Sun, May 26, 2024

Mondays with Rick: Reflecting on the good, the bad and the ugly of the past year

Dr. Rick Franza, Professor of Management at the Hull College of Business, discusses a different, timely business topic each Monday in this column. This week, he gives tips on reviewing the past year in your business. The interview has been edited for clarity and impact.

ABD: It’s December, nearly the end of the year, a time often used to reflect on the past year. It’s also when businesses can take some time to look back at the previous 12 months at the good, the bad, and the ugly. Why is that an important thing to do?

Rick: Rather than just looking forward to the next year, you need to look back at what you’ve done. It can be done at any time or for any period. A year is an artificial period but it’s a convenient demarcation. For some businesses, this is a time when things are a little slower and leaves time for reflection.

ABD: How should someone go about reflecting on and evaluating the previous year?

Rick: If you had set goals at the beginning of the year, the first step is to see how you did relative to those goals. Why were some successful? What can you learn from the ones you didn’t accomplish?

People tend to go to extremes, either straining an arm patting themselves on the back, or beating themselves up. You need to take a measured look.

You do need to celebrate the wins. Sometimes, people treat meeting a goal with a sigh of relief instead of celebrating it. But also don’t beat yourself up for the losses. Use it as a time of reflection.

ABD: Those are the good and the bad. What about the ugly, those unexpected crises that came up during the year?

Rick: Sometimes, it’s not the big uglies but the little uglies that chip away at a business. People and processes are things that can turn ugly, so this is a good time to address those proactively.

You can evaluate your people and ask yourself, is this my right team? How will I address that? It’s also a great time to evaluate your processes. In the heat of business, you often don’t feel you have time to address that. An “ugly” could be something unexpected, but if you had a risk management plan in place you would have been better equipped to deal with it, so this is also a good time to develop one.

ABD: Should this evaluation be done on your own, or is it good to have someone to bounce ideas off of and give perspective?

Rick: It’s great to have more than one person to give balance. It can be a peer group or a mentor. Often, you’re too close to a problem, so it’s harder for you to diagnose it and address it. It can feel like a sign of weakness to go to someone else for help in thinking about it, but it’s not. The people who have the most problems are those who worry about what others think of them.

ABD: Is it important to do this reflection before setting goals for the next year?

Rick: You can’t put the cart before the horse. You hit the important part first, the reflection. Then, you take those things and make the appropriate changes.

If you had a less-than-great year, you’ll have a long laundry list of things you want to change. But that’s when you really need to reflect and prioritize them. Don’t attack the whole list at once. Attack the ones that will give you the biggest return or where you can get early wins. Taking on the whole list at once will just lead to more losses.

Perfect is the enemy of good – you need to get to good first. It also has to do with work-life balance. Is cleaning up that last 10 percent of the list worth it? Only you can answer that.

ABD: Is this also a good time to reflect on your own role with the company?

Rick: Part of the reflection has to do with evaluating whether you need more self-care. You can’t perform at the top of your game if you’re not feeling at the top of your game. It’s a time to think about how much you need to grow the business in order to start delegating some of your duties. It’s not only your goals for the year but also your mid-term and long-term goals. We’ll talk more about setting goals for the year next week.

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