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Why the Christmas break is a good time to plan your New Year goals

Karen Higginbottom

It’s that time of year again. The Christmas break is looming and for many managers it’s a period where they have time to reflect and think about their objectives for 2014. The problem is that New Year resolutions often remain in the head and rarely turn into realistic and achievable goals. Karen Higginbottom speaks to experts about how to ensure that New Year goals don’t remain a figment of your imagination and talks to managers about their goals for the year ahead

The Christmas and New Year break is a good time for managers to set goals for the next year, comments Professor Cary Cooper, Professor of Organisational Health and Psychology at Lancaster University Management School. “You need to set realistic objectives and ask yourself what do I want to get out of work and what are my objectives?” 

The important element to successful objective setting is to prioritise them, advises Cooper. “Prioritise one or two objectives in your list such as getting a promotion and look at what actions you need to take during the year to achieve that. For example, how will you improve the team’s performance during the year and break that goal down into realistic steps  and what it will look like at the end of the year if you’re successful. For example, we will work effectively as a team and ensure there is little conflict.” Cooper suggests breaking the objectives down into actions which can be implemented every three months. 

Pam Jones, programme director at Ashridge Business School warns that certain objectives  can be easier to measure than others. “Certain objectives are ‘hard’ such as bringing in ‘X’ percentage of revenue but softer objectives are harder to measure. For example, how do I improve my approach to customer service. Softer objectives require feedback and 360 degree feedback.”

Obi Okwuadigbo is a director of Coventry University Enterprises Ltd, the commercial arm of Coventry University, and manages thirty staff. For him, the Christmas break is an ideal time to reflect on his goals for 2014. “This is a great time to reflect in business as you rarely get time off when you can reflect on how your staff are performing.”  He has several objectives in mind when it comes to staff management in the forthcoming year. “How do you train the person who is reluctant to be trained? I truly believe in investing heavily in staff development but also appreciate that training people who don't want to be trained is throwing good money away.  Therefore, the challenge for me is to find alternative ways to train my staff who have this reluctance which is less than 10% of staff, and this is what will occupy my mind over the festive period. My staff need to engage more with social media and I believe we have the opportunity to have a significant positive effect on our business if all my staff understand how best to use social media.” 

Okwuadigbo’s priority for the next year is growth, both on a personal level and for Coventry University Enterprises. “On a personal level, I’m talking about a 360 degree approach as I need to answer staff queries in a more timely fashion.” Next year, Okwuadigbo will be facing some big changes in the Technology Park, which is part of his remit. “I feel real growth will come with a change in our approach and trying to be the first in the industry to try something new. The focus for us now is on growing our services and opening them up to small and medium-sized enterprises in the region. We are looking at doing more consultancy overseas especially in BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries. Many of these ideas come from my staff.”

Coral Ingleton is head of the learning and development team at Kent County Council and manages 32 staff. One of her main challenges next year is rising to the county council's challenge of 'Doing things differently' -which is looking at how the council can deliver its services more effectively but also in a cost-effective manner. “All services are being reviewed as the council has a further £280 million to save over the next three years. We need to make savings and provide a more flexible, customer focussed service. This ties into my priorities of looking at how we deliver training and development. We need to make access easier and more user friendly and more cost effective so will look at using a blended learning approach more than we do now.”
Managers work in a fast-paced environment that often leaves little time for reflection, remarks Jones. “Reflection time is very rare now which is why it's really important to reflect on your objectives.”


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