On the second Monday of December, in small businesses across the country, some variation of this conversation tends to occur.
Leader to Team:
“I am excited! I finished my planning this weekend. I’d like to launch this new program on January 1. We have three weeks, which I know is more than enough time. And if we don’t meet again before the holidays, have a great holiday!”
“Oh, no, not AGAIN! So much for our holiday plans!”
This is the mark of an inexperienced leader, who mistakes ideation for planning, and who likely hasn’t read about John Maxwell’s Law of Timing.
In each quarter, there are 13 weeks.
How you use those weeks can make the difference between success and failure. And here is the important thing that experienced leaders know that inexperienced leaders do not: each of those weeks has a natural cadence and energy.
Tapping into that natural energy compounds results and creates a better workflow.
Disrupting it could mean your team is silently exclaiming, “Oh, no, not AGAIN!”
Here is how you can make the most of each quarter.
Planning is where you take the idea of what you would like to launch or build and apply realistic costs and timelines.
Planning in this case would have been more a conversation about what the team will be working on next quarter – projects that would launch during the quarter or at the end, not at the beginning of the quarter.
As an effective leader, you must stay a step ahead of what your team is focused on. You, essentially, are always paving the way for the next phase, while they finish the current one.
Ideally, you will want to plan the next quarter by Week 8 or 9 of the current quarter. This gives you and the team time to wrap up the current quarter, all while knowing the next projects on the horizon.
Think about it. The last week of December each year is usually the busiest time for donations to charities because that is the natural time for decluttering. And the first of January, everyone is at least thinking about starting something new.
The same holds true in business. Finishing in Week 13 in December lends itself to Starting in Week 1 of January.
Week 1 of the next quarter, your team is ready to begin new projects and initiatives. This is a great time to flesh out details and ideas and to set the framework. It is a time of renewed focus, that then yields to the productivity phase.
Weeks 2-12 of a quarter are times of production, with Weeks 10-12 being the natural high-water marks for productivity. There is an intrinsic desire during this time to finish current projects, products, and initiatives. This is the time to mark items off the punch list and close out projects.
By Week 13 of a quarter, your team is ready for a change of pace. They are ready to clear away the clutter of the quarter, reflect on the quarter, and reset as they prepare for the next quarter. Giving your team this week each quarter to regroup, reflect, and record processes is a great use of the energy that naturally comes during this week.
As a leader, your role is to ensure your team starts and finishes well. Starting well leads to quality. Finishing well means income and, ideally, profit. And planning well is the key to both.
Planning intentionally across the 13-week framework creates results and respect from a team who will appreciate your attention to their natural cadence.
- Take out a calendar and mark the week numbers for the next quarter.
- Mark Week 1 for Preparing
- Mark Week 8 or 9 for Planning
- Mark Weeks 10 to 12 for High Productivity
- Mark Week 13 for Processing
- Determine your goals for the next quarter, and break out the milestones on the calendar, being sure to match the energy of the weeks.
- Discuss the goals with your team before the quarter begins. Ask them to weigh in regarding the feasibility of the number of projects and the milestones.
- Allow them time to finish this quarter well, with high productivity and a quarterly processing week at the end.
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Deb Ingino is a highly sought-after executive coach, mentor, consultant, and speaker worldwide. Deb is well versed in business operations and in the importance of asking key questions most business leaders won’t ask themselves. She brings deep experience in leadership development, strategy, high performance team building and effective communication. She has a passion for leading people to discover and maximize their strengths as well as those of fellow team members, while offering advanced strategies to achieve high performance. Deb is the perfect fit if you’re ready to take your leadership and impact to the next level!