There is a saying, “Hope springs eternal,” that often gets used in sports at the beginning of a new season. It is a time when players, coaches, and fans get excited about the possibilities and potential of what lies ahead. It is a time when we seem to be willing to shift our energy from reliving and holding on to the past to planning and embracing the future. As an alumnus of the University of Michigan and a lifelong fan of the football program, I certainly feel those sentiments. The program is going through significant turmoil, yet with new leadership, I am as hopeful and excited as ever about the possibilities of my team.

I think the natural optimism, hope, and energy that we bring as fans as a new season begins as a mindset that can be beneficial in business as well. Many of our clients have gone through significant turmoil over the past two years due to the economic downturn. Revenue and jobs were often lost or bonuses and salaries declined. Going to work, whether you were a leader, manager, or individual contributor, felt at times  like being caught on a boat in the middle of a serious storm. We had limited visibility, it was very bumpy, and a few of us felt like we might have to throw up. One of the comforts seemed to be the sense that the whole world was caught in the same storm and we were not the only ones having to go through it. It was created by factors we largely didn’t create or control but needed to navigate through.

It is an environment that forced many of us to be more cautious and more short-term-oriented and created a less optimistic view about the future. It was a necessary mindset, or our boat would have sunk or minimally we might have been thrown of it. Now, the danger of being in this state of mind for an extended period of time is that we can become stuck in it and it can become self-perpetuating.

While the future is still uncertain, we are operating in a more stable environment. We are enjoying a rebounding stock market and moderate GDP growth, and many of our clients are seeing tangible signs of a rebound.

The new year represents a great opportunity to gut-check your mindset and consciously reset it for yourself and your team. It is also a great time to celebrate and reinforce the amazing contributions that key people made in the face of adversity and set the tone for the new year rather than having it set for you.

So as we think about hope springing eternal with each new season that our favorite sports teams enter, so too should we think about the possibilities that 2011 can bring for our business, our people, and ourselves. I for one am grateful for the great passion of the people I get to work with every day and the tremendous flexibility they display to change our business to successfully navigate and grow in a very different market than the one we had just two years ago. I am also firmly committed to channeling that passion and capability into well-defined growth strategies for our business and breakthrough results for our clients that elevate the level of risk beyond what we were willing to pursue in the past two years.

So as you think about the upcoming year, I challenge you to do the same and ask these two questions:

  • What are you celebrating and are thankful for as you reflect on last year?
  • What mindset or belief is worth revisiting to make sure you lead in the best way in 2011?

Happy New Year, and may your thoughts be courageous and your actions bold.

January 6, 2011

More deeply rooted thinking



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