The Rush Of The Last Quarter

Richard Shrapnel's -'The Rush Of The Last Quarter'.

Believe it or not, we are now in the final quarter run to the end of 2018. Now is the time to pause, see where you have got to in all your plans, and reset for this final run. It’s important to finish cleanly and well, and then gear up for 2019.


Active Knowledge Questions:

How do you sustain focus and momentum in your business and within your leadership team? Is this approach part of your business’s DNA?


The Rush To The Finish

It doesn’t matter where you live in the world, there is a period of time that is considered the close out of the year. As that date magically appears on the horizon, everyone says ‘I can’t believe the year has gone so fast!’ Then the rush starts for everything to be finished before that magical date ticks over.

It happens every year without question, and probably does more harm than good in terms of actually achieving anything meaningful.

Whether it’s just you as an individual or as a leader in your business, this is the perfect time to step up and reset expectations and goals for the remainder of the year.

Clean out that to-do list and the commitments you are making (or are about to make) to customers and colleagues. Many of us tend to take on more than we can possibly get done, and when the requirements and expectations of our managers and our customers are added in, it can be a disaster in the making.

Poorly executed projects, missed deadlines, and unmet expectations can be the outcome of not taking control of the last quarter. Essentially, leaving that to-do list unchanged, unchallenged, and open for more business will not yield the best outcome.


But Deadlines Make A Difference

I –  as many would also admit – seem to work better under tight deadlines. If there is a deadline to be met, I will crunch down, my productivity leaps up, and the task will be completed. Without the deadline, I would likely lag on tackling the task.

But this is not a good work practice and reflects poor planning, motivation and the ability to focus. In fact, it often reflects taking on more than one is able to get done in the time allowed and then having to juggle tasks to meet expectations and demands.

For those leaders who believe loading up staff with work and then simply expecting that they will find a way to get it all done – their problem not mine – well, you are doing a disservice to the customers, employees and the business.

Placing yourself or others in a position where you or they are forced into delivering on unrealistic deadlines is simply bad practice. It will not yield the best results for anyone.

Why do I believe this? Experience, I suppose, is my first response. It’s also because this practice tends not to be isolated to a single urgent event. Often it becomes the way of work. Every day is crunch day. Every day there is more pressure and unmet expectations. That type of continuity will wear anyone down to the point where they break or they merely survive – neither of which will deliver a winning performance.


Achieving The Audacious

Audacious goals are achieved in small steps. They require a narrowing of your focus, identifying the next important thing that must be done, and stepping forward. There are eight basic rules that can guide you to achieve the audacious and these should be followed relentlessly.

To achieve the audacious also requires replenishment. You and anyone who may work with you has limited reserves on any day. Yes, it is about health, physical strength and emotional engagement – but it is also about willpower. The ability to sustain a creative focus on what is most important and to get that done to the best of your ability. In any single day, you only have so much willpower and once that is depleted, well, so too will be your output.

The third key aspect of achieving the audacious is motive. Motive is the fuel that renews and restores every morning. I need it and I want to be surrounded by it in all my colleagues.

Motive will re-charge willpower and provide you with the energy to focus and push forward. As an individual or as a leader, you must set the right motive to produce this fuel on a sustainable basis. I find that motive lies in a righteous cause and not self-interest.

You don’t have to be chasing an audacious goal. It may even just be ‘business as usual’ with a range of tasks to be completed. It doesn’t matter. All of the points above are still relevant. However, the rush of the last quarter – if not managed well – can easily overwhelm and, in fact, push the likelihood of getting things done backwards.


Pause, Reset And Focus

One of the greatest motivators can simply be getting something done. That feeling of achievement in knowing a task has been completed. That you can now cross it off your to-do list and move onto the next project.

Is it better to now pause and succinctly articulate what the focus will be on this last quarter? Or to allow the doors to remain open and hope or demand that it get done?

I would much rather finish the year well, with a focus and energy on a year of success closed out with everything done and everyone energised. That will not happen without a guiding and protecting hand. Guide your team on what is most important and where their energy must be focused. Protect them by ensuring that distractions are not permitted to enter.

So where should that guiding hand go? For me, I believe to those tasks that will benefit the customer the most. We compete around customer value, and, therefore, the most important tasks, those which close the year out well and set us up for the next year, are those that will deliver more value to our customers than anyone else can.

Start this last quarter, with an unstoppable focus that will set you up for 2019. That should be your goal.


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All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel