Let’s say you wake up in the morning and take a look in the mirror to see a blemish somewhere on your body. It may have been there yesterday, but you missed it. It could have showed up in the night, and, now for the first time, you see it there. As I get older this happens to me more often than I like. 

It could be a sagging muscle, another line beneath your eyes, or a gray streak in your hair. There it is. We know this is a part of growing older, but it could be from a lack of attention to daily physical or mental maintenance. 

That’s because the home you live in is breaking down. Just leave it alone for a few years, and the grass around it will turn into weeds, trees will grow through it, and vines will creep over it as the roof begins to sag, fall in, and give up to the natural forces always at work in the world. 

My mom, bless her heart, is gone today, but, in times past, she owned several rental properties. In her later years, one of them went uncared for and without attention to the small needs every home has. This particular house had deteriorated beyond the point of repair. A jungle had grown up around it, the roof had caved in, and the floors and walls were filled with mold, rotten timber and drywall, and frayed electrical wiring. It was dangerous to walk through, and it had to be torn down simply because of the neglect of daily and weekly maintenance.

The body you inhabit is breaking down as well. An unbridled approach to what we eat and drink as we stop moving and stop pushing ourselves into work and exercise, will lead to low energy, sluggishness, and those sagging muscles we see in the mirror. Gravity just keeps on pushing, and, if we don’t push back, we sag into a deteriorated state and perhaps into a hospital. If a disease like COVID gets to us and our already challenged bodies, we may experience additional complications and difficulty breathing.

Planning to Combat Performance Decay

The sales team or company you lead is getting hit by new and existing internal and external forces moving against its capacity for consistent production or increased sales results.  It could be product changes, backorders, inflation, negative changes in the people’s personal lives that affect their productivity, bad hires, or new and changing competition. Things are always working to cool off a stellar family life, a great mental or physical state, or a hot sales team.

Around 1850, Scottish and German physicists discovered the second law of thermodynamics—a discovery that everything is moving toward a state of chaos and disorder, degeneration and decay. Icebergs and ice cubes melt. Asphalt in driveways crack, food left out decays faster, and standards and morals break down. 

What this means to us is that our strong families, great sports teams, fast-growing businesses, or high-activity sales reps are always cooling down unless someone does something to stop the forces that rise up against them—either internal or external to their systems. The basic and simple fact about any system in the world, including that of sales or marketing, is that disorder or chaos always increases within productive systems. Productivity and performance leak away.

We know this, because we experience it. As people, we always have to push against the opposing forces that keep our homes, our families, our lives,  our vehicles, or our sales team from staying well or getting better and from achieving important goals. In other words, there is always work to be done to keep from breaking down. It is important that we push forward.

Even though we cannot stop the inefficiencies and the degeneration and decay of our bodies and our productive endeavors, we can work to bring order, life, and higher effectiveness by a better use of new or existing resources.  An older man can work to improve his cardiovascular health or his golf game. A father can work to improve his relationships within his family. A sales leader can look at what’s bad, what’s good, what’s missing, and what’s unclear in the achievement of important goals and set new strategies. He or she can look at the internal or external forces against sales progress and bring new attitudes, standards, or habits into being in order to fight performance decay.

That’s why the last days of a year, or the first ones, are so important. They are for reflection, planning, and understanding the good, the bad, the unclear, and the missing. Then, we can work to apply new forces against the understood ones that oppose us.

Four Questions for Business Planning

Years ago, my business partner, Steve Suggs, sat in front of a business consultant and learned to ask these four simple planning questions:

  1. What’s good?
  2. What’s bad?
  3. What’s unclear?
  4. What’s missing?

You can ask these four powerful questions about any vision or goal important to you. They can be applied to your physical or spiritual condition, to your family and its relationships and goals, to your home, and to your financial well-being.  By acknowledging the truth of the good, the bad, the unclear, and the missing, improvement projects and actions will appear in the answers relative to goal achievement for the area they are applied to. 

This year, as usual, we’ve applied these questions to our business. After we compiled everyone’s answers, we’ve arrived at 19 projects and actions to strengthen what we have against our internal and external threats and weaknesses. Now, we can move forward into another year of growth. We’ve voted on the ones that are most important, and we’re working to see who will do what, when, and how. It’s always an exciting and revealing part of our year.

Setting Goals and Tracking Your Growth

But even as I write this, I know I need to do this for myself personally. It’s January 14, and I must work to change. I must work in a specific way with new or better habits toward important goals for 2023. Things are breaking down. Forces either known or unknown are working against me. I must look to see what they are and what I can do to achieve my goals this year.

My questions for you are, “Have you done this? Have you set your goals? Have you created your plan?” Research says that your chances are 30% better if you have. The best time to start is in November or December which will make the first few days of January important for beginning the actions and steps for a better year. If you’ve done this, great. If you have not, start now.

After January, remember to stop at times during the year and reassess. We sometimes don’t pay attention to that one person or part of our business that needs attention, and sometimes the decay and deterioration of productivity and performance occurs to a point that it’s too late.

That’s why weekly sales meetings and consistent and timely one-on-ones with your people are so important. They are like huddles during a football game keeping us all running the same play and working together for a win.

The first few days of January are days of vigilance for the new season, and they set us up for the things we want to accomplish as a person and as a transformational leader. If you have not begun, start now by using the four questions above. If you would like some help, please reach out and give us a call. Make 2023 the best year it can be with clear goals, plans, and actions to beat back the opposing forces. You can do this. Now, go do it and have a great year.

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