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October 1st kicked off Incite’s fiscal year. Yearend always brings mixed emotions for me: pride at what we’ve accomplished and excitement for our upcoming plans but also feeling deflated and overwhelmed. As a world-class worrier, starting the year at the bottom of the revenue mountain feels daunting while the desire to make improvements both fuels and intimidates me. Here are three things I try to do at the start of each fiscal year to help me manage those emotions and start climbing the mountain with the right mindset.

  1. Celebrate and debrief the previous year
  2. Plan for what we want to do and how we want to do it
  3. Prepare for the worst-case scenario

Celebrate and debrief

I’ve always been guilty of glossing over past accomplishments and focusing all my attention on the next challenge. This is a mistake. First, failing to celebrate your wins misses the opportunity to recognize the people and initiatives that enabled your success. This builds both confidence (“look what we were able to do!”) and motivation (“we’ve done it before, we can do it again!”). Employee engagement is key to a strong culture; taking time to celebrate what you’ve achieved is a vital step. At Incite, we hold a full-day team retreat offsite at the end of each year and a key piece of the agenda is celebrating our successes.

A proper debrief is also a key learning moment. Ideally, input into this probe involves key stakeholders, including employees, clients, and partners. Incite uses Roy Group’s feedback model as a simple guide to conducting our annual yearend debrief and we ask ourselves three questions:

  • What went well last year?
  • What was tricky about last year?
  • What could we do differently next year?

Plan for both WHAT and HOW

Annual planning is typical in most organizations, and we’ve provided some best practices here. Most organizations drop the ball by limiting their efforts to setting goals and objectives; the “what” your organization wants to achieve in the coming year. This is important, but you also need to clearly outline “how” your organization will get there. Too often goals are simply budget based; we need to grow by 10 per cent to offset inflation. Listing a 10 per cent increase in revenue might be an appropriate goal, but if you don’t spell out how to achieve that revenue increase then you are unlikely to achieve it. The plan requires clear actions that will drive progress towards each objective. Use the Start Stop Continue framework to build specific actions to realize your goals.

  • START: What will we start doing?
    What will be new or different this year? What will we do differently? What will we add to our efforts?
  • STOP: What will we stop doing?
    What is getting in our way? What do we need to drop to make space for change? What trade-offs are needed to focus on our priorities?
  • CONTINUE: What will we continue doing?
    What is working and critical to next year’s success? What must we maintain or expand to be successful?

Prepare for the worst

I’ve already shared that I am a professional worrier. Sorry to hear it if you are like me, but I find planning for several different scenarios to be very helpful. Most beneficial is defining the worse case scenario and then mapping out our response if it were to happen. This exercise may seem dark and depressing but is liberating for me as I often realize that the worst-case scenario doesn’t sound as bad when analyzed with the team versus rattling around in my head. This alone is confidence-inspiring. Furthermore, knowing that we have a backup plan in place gives me peace of mind that we can respond quickly if required, which frees my mind from worrying about that dreaded worst possible situation. I now look forward to worst-case scenario planning as it helps me manage those worrisome emotions!

In conclusion

Yearend is an opportunity to take stock and reset. Use it to your advantage. Celebrate with your team and your family. Evaluate what’s working and what needs to change. Build a plan and support it with clear actions that will help achieve your goals. And free your mind by mapping out and preparing for the worst-case scenario. It likely won’t be needed, but you’ll limit the time you spend worrying about it either way.