click image to zoomNeill Ducoff Here we are at the end of 2013. The New Year is a time for reflection on what was and looking forward to what will be. For Strategies, 2013 was an amazing and record-breaking year. It was also our 20th anniversary that we celebrated with parties in Chicago, Austin and at Strategies Business Academy in Centerbrook, CT--all at the same time. Using Skype video, I thanked my amazing team and Coaches for helping me change the lives of business owners around the country. And what better way to wrap up our 20th year than having the honor to be on the cover of Salon Today magazine with a feature story on Strategies? It was truly an amazing year.
Just as a year-end Profit and Loss Statement tallies the score for your efforts, determination and discipline, it also gives you insights on what needs to improve and change in your company. You analyze the data and the thinking and behavior that created it. You make decisions on what must change. You ponder and develop new strategies. You create a game plan for the coming year. These are simply resolutions - promises to create a better tomorrow by doing things differently.
Stretch your abilities: We grow as leaders and individuals by challenging ourselves to improve and master new skills. If numbers aren't your friends, make peace with them. If you view many of the responsibilities of leading people as "confrontational" and therefore avoid them, learn the skills of navigating difficult conversations. We all have stuff we need to work on and improve, but like diets and exercise, you have to start and stick with your efforts at self-improvement.
Lead with your mind and your heart: As leaders, we want the best for those we lead. But leading with your heart alone will allow people to take advantage of you. Generosity and saying "yes" to everything doesn't buy loyalty or performance. Like too much of anything good, it ceases to be appreciated and respected. No-compromise leaders lead with their minds and hearts. The mind weighs the outcomes and potential risks. The mind asks, "Is this good for the company and does it support its culture?" Sometimes the best decisions for the good of the company and its culture may have to disappoint a few people.
Get one BHAG across the finish line: Come on, admit it - you have at least one Big Hairy Audacious Goal that's been on the back burner for too long. BHAGs are exciting and often the best strategy to really pull a team together. Achieving something big is empowering. It's what lifts a company to that elusive next level. What's your BHAG for 2014? Sketch it out and get it started in the first quarter. No compromise.
Empower through appreciation: Leaders can get too caught up in "their work" and forget about the most empowering tool in their leadership toolbox ... it's called appreciation. People work hard for a cause they believe in. They work hard for leaders that are resolute, focused and accountable. But people really bring their best game for leaders that invest the time to show true appreciation for jobs well done. A simple "thank you" or "nice work" from the leader can lift the spirits of an individual and an entire team. Make 2014 the year of appreciation.
Let more information flow: I believe in company cultures that are transparent. I believe in open-book companies. No hidden agendas or deep dark secrets. Company financials represent the work of many. Driving a team to achieve a goal with no understanding or stake in the outcome is like dangling a carrot that no one can ever reach or taste. Information flow means telling the truth about where people and the company stand. Any restriction or blockage of information flow feeds speculation and drama. Going open book is a process. Let Strategies coach you through the process in 2014.
Own it first: If it didn't go right or the way you wanted it to ... own it first. It's a simple rule of No-Compromise Leadership: if it happened on your watch, you contributed to the outcome. When things go wrong, most often it's because expectations and responsibilities were not clarified. Leaders must be the first to take ownership for hasty decisions that were not thought through. Too many leaders use the, "Can't they just do their jobs," or, "What were they thinking?" excuses to cast blame, but successes and failures can all be traced back to the leader. No-Compromise Leaders own it first.
Cash for a good night's sleep: Building cash reserves is the responsibility of every leader. It's security for the company should it experience the unexpected. It's funding for unique opportunities. It's simply sleep good at night money. No matter how good you think you are at it, operating out of the company's checkbook is risky and dangerous. Checkbook balances tell little about the financial reality of a company. And if your company is burdened with excessive debt, you need to lock down spending and debt reduction by committing to and living your cash-flow plan. Cash reserves are planned. No compromise.
Go for predictability: Predictability is the dream of every leader. Predictability is the result of well-designed and well-executed systems. If your company experiences too many miss-fires or missed goals, or has difficulty hitting critical numbers and benchmarks, it's a sign that systems are missing, poorly designed and void of accountability. Pick one or two areas in your company that need improvement and assemble a small team to analyze and build better systems. Predictability takes hard work and discipline. Get to work on your systems.
Change your routine: Leaders often get stuck in their routines and work habits. Routines have a strange way of restricting your peripherals to the point where you develop tunnel vision. Have you ever said, "How did I not see this happening right under my nose?" Of course you did and it's because you were stuck in your routine. In 2014, change your work schedule. Delegate some of those tasks, that you're clinging to, amongst your team members. Include more time interacting with employees and customers. Organize your new routine in the calendar - and stick to it. No compromise.
Success is a shared experience: You may be the leader or owner of the company, but it takes a team to create wins. It takes a team to create the best performance and growth year ever. No-Compromise Leaders share success with those that worked hard to achieve it. They celebrate small wins as well as the big wins. It's not just about bonuses and money - it's about acknowledgment and appreciation. The people you lead believe in your dream. Share it with them. No compromise.
Neil Ducoff is the Founder and CEO of Strategies, a leading salon/spa/medspa business coaching, consulting and training firm. He is also is the author of "Fast Forward - Second Edition: The Definitive Guide to Salon/Spa Management," as well as the award-winning "No-Compromise Leadership" and "Wake Up!" books. Learn more at http://www.strategies.com.