Now that we're fully immersed in 2019 and running head first into St. Patrick's Day and March Madness we're also fast approaching one of the most crucial leadership transition points for the year.

For most teams, the end of March marks the end of the first quarter of the year. With it comes the opportunity to evaluate your progress to date, reset your plan for next quarter and re-inspire your team to achieve more.

Most quarterly reviews, however, fall into one of two equally unproductive patterns. The first is a drive-by meeting filled with 'yeah-yeah-yeah's' that's ultimately unconnected to the work the rest of your organization does on a daily basis. The second is a stark realization that we essentially forgot we had any form of strategic plan and a mix of pleasant surprise at how good the plan looks in retrospect and frustration in realizing that we've moved so far away from it to be recognizable.

This is your opportunity to get back on track and to use your quarterly review to set the tone for your success for the rest of the year. Here's how:

1. Elevate your focus.

Like a submarine ascending toward the surface to scan the horizon, your quarterly review should involve you and your team elevating your focus away from the daily actions and tactics and toward the strategic.

Remind everyone attending that this is about a review of the past quarter and its contribution to your annual goals. As much as possible firewall yourself and your team from the busyness of the day-to-day for a few hours and give yourself the collective headspace to engage with each other and make better decisions.

2. Ask better questions.

Rather than a standard review by numbers which can feel staid and disconnected, ask yourself these three great questions:

What did we hit out of the park last quarter?

First, use this as an opportunity to celebrate your successes. Second, view it as a springboard to explore why you succeeded, how can you share the learning with the rest of the organization and whether you should double down on your approach for next year.

What did we screw up?

The quarterly review should be a collective learning process. It's not a reason to bash people over the head. In asking this question, you're seeking to learn what you as a team need to do better next quarter. Use this as an opportunity to discuss if a particular part of your strategic focus needs to change or if it was just a blip. Then get clear on who is responsible for turning this into a raving success for next quarter.

What did we abandon?

Most strategic plans are over-ambitious. As a result, there are usually one or two imperatives that slide down the priority list or get ignored in their entirety. Rather than awkwardly letting those aspects slide by during the review, use it as an opportunity to explore if it's still a valid pursuit. If so, what additional resources do you need to make progress on it this quarter?

3. Lay a stake in the ground.

End the session by asking each member on the team what their two or three key goals are for the next quarter. Trap them and build them into a monthly review process with your team to track your progress during Q2. You'll end up with less surprises for your review in June.

Your quarterly review can be a powerful tool to propel your team and your organization forward for the rest of the year--don't let this opportunity pass by you.

Published on: Mar 15, 2019
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.