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How is your year end measuring up?

It is quite common at the end of the year to look back at the year just concluded. How did you do? Did you satisfy your customers? Did you have a good sales year? Did you make money?

There is a long list of measures we can consider when we are asked, “How did you do?” I say they’re all part of a year-end review.

I used to conduct a serious performance review on myself early in my career. It wasn’t pretty. My wife actually suggested I get a hotel room for a few days as I wasn’t much fun to be around when I conducted the review. So I stopped, but I still conduct what I like to believe is an honest year-end review.

What is success?

Let’s start at the beginning and define success. For this I am going to look to one of the most successful sports coaches for a model. Former UCLA Bruins men’s basketball coach John Wooden was one of the winningest coaches in NCAA basketball history.

He had two sets of rules he drilled into his players. The first set was: Never lie, never cheat and never steal. The second set was: Don’t whine, don’t complain and don’t make excuses. This second one is the one I want to focus on.

Many of us have experienced a 360-degree review. This is the review when our employees, peers and bosses review our performance. It can be quite humbling. However, it is a powerful tool for self-improvement if we approach it from a personal growth perspective.

I used to have a standard series of questions I asked people I worked with, every six months.

What do I do that you like and want me to continue doing?
What do I do that doesn’t really matter to you one way or another?
What do I do that you don’t like me doing and you want me to stop doing?
Holding two such discussions every year with each employee, it took about a year before I got some serious feedback. It took that long for people to have a true trust in me and the process. After all, for some people this is saying to the boss, “I don’t like this particular thing you do.”

That could be a dangerous comment to make with many bosses, but it never was a threat to me. That’s because I always wanted to hear what people I worked with thought about what I was doing.

What they liked—I obviously continued doing as long as I felt it had value. What didn’t matter to them—allowed me to seriously have a look at what I was doing. Was it something truly necessary for me to do, and as a result, was I in a position to eliminate the non-value added tasks I performed? I found this extremely beneficial.

Finding out what employees didn’t like allowed me to look at things from two differing perspectives. Was it necessary and how was my delivery. The necessity of the thing was the same as the non-value added review. The delivery was another interesting aspect of my work.

Pillars of life

I have always been amazed at the skill some people have in telling people how poorly they are doing something, while getting the employee to say thank you. It is a wonderful skill to be able talk honestly about a performance issue with an employee in such a style they embrace the discussion. I strive to be able to do this all the time, yet I still have work to do on this aspect.

Again, I go back to what I believe are three pillars of life for everyone.

Everyone wants to do a good job.
Everyone can do more than they think they can.
Everyone is fundamentally lazy.
Everyone walking the planet wants to have significance; they want to leave a mark. These three points I believe apply to each one of us. Don’t be misled by that last one. It is positive as well—as it means we are always going to try and find an easier way to do something. That is a great attribute.

So let’s define success according to Coach John Wooden.

Success: “Peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made an effort to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

It’s a simple statement. But that’s a tough standard to live up to, isn’t it?

I remember having someone tell me I had a lot of potential when I was about 16 years old. Let’s consider that same person telling me the same thing when I am 66 years old. I would wonder what I had done for the intervening 50 years! That is what makes the challenge of Wooden’s definition of success so daunting.

Holding yourself up for an honest review of how you did over the previous year is tough. Did I do everything I could? Did I apply myself as I should have? Did I grow as a person? Did I continue to learn? What can I do different next year?

These are all good questions to ask. One note of caution: Don’t be too tough on yourself. You are going to be here for a long time. It’s important you set yourself on a path to become better at realizing your capacity and potential.

The time is now.

Ron Slee is President of R.J. Slee & Associates, a management consulting firm specializing in the operational aspects of businesses in the Heavy Equipment, Material Handling and Data Processing Services Industries. Between his work with dealerships representing most of the major manufacturers and his management experience in dealerships, Ron has gained first-hand direct knowledge of the challenges and opportunities most dealerships confront in the Parts and Service operations.