My Christmas list for business owners and leaders

This is the time of year when children of all ages create a list for Santa. These lists consist of “wants” and “nice to haves” but not always “what’s really needed.”

This year I’ve created a list of “what’s really needed” for every owner and leader. These items are for those who are already successful and wish to maintain that success; for those that desire more success; and for those who want their employees, vendors and clients to be affiliated with a dynamic and growing organization.

I suspect I might get pushback from some who say, “I’ve been very successful without what Ken is recommending.” To those I advise: use my list as validation for what you have accomplished and as a vehicle to become incrementally better.

First on the list is a written plan for growth and success in 2013. I recommend a one sheet business plan because it is short, not complicated and effective. It is a tool to manage the business daily to year end goals and longer term strategic goals.

The second item is a useful management tool. It’s a rolling 12 month business calendar to proactively plan the future, providing visibility beyond the typical December year end cliff.

The third gift is personal. It is the gift of planned time off for rest, relaxation and renewal. I advise my clients that they need to get something on their calendar if they expect a vacation to actually take place.

I advise every owner and leader to have two full weeks off, in a row, at least once a year. Block out the dates, pick a destination and make the preparations internally so the business will run in your absence. Make 2013 the year you went to see something you always wanted to see. You deserve it.

The fourth gift is an incentive plan for every employee on the payroll. Jack Stack’s book, A Stake in the Outcome, outlined how he and his leadership team reinvented a failing company to great success using employee incentives.

Stack and his team taught the employees a common financial language, which served as a foundation for earning monetary rewards and having greater opportunity for all. Employees knew where their company was going, what was expected of them and what the rewards would be if goals were met. This process transformed the company. Employee incentive programs gain alignment, increase engagement and motivate people to work harder and smarter.

When the fear level is high, nothing much happens. This is the almost always the case when it comes to conducting performance evaluations. Employees are afraid of having a discussion because their shortcomings are highlighted. Leaders don’t like having this discussion because it is hard to tell an employee they are not meeting expectations. As a result, honest evaluations aren’t conducted as often as needed; sometimes they are never given.

The fifth gift is to conduct candid evaluations for every employee all year long. Every employee deserves to be told what they are responsible for and what their standards of performance are.

This fifth gift becomes exponentially easier once an employee incentive plans are in place. My suggestion is to determine your key result areas, figure out how employees impact the results, set goals, explain to each employee the affiliated rewards and then launch a trial program, adjusting along the way. Monthly payouts work best to keep interest high.

I hope that these five gifts will strike a chord with you and that you will take them in the spirit they are offered; that 2013 be your best year ever.