookings may drop correspondingly as companies/subscribers wind down and turn their attention to planning for next year.
Does the fact that some people are winding up now mean we should resign to fate or lose momentum? No! Many savvy entrepreneurs know that the fact that the river is shrinking does not mean there is no more fish in the river. No! There are just not enough fish to go around! The man that will catch fish now has to be the man with the better fish trap, is prepared to get there earlier than everybody, stay focused throughout the day and, be there long after everyone has gone.
Bringing it home
Individuals and businesses stand a chance to finish strong every year by keeping in mind and implementing these four Es -
1. Engage Internally:
What do I mean? Engage your staff and encourage teamwork amidst them. Like in a relay race, team effort is needed. It’s highly impossible for one runner running the whole race could beat a team of four who have fresh legs. Runners must work together. Each person on the team plays a key role in the effort and success of the whole. Gallup data indicates “that companies with highly engaged workers outperform their peers by 147 percent in earnings per share”.
2. Engage Externally:
Promote your business/courses, go the extra mile, push harder. As it popularly said, “save the best for the last” and like the coach will position the fastest leg for the last lap. Double your hustle, this is the last lap, the last quarter of the year. Make it count, give it your best and all.
3. Evaluate by doing the SWOT analysis
Most businesses are used to conducting a standard strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis at the end of the fourth quarter, but I believe, the fourth quarter of the year is the best time for successful teams to assess their performance through three quarters of the year and plan for next year by mapping out a solid foundation to start the year strong. General evaluation should be done at all levels of the organization, with management asking questions such as: Are we happy with our business results for the year? Are we staffed appropriately? Do we have the right people in the right jobs to do the work necessary? Hopefully, the answers to such questions are positive, but if they are not, the fourth quarter allows management to adjust the map for the next year.
Do not forget as part of the evaluation process, recognize team members for their positive contributions. Teammates cheer each other on. Appraisal is an important part of helping team members feel engaged. Great coaches, however, don’t just remind players of their worth at the end of the game but encourage throughout the year.
4. Educate your team
A study conducted by the Harvard Business Review, for example, concluded that many young high achievers in the workplace were not receiving career development support such as training, and some experts believe that’s because it’s often viewed as a costly investment that sometimes removes employees from their jobs for several days. It’s a perfect time to train your staff, allow your staff take trainings/courses/seminars that connect them to organizational goals and help advance their careers in the year ahead. In addition to employee engagement, training and development are increasingly used as employee perks to attract and retain top performers.
The clock is running, and great businesses understand that they have a limited number of timeouts. The fourth quarter is when savvy business leaders and their teams distinguish themselves from the competition and find a way to win.
“The things you need to do to finish the year strong are the exact same things you should have been doing all year long. The only difference is that time is no longer an ally…it’s an adversary.” — Gary Ryan Blair
All the best!
Nigerian Seminars and Trainings Team