With startups and high-growth companies--things happen fast. And the highs and lows can be intense. You and your company go through a lot in a year. It's easy to forget how where you started and how far you've come this year, and it's easy to lose perspective.
One company I work with had a major layoff at the beginning of this year and is right now on the cusp of a market breakthrough. One CEO I coach led his team through a major change in the kinds of customers they were targeting in the summer, and the company has made tremendous progress with the new direction.
Before you shut down for the year, use this time of year to end the year powerfully doing these three things:
1. Reflect on your year.
Your position may be better than it was at the beginning of the year or it may, sadly, be worse. Either way it's a helpful time for you and your team to reflect.
Pull your executive team together, and lead a discussion on these three questions:
- What are we most proud of about this year?
- What did not go well this year?
- Given all that, what should we do differently next year?
Approach these questions from multiple angles. Obviously you will look at the results you achieved, but don't just focus on those results. Think also about how you achieved those results. You may be proud, for example, about the way you handled a situation as a team. Perhaps you made a big bet, and whether or not it paid off it was the right decision.
The same is true for what did not go well. You may have achieved the revenue results you forecasted but did so in an undisciplined way. You can be happy about the results but unhappy about the way you got there. A situation may not be all good or all bad.
Finally, as you reflect, you will naturally arrive at areas that you'd like to change or fine tune for next year. Perhaps you want to focus more on a few core actions and goals. Maybe you see the need to invest in training the team. Capture these ideas, make them actionable and they will help you get a head start on the next year.
2. Check in with your culture.
As you reflect with your team, it's a good time to check in about culture. Companies that have a strong culture know the value of culture to bring the team together and ensure that your employees are doing the right things and executing effectively even when you're not around. That's valuable. Check to see if your culture is still working for you.
Some questions you can ask are:
- Do we have an articulated culture and shared values?
- How do the values come to life everyday--what are some anecdotes of things that people did that are emblems of the company values and the culture?
- Is our culture still serving us or are there some tweaks we should make?
- Do the founders and the leaders of the company act in keeping with the culture, consistently?
- Is our hiring process working to get people who fit and to weed out people who don't fit with the culture?
These questions will help guide a reflective conversation about the culture. If there are changes you want to make, you can discuss them here. Make sure you have actionable takeaways so everyone knows what is expected of them.
3. Plan time to celebrate.
Yes you should have a holiday party or year-end party. But make sure you also set aside some time to recognize specific milestones, accomplishments, and efforts of the team.
Whether your company is in terrific shape or fighting for its life, you can always find things to celebrate. In fact it's critical to do this. The pace of a start up is grueling and the work intense. Adding in celebration makes sure that people feel appreciated for their hard work. It also puts some closure on the year--helpful from a psychological perspective.
There are multiple ways to make time to celebrate the year. You can have an all-hands where the leaders articulate the teams' successes, perhaps leading into a celebratory happy hour. You can have a team lunch in which each person or each team shares their top successes for the year. You might decide to open up a nomination process, so that employees can call out some of the achievements of their team mates.
Use this time to reflect on the past year, and make changes as you need to and you will find yourself well set up for next year.