Is this the year you break through and find a whole new level of success? It can be! All you have to do is say so and back it up with action.

If you build it, you will have it. You just have to want it, see it, and commit to it. Then back it up with the right actions. The most important step is how you set this up with your teams right now.

Whatever happened in 2017, whatever got done, whatever you accomplished or didn’t, is now gone and fading into the past. The dice don’t remember. And before we know it, it will be December 2018, and each of us will be looking back on the year, reflecting on what got done, what got accomplished, what worked, and what didn’t.

By taking a proactive approach to the planning of your year, you can add a great deal of benefit towards success and profitability. What you decide on, commit to, and set into motion right now will determine the condition of your financials and your business come December. Will it be a good year, a great year, or the best year you ever had? The choice is yours.

Context is decisive 

To have breakthrough levels of performance, we need to understand breakthrough thinking, and breakthrough thinking starts with setting the context for your year. This is another way of saying, Get out of the box. Break out of being constrained by the reasonableness of your past results telling you what you can do. Don’t let your history dominate how successful you can be in your future. Whether your already one of the more successful firms, or just getting started, or anywhere on that continuum. Your first choice is in deciding the way you want to have your year go. Are you playing it safe and reasonable? Are you set up to focus on fine tuning? How you and your teams feel about your plans and goals for this year makes a huge difference right now in setting the context for the whole year. It’s that context that will manage their day to day view and the actions they take. Why is that so important? Because of what is known as discretionary effort. That’s the effort each person gives of their own discretion when owners and senior managers are not looking over their shoulder.

Context is real power

One of the habits I see senior managers and owners make is putting too much attention on minutia, details, and low-level priorities, and not enough attention to the context of your whole business. I’m not saying forget all those important details. But what I am saying is context is where all the power is. The context of your business is a main ingredient in shaping the mood, feeling, and actions of every person in your employ. Another way of talking about setting context is “Control the Narrative.” Is your business winning? Or is your business losing? What message are you sending to everyone? It is really that simple. The vision and pathway you communicate has a huge influence on the way your teams will follow and perform.

Case in point: Jimmy Stewart plays a character in “It’s a Wonderful Life” where in one moment his circumstances are so bleak he wants to commit suicide, and the next moment, with the same exact circumstances, he is joyously happy.

Setting a winning context tells your teams what they are doing is working, has them feel great about their day to day challenges, and adds up to 35% to their level of productivity. What do you think happens to your profitability when their productivity picks up by as much as 35%? Jobs close faster, margins go up, collections happen faster. All good results.

Focus your attention on what you want

In consulting with companies over the years, I have seen companies that were actually doing quite well, but the employees didn’t realize that because the owner was stressed over little things, which sent a negative message to everyone. This created a downward spiral ultimately suppressing productivity. Because the message employees got was there are a lot of problems and things aren’t working, what started showing up in the business were more and more problems eating up profitability. Then the owner’s response threw gas on that fire, producing even more of what was NOT wanted. These are called stress cycles, or self- reinforcing feedback loops. By not managing stress well, owners and senior leaders sometimes inadvertently and unknowingly create problems they don’t want.

Control the narrative

Think of it from the point of view of all your employees. My bet is, if your reading this article, you’re a company that has really good people. Those people work physically hard every single day in all kinds of weather conditions most people try to avoid, dealing with the kinds of tragedy all of us pray we never have in our homes. Their daily view is one of how to meet that day’s challenge of schedules, budgets, upset homeowners, sub-contractors and more. Setting a really positive and empowering context that says who your company is, the kind of company you are for your customers, the kind of year your going to have, what your committed to, puts a frame around the work your teams are doing that informs them of why they are working so hard. They need that. They thrive on that.

Breakthrough thinking

This is the next step in setting up the foundation for a really successful year. If you want to have a great year, you have to intervene in small, reasonable thinking and any resulting behaviors. Breakthrough thinking starts with creating the kind of year that your whole team can truly get excited about. Talk to them. Make it personal, and at the same time what’s best for the business. Having them participate in voting on what they personally want for the year locks in their engagement. I led a team discussion like this years ago with a company and one project manager came back with a 20-page proposal to improve field efficiency with a 5pt gain in GP margin. He was totally excited about it. He enrolled all the other PM’s in his project and over the following year that’s exactly what they accomplished. Meanwhile, in the following two years the company grew from $7 to $10 million. So I say, let it rip, and….

Play big or stay home

There is a very practical reason for this. It’s simply this, that’s the fastest, easiest pathway of least resistance to higher levels of productivity and financial success. That’s the most productive way to lead and manage your team’s performance through the year. People really do want to win. And when they feel they are winning, productivity goes up, and profits follow. The time you invest proactively in setting this up with your teams at the beginning of your year, will pay you huge dividends in higher sales, more closed work, and higher margins as your year unfolds.

Commitment brings it home

Once you and your team have the vision for your year, commit to it. Strong emphasis here on commitment! Not try, not a goal, a commitment. Review the article I wrote last month on the power of commitment management and go for it! The power of making commitments brings the understanding that commitments are the pathway to fulfillment for the kind of powerful results that will not happen otherwise. All really important actions everywhere in our lives happen in some kind, shape, or form of a commitment structure. Like a path to run on, a commitment to something you need empowers you to win. But our natural tendency is to be careful, mitigate the risks, plan carefully based on what our history says we can do, and be reasonable and safe in our expectations. Understand it’s not common to go for being very, very successful. It is unreasonable to plan for and expect to have a great year despite all the challenges. Uncommon results will only come from uncommon plans and actions. If we keep doing what we already know to do, were going to get what we already had last year. That’s why the poet George Barnard Shaw said, "All progress depends on the unreasonable man."

I wish you an unreasonably successful year.