What Companies Can Learn from New Year’s Resolutions
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What Companies Can Learn from New Year’s Resolutions

January 7, 2014

Gareth Schweitzer

If you’re like me, you hate New Year’s resolutions. Hate. The idea that there’s one specific day of the year you’re going to right all of your wrongs is preposterous – and again, if you’re like me, you can’t cover the whole list in a day anyway. But there are more fundamental problems with New Year’s resolutions – namely, that they tend to be unspecific, unmanageable, and always attempt to tackle your biggest flaws, problems, or issues. They are almost never promises to take what’s best about you, and do more of it. Instead, it’s wholesale makeover day, and it doesn’t work because you probably like a lot about the way you are, and despite feeling like you should, really don’t want to change that fundamentally anyway. You’re probably wondering how on earth this relates to the business world. In many ways, the psychology of business is identical. Most businesses worth their salt do fundamental reviews and assessments of their capabilities, and then put in ambitious plans to solve their biggest problems. Chances are though, the list is the same most years, and the challenges only get bigger with growth. Very, very rarely do companies take a step back, acknowledge some of their flaws, and decide to live with them. It makes sense – it’s hard to acknowledge who we are, when who we are isn’t exactly how we want it to be.

If you’re like me, you hate New Year’s resolutions.  Hate.  The idea that there’s one specific day of the year you’re going to right all of your wrongs is preposterous – and again, if you’re like me, you can’t cover the whole list in a day anyway.

But there are more fundamental problems with New Year’s resolutions – namely, that they tend to be unspecific, unmanageable, and always attempt to tackle your biggest flaws, problems, or issues.  They are almost never promises to take what’s best about you, and do more of it.  Instead, it’s wholesale makeover day, and it doesn’t work because you probably like a lot about the way you are, and despite feeling like you should, really don’t want to change that fundamentally anyway.

The most common examples, diet and exercise, fit right in.  Let’s take eating too much.  First off, most of us like eating.  If you’re like me, you love it.  That means your desire for wholesale change is probably small.  Rather than saying you’re going to cut down on eating dessert from 5 days a week to 2, we say we resolve to ‘eat healthier’ (too general) or, in a worse-case scenario, set some absurd goal of losing 20 pounds when to date we haven’t successfully lost one (too ambitious).  What follows?  Disappointment, and the sense you’ve again failed yourself.

You’re probably wondering how on earth this relates to the business world.  In many ways, the psychology of business is identical.  Most businesses worth their salt do fundamental reviews and assessments of their capabilities, and then put in ambitious plans to solve their biggest problems.  Chances are though, the list is the same most years, and the challenges only get bigger with growth.  Very, very rarely do companies take a step back, acknowledge some of their flaws, and decide to live with them.  It makes sense – it’s hard to acknowledge who we are, when who we are isn’t exactly how we want it to be.

There is another option, though.  People, and companies, can put 80% of their energy to understanding what makes them great – and utilizing those strengths in every way possible.  This isn’t to say you can’t take steps to make your corporate issues less problematic, and there may be ‘mission critical’ problems that jeopardize your whole endeavor.  But the fact is we’re all flawed, and the sooner you embrace it the easier it becomes to put your time and attention to the right issues.  Most people, and companies, don’t change their basic tenors that much over time; what they learn to do is not waste time fixing problems that aren’t mission critical, and have proven intractable in the past.

That’s why it’s so important that companies have well developed value propositions that hold them to a set of core tenants about what makes them successful in the first place.  It’s a preventative mechanism against the diet you were never going to stick to, and a reminder to build to your strengths.  So this year, consider dropping the ambitious plan to be someone or something you aren’t.  Embrace yourself, and all of your horrible flaws.  And then focus on what makes your business great in the first place.

 

Gareth Schweitzer

CEO, Kelton & Co-President, LRW Group Action Division

As Co-Founder and President of Kelton, Gareth is a driving force behind the company’s strategy, culture, and success. With...

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