Caldwell: Asking ‘Where’s the focus?’ will guarantee success for your business

WTF? That’s the question. No. Not that one. WTF? As in, where’s the focus?

As you head into the fourth quarter of 2013, what are the questions you hear being asked around your office, shop or business? Are they (and they most likely are): “Are you going to your in-laws for Thanksgiving?” “Are you ready for the holidays?” “What are you doing for New Year’s?” “Who ya got in the Super Bowl?”

Like it or not, the holiday season starts with Halloween and does not end until the Super Bowl. The battle for your employees’ attention and focus has already begun, and you may not be winning. Pursuing new accounts, creating year-end promotions and conducting client meetings, however, may not be at the top of everyone’s wish list.  The natural business questions at this time of the year may not be “How is your Q4 turning out?” but instead “What costume are you wearing to the Crystal Lake Chamber Foundation’s Halloween Mixer Oct. 29?” (Please excuse the Chairwoman’s shameless promotion of this event).

Attention is diverted. Dedication is diluted. Focus is lacking.

Right now there is a major conflict between your organization’s necessity for a strong Q4 and a profitable year and the distractions that you, your employees and customers will be encountering during the national countdown to Dec. 31 and the run to the Super Bowl. (The Super Bowl phenomenon will be exacerbated by all of your employees whose alma maters are in the BCS national championship game). Not only that, but Q4 is shorter than any other quarter because there are fewer working days between now and the end of the year because of the events that are already distracting your employees in the first place.

Your focus has to be on doing more in less time without fully engaged employees. Your “Blueprint for Success” for finishing the year on a high note is a three-step process to increase the attention, dedication, focus and results you will achieve between now and the end of Q4.

• Step one: Engage your employees by involving them in creating plans for a successful year end. Realize that without a strong, positive and compelling focus on success, your employees’ thoughts may drift into visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. Conduct company meetings with a laser beam focus on a successful Q4, and begin with the end in mind. Transport yourself and your team to Tuesday, Dec. 31, at 5 p.m. and discuss, even marvel at, what you have accomplished with teamwork, outstanding customer service and commitment. Tactically, use the Pareto Principle’s 80/20 Rule to identify and prioritize 20 percent of the activities that will produce 80 percent of your results. 

Develop an inspirational year-end rally cry or theme to gather the collective energy and focus of your organization’s best asset: your employee’s dedication and creativity. Plan for how you can make it fun, and celebrate success along the way, as well as when you reach your ultimate goal. Set daily, weekly and monthly activity goals, monitor the milestones and results between now and Dec. 31 and create visual displays to track your organization’s progress. 

• Step two: Tweak the plan while en route. Keep a keen eye on the progress of your strategies, and make adjustments as needed. Do not be so rigid that you can’t stop and modify your plans. Eagerly request feedback from your employees, customers and partners about the organization’s progress and make the appropriate changes. Take everything you know about your business and apply it now. Frequently thank and express gratitude to your employees about their efforts and for going “the extra mile.” Embody the leadership example you wish for your employees to model. Are there any distractions or activities that you, your management team and employees need to stop/start or continue to accomplish your Q4 plans? Success will be attained by taking small steps consistently every day, measuring your individual and organizational progress and managing accountability.

• Step 3: Slow down and appreciate the journey. Savor each moment between now and the end of the year. Take a professional and personal inventory of the things that really matter by being present, and assess how you really use your time. Track your days in 15- to 30-minute increments and analyze the results. What and who are contributing to a productive and successful day? Get in the habit of frequently asking yourself, “WTF? – Where’s the focus?” as a personal practice to bring you back to the important priorities. During this period of intense concentration, take excellent care of your health and wellbeing by getting enough rest, exercise and proper nutrition. You need ample reserves of energy to maintain a steady push to the end of the year.

During this important and sacred time of the year, you may or may not achieve all of your goals for Q4 or 2013. By aiming high and staying focused, you and your employees can raise a toast on Dec. 31 to a job well done. And the good news is you will have another window of opportunity before spring break and the Final Four.

• Kathleen Caldwell is president of Caldwell Consulting Group and the founder of the Global WHEE Institute (Wealthy, Healthy, Energetic Edge) of Woodstock. She works with Leaders and Teams to produce record breaking results. A “Blueprint for Year-End Success” resource list is available at, or by phone at 815-206-4014. 

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