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Stopping Slack-Off Summer Syndrome: 6 Ways to Keep Your Company Ruthlessly Focused

By Tom Hall and Wally Bock

Ah, summer. That wonderful time of year when everything slows down including your business. Your clients, employees and vendors are on a seemingly constant rotation of vacation time. No ones ever in when you need them. The easiest thing to do, then, is just accept this state of affairs. After all, there is a gentlemens agreement in the business world that operations are supposed to slow down a little in the summer, and since your competition has slowed down, its fine if you put on the brakes for a while, too. Right?

Wrong. In fact, summer is the best possible time to really get focused on what makes your company tick in large part precisely because your competition is taking it easy during these lazy, hazy, crazy days.

It makes perfect sense. If everyone else is slowing down and losing their focus during the summer months and you do the opposite, then you will be way ahead of the competition when fall rolls around. Plus, losing your collective grip on what youre supposed to be doing and why for three months is just bad for business.

The ability to focus ruthlessly is what separates the companies that grow steadily and successfully from the ones that get distracted, trot down the wrong side path and find themselves lost in the forest.

Focus requires complete concentration, which can be difficult to achieve when the joys of summer are distracting you and your employees at every turn. Its difficult, but not impossible. Take the right steps and you can end the summer in a much better position than when it began.

A few simple steps can help you and your team ruthlessly focus this summer and maybe even have some fun doing it.

Vow to make this the Summer of Strategy. This summer, strive to make your core strategy (the main strategy that drives your business) the focus of everything: meetings, new projects, old projects, communications with clients and prospects everything. You should be able to describe your core strategy in a couple of crisp sentences. And it should answer two key questions: 1) How are we going to beat the competition? 2) How are we going to make money?

You must maintain a ruthless focus on your core strategy where every action, every day moves you and the business forward, especially in the summer. A clear strategy will help you stay focused and help you stay on track. If you get off track, use that same clear strategy to help you identify what happened and what needs to change. Keep the two key questions in the forefront of everything you do.

A great way to make sure you are ruthlessly focusing on your core strategy during the summer and beyond is by creating a stick-to-the-strategy group. The group should include people from every department. Their main objective should be to make sure the organization as a whole isnt losing sight of the core strategy. Theyll bring you and the rest of your employees suggestion on how to push forward and get back on track whenever necessary.

Plan the work and work the plan. Sometimes the best way to stay focused during the summer is to put everything you have to do right there in front of you. Create a to-do work list and encourage your employees to do so as well. Carefully manage the master list so that you are regularly updating it with new tasks and crossing off those that you have already completed. Make sure your employees so the same with their individual lists. The constant focus on these work lists will keep people from slacking off just because its summertime.

Youll be surprised how gratifying it can feel to check a task off your to-do list. When you do, it provides you with the encouragement you need to move on to the next task. Making a to-do list might seem like a simple idea, but it will have a big payoff. The list will help you see the big picture, and having everything in front of you will be a great way to continuously remind yourself that there is a lot to accomplish this summer.

Dont let people use their vacations as get-out-of-work-free cards. Anyone getting ready to go on vacation should be paying close attention to his or her to-do list. A pending vacation should not be an excuse for not getting work done. Rather, it should be a red flag that urges you to be mindful of deadlines, rearrange more flexible projects and ask for help if you need it. This is the message leaders should be sending to employees: If you are going to be on vacation, know what your deliverables are and then deliver!

Have a meeting with employees a couple of weeks in advance of their vacations in order to go over their lists. Point out those tasks that absolutely must get done before they go. Obviously, its important for everyone to get a break during the summer, but no one not your employees, not you should take three months off just because its summer. Not only will getting your work done make for a more enjoyable vacation for you, but it will make things a lot easier on your coworkers and/or employees while you are out. And it will make your return a lot easier as well.

Update clients once a week. During the summer, you and your employees arent the only ones who are traveling or just MIA; your clients likely will be too. Knowing they arent as available as usual, you might allow yourself to slip into less frequent communication with them. Dont.

Make yourself provide your clients with an update on whats going on with their accounts at least once a week. Doing so is a great way to stay ruthlessly focused on providing them the best service and making sure you are on track to meet your clients goals. Providing updates will push you to pay close attention to each of your clients. It forces you to keep the ball moving, constantly thinking about what step should come next, what goal should be reached next and what you can do to improve your overall service.

Leverage the freedom of summer to generate fresh ideas. Summertime is just more fun than any other time of the year. It brings out peoples inner children” and sparks creative ideas. Thats why summer is a great time to focus on developing fresh ideas at your organization. One way to get peoples creative juices flowing is to hold an organization-wide contest.

Ask everyone to submit their bright idea for the company and a plan for implementation. To motivate them to give their best effort, offer the winner an extra day of vacation or a Friday off. Another way to inspire people is to hold a brainstorming lunch with your staff once a month or so. Ask them to each bring at least one idea, whether it be a way to help a client, a way to save money or a way to improve the business as whole.

Finally, get outdoors from time to time. Take everyone to the local park one day. Encourage them to use the time outside the office to brainstorm ways to improve the business or tackle a problem that has been giving them trouble. Not only will people get to spend some fun time together enjoying the summer weather, theyll have a chance to clear their heads and do some great brainstorming.

Look for ways to keep people refreshed. Staying focused shouldnt be about drudgery. People need a bit of fun and levity to prevent boredom and burnout. Thats why you should look for ways to infuse the spirit of summer into your organization. Let your employees enjoy the things that make summer great without ever leaving the office. Provide fresh flowers for everyones desks. Serve up a pitcher of ice-cold lemonade. Relax the dress code (at least one day a week). Pipe beach music throughout the office. The possibilities are endless.

Do whatever you can to make work more summer-y. It will create a nice escape from the status quo that will refresh you and your employees and help everyone refocus on the work at hand while still getting to enjoy the spirit of the summer.

It may sound like a great idea to check out for the summer and just pick things back up in September.  But in doing so, you leave a lot of great opportunities on the table. You dont have to be at the office 24/7. You can still enjoy the season, and you should. The key is to maintain a ruthless focus when you are working to keep pushing your business forward and to encourage your employees to do the same. Then, at the end of the summer, you and your employees can celebrate a job well done.

Tom Hall and Wally Bock are co-authors of

Ruthless Focus: How to Use Key Core Strategies to Grow Your Business

.” Hall has spent most of his career advising clients on growth as well as growing companies himself. He currently chairs a communication firm based in Florida. Bock is a writer, speaker and consultant who specializes in learning and sharing how leadership and strategy combine to create successful companies.


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