Year-end can be challenging for any company as they navigate the highs of seeing the year-end goalpost in sight and the lows of exhaustion from pushing all year. The best thing I can do as a leader during this time is to inspire and empower my team to continue doing the little things that make the big things happen. Doing so requires focus and resolve right up to game day.
Are you ready for my football analogy? You had to know that was coming!
Super Bowl LI. In the third quarter, the Falcons lead the Patriots 28-3. Final score: Falcons still 28: Patriots an astounding 34. It was the biggest comeback the Super Bowl had seen in fifty years. While there was not just one thing that rallied the Patriots to such incredible success that day, there was one little thing they kept doing right up to game day that proved to be invaluable—running hills.
“We were running the hill last week,” said tight end Martellus Bennett. “And I was like, who runs the hill in Week 23? Guys were tired, but guys got out there, they ran full speed up the hill. We’re just a team that works.”
And that little thing—basic conditioning right up to game time—is what helped the Patriots leverage all the big things they brought to the game (strategy, the GOAT, etc.,) and empowered them to keep running strong in the fourth quarter just as the Falcons were running out of gas.
It’s no secret that Patriots’ players don’t like running “the hill.” Danny Amendola admitted, “It’s a beast, for sure,” and Nate Solder compared it to taking medicine. But they knew this basic practice would lead to the big win they chase all year long. As Nick Caserio, the director of player personnel pointed out, “Those guys don’t like it, but they’ll probably, in the fourth quarter, realize it’s worthwhile.” And they definitely did as they closed out Super Bowl LI in historic fashion.
While you likely don’t need your team to run hills in your business, you do need to help them keep working the little things while remaining focused on the big ones.
When a company wins an Inc 5000 award, I guarantee it’s not because of their overall strategic direction. It’s because of the smaller efforts like the SEO specialist creating an online campaign that increased sales leads from twenty to twenty-eight in one month, and then continuing to work it month after month. Recognize those wins at every turn and continuously remind your team members how their wins help make the end goal possible.
Keep centering your team on the basics like following the dress code, pushing their chairs in before they leave a meeting, because when those begin to fall by the wayside, so do other little things, like signing up for an opportunity to upskill, or taking one last action before they go home at night to ensure they are ready to hit the ground running the next day, or following up with a client one more time. Here again, recognize a team member’s initiative to upskill or make that extra follow-up call and remind them of how those efforts contribute to the end goal.
Successful companies don’t have big wins without consistently working the little things 365 days a year.
In those final weeks of the year, focus and teamwork will make or break success. Strengthen both by clarifying:
While everyone is focused on getting the little things done that make the big things happen, don’t forget to make sure they remain clear on what those big things you are shooting for are.
Leadership’s role in reaching end-of-year goals
Plenty of distractions and stress emerge as the end of the year approaches. Take the time to center your leaders up and down the ladder as to their roles in bringing their team over the finish line. Ensure they have what is needed to make smart decisions and act quickly to get stuff done.
Individual, team, and organizational rewards and incentives
As important as knowing what they need to do and how they need to do it is, the rewards your team members will reap for their actions is equally important. Remind them of what those intrinsic and extrinsic rewards are, whether that’s building a team member’s confidence, finishing a project ahead of deadline, or securing that big year-end bonus.
It’s the last game of the season. Time to run the hills so you execute every play with precision.