It’s hard to believe, but the calendar just flipped another year from 2012 to 2013. Financial institutions across the country have spent immeasurable hours and dollars preparing strategic plans for the new year. The task now becomes staying focused on those strategic plans as the usual pile-on of daily tasks and distractions assault our attention spans starting now.

To help you accomplish your 2013 goals, consider the following four tips.

  1. Stay focused. Sounds a bit redundant, but it’s key. Don’t start the New Year chasing wild geese. Instead, stay in alignment with your 2013 strategic plan.Of course, any good plan must have flexibility built into it so if something truly time-worthy comes along you are able to pursue it. Other than that,
    however, stay true to your plan. Often we’re faced with a mounting “to-do” list and the question shouldn’t be “Can you do this project?” but “Should you do this project?” Whenever one of these tasks arises, ask yourself, “Does this fit into the 2013 strategic plan and goals?” And don’t manage by crisis. If you spend all day long putting out little fires, the odds of accomplishing your 2013 goals diminish considerably.
  2. Commit budget dollars. In order to achieve your 2013 goals, you must allocate sufficient resources (both in dollars and manpower) to them. Look at your goals and ask, “Have we really devoted enough of the budget to make this happen?” If one of your 2013 strategic goals is to emphasize branding, do you have the dollar muscle behind that to realistically make it happen? You cannot expect great results without realistic funding.
  3. Follow-up and measure. How often do you refer back to your strategic plan? Once a quarter? Whenever you remember it? At the end of the year? Wrong answers! To stay focused, you must review your strategic plan and goals at least monthly, if not more often. Review important data like timetables and who is responsible
    for what action items. Update the status of each goal accordingly to get a better feel for your overall progress. One cardinal rule of strategic planning is “What is not measured is not accomplished.” Put a bit plainer, you must
    follow-up on your strategic plan or it will die. Think of it like that poor, neglected houseplant in every office, the one someone keeps forgetting to water. Eventually, it’s going to wither, wilt and die. Don’t let this happen to your strategic plan.
  4. Motivate your staff. You cannot keep your strategic plan at just the executive management and board level and expect to succeed. It is your staff and particularly your front-line staff that will drive the plan. They not only have to buy into the plan; they have to live it. Some credit unions and banks provide all staff
    members with a laminated 3X5 index card “cheat sheet” with the top 3-5 strategic goals for the year. They always have it near them and can refer back to it often in the quest to meet these goals. You can also remind them of the
    importance of the strategic plan and update them on its progress at staff meetings. Your front-line staff will help make or break the strategic plan, so keep them accountable by keeping them updated and involved.

As you clean up after the big New Year’s Eve celebration, put Auld Lang Syne in the rearview mirror and (hopefully) return back from a restful vacation, give a wink to 2012 and a nod to 2013. And as you move into the New Year, these four tips can help you stay focused so that in December 2013, you will look back with pride and see how much you’ve accomplished.