The University of Texas commencement speaker for the class of 2014 was Navy Admiral William McCraven, who heads the US Special Operations Command. Admiral McCraven, for 36 years a Navy SEAL and a Texas graduate, gave the graduates a very unexpected piece of advice. He said, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”
McCraven went on to explain, “If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”
This is good advice for managers starting a new fiscal year as well. The decisions and choices made early in the year have a dramatic impact on the entire year. Here are three key strategies to put into place right at the start.
Amp up your hiring.
In What They Still Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School, IMG founder Mark McCormack detailed the importance of hiring decisions. He wrote, “The biggest mistake is failing to hire people smarter than yourself.” He then recounted a vivid object lesson that David Ogilvy used at Ogilvy & Mather to drive home this point. Ogilvy would give his managers a set of Russian nesting dolls.
As they opened each doll the executives would find a smaller one inside. When they opened the final doll, they found a note from Ogilvy: “If you always hire people who are smaller than you are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. If, on the other hand, you always hire people who are bigger than you are, we shall become a company of giants.”
The employment market has changed in recent months and according to theDepartment of Labor, the number of unemployed persons per job is now lower than it was before the recession started in December of 2007. Yet paradoxically the lower number of applicants for positions makes it more important than ever to hire only the best people you can find. Work your networks—friends, alumni associations, local schools—and hire better people than you have ever hired before.
Evaluate what you are evaluating.
The new year is a time to set new goals and review past performance. Before you do that however, take a minute to look at what you are measuring—and whether that gives you the most pertinent information to your future success. As Peter Drucker famously noted, there is a vast difference between doing things right and doing the right things.
The standard measurements matter a lot. Companies didn’t just start tracking employee turnover, PERS, FTE summaries and EEOC statistics to fill the days of human resources professionals. They give important and useful information. But it is possible for some of the most important information to slip through the cracks. Take part of a day to list the most important factors in the success of your department or company, and then go through that list line by line to determine which if any of those categories are not being captured by your current reports.
Make today count.
The Dean of Education at my college addressed the student body and said something I’ve never forgotten: “A wasted life is nothing more than a lot of wasted days put together.” There are people who have great plans for the future that never come to pass because they never start. Don’t allow yourself to live in the future. Make your plans and then get to work. Do something specific today that will take you toward at least one of your goals. If you do that every day, this will be a year when you accomplish amazing things.