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Get Clear on Winning for 2017


holly with brain smallDid you blink and another year went by?  Me too.  Which means it’s time once again to climb up on my soapbox and talk about how to get clear on winning this year. But first, a few questions.

How did 2016 go for you?  Did you and your organization achieve all that was possible; or even all you expected?  Did you meet all of your targets and attain all your goals? Are you not sure because you didn’t even have targets and goals? (Queue images of me sobbing in the background) Most important, did you play to win in 2016 or did you just play not to lose?

If you played not to lose, what did that strategy cost you? And what’s it worth to you to try something new to win in 2017?  On the other hand, if you consider 2016 a “win”, are you positioned and ready to win even bigger in 2017?

If you intend to play to win in 2017:

Get clear on winning.

Getting ready to win starts with my favorite topic: define winning clearly and with specificity. I’ve written a best-selling book, Using Your Brain to Win, on this very topic.

Here are the basic steps:

  • Pause to identify what winning looks like for your organization.
  • Identify the skills, knowledge, tools, technologies and abilities you will need to acquire or enhance in order to win.
  • Share your vision of winning with everyone in your ecosystem – employees, customers, vendors, suppliers, partners, alliances and anyone that has a stake in helping you win.
  • Get clear on what you will not do. Make a list of all the major initiatives and big projects that no longer fit your definition of winning and shut them down.
  • Set clear individual goals that link directly to the organization’s key strategies for winning. Then give ongoing feedback on how individuals and the organization are doing. 

Leverage your brain.

The human brain can work both for and against us, depending on how we use it.  Pay attention to the built-in tendencies of the brain that don’t support good decision-making, and practice the strategies for countering them. For example, question what you are sure you see. Balance the big picture and the details. Conduct regular assumption inventories. Stop jumping to solutions. Pause to consider new possibilities. And stop making stuff up!

Feed your brain.

Our brains thrive on data, but in today’s hyper-paced world, it had better be diverse data. Expand your data sources beyond the boundaries of your business and your industry. Purposefully seek out information that challenges your view of the world.  Follow trends that, on the surface, seem to have nothing to do with your products or services. Surround yourself with people who don’t see the world the same way you do.

Once you’ve got yourself (and your brain) focused on winning, do the following to keep employees focused as well.


Make sure employees understand what winning looks like for your organization.

Employees usually prefer face-to-face communication when talking about the company’s goals and objectives. Smart leaders use a variety of communication tools to keep their most important messages top of mind with employees throughout the year including face-to-face, visuals, meeting prompts, video, etc.

Set up a system to remind managers to discuss the goals and strategic planning framework elements with employees on a regular basis. Provide tools and templates team leaders can use in monthly team meetings and one-on-one conversations. And never stop communicating what winning looks like!


Inspiring people once is easy. Keeping them inspired to win throughout the year is much harder. Focus on the aspirational components of the goals – how it will help to improve the lives of your customers. Share your passion; why is winning so important to you? Celebrate the milestones, both big and little. And keep communicating!


Feedback is the breakfast of champions. It’s also a great way to engage people and support winning. Start by measuring what matters and what people can relate to. In addition to margins, cash flow and other financial data, track performance metrics that directly relate to the tasks people perform each day, such as improving customer satisfaction, speeding up delivery times, reducing scrap, developing a new product or service. Then let people know how they’re doing on a regular basis. When employees can see what winning looks in ways they can relate to, they make better decisions that support achieving the goal.

It’s always a good time to pause and assess what is working for you and not working so well, refine, and refocus on winning.  What are you waiting for?

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