Higher Resolutions

Each year at this time, it is a Western tradition to examine our lives and to make New Year’s resolutions to improve them.


In previous years, I have attempted to give my readers a guide to making effective (or at least painless) New Year’s resolutions. My favorite New Year’s resolution technique, the “gimme,” involves promising to give up something you don’t really care about. Normally, I give up lima beans.

But this year, I have decided to give my readers more effective advice. So I’m going to turn the tradition on its head, and help you eliminate New Year’s resolutions that you should not make, both as an individual and for your organization.

First, let’s examine the New Year’s resolution for what it really is: An excuse to put off doing something that you know you need to do. Probably one of the most common resolutions is to resolve to eat a healthy diet following the first of the year, as we pick up that second slice of holiday cake. This is simply a way of excusing the behavior for now, and of putting off the feeling of failure that we inflict upon ourselves when we never really attempt to fulfill the resolution. In other words, most New Year’s resolutions are taken as a way of excusing current behavior that we know is wrong. And we do this not just as individuals. In past years, my organization’s holiday parties have often featured such resolutions among the group, resolving to do things better in the future.


It is all too easy to make promises to do vast and imposing things at some time in the future. But the reality of business often sets in when business picks up again in the new year and we become too busy to pay attention to the resolutions we made over eggnog.

So let’s treat New Year’s resolutions for the business as what they are: a cry for help.

So the following are common resolutions I urge you NOT to make and some things I suggest you do instead. Not only will this let you avoid the inevitable feeling of failure caused by, well — failure — it may actually do some good.

Common resolution number one: “We are going to start a massive new program of training effective January 1.”

Look, I have been here. It is all too easy to say over my second hot buttered rum, but as a resolution it is so broad that it is the equivalent of saying that you are going to build a pyramid. And it is something very difficult to produce while paying attention to the rest of your business.

A better suggestion — pass the buck. Pick up the phone right now, call a manufacturer or rep on whose products you need training, and schedule a meeting for a brief training session for the staff. At that meeting, you will schedule the next one. Between now and then, appoint an interested staffer to make a list of manufacturers and associations that offer such training programs for you to choose from in the future. Post the list. With that done, you can pour your third hot buttered rum, smiling smugly over the idea that you now have nothing to feel guilty about.

Common resolution number two: “In January, I am finally going to document everything and produce a procedures manual.”

I have avoided this resolution for a number of reasons. First, because it is an even more massive task than creating a new training program. Second, because it would take a massive amount of administrative time and lastly because it could limit my ability to arbitrarily make up rules and procedures on the fly.

A better suggestion — share the load. Set up a place where departments and individuals can document the way they do things (or the way that they would like to). This can be as simple as a set of shared documents in something like Google Docs or iCloud, but I would suggest making it something that allowed for both the posting of documents and for threaded communication about them. I have always been a proponent of web-based solutions like Basecamp, but for those of us dealing in collaboration technology and equipment there are now solutions like Cisco Spark, that have the advantage of integrating with equipment that we need to learn and use anyway. Regardless of what solution you choose, start it now before you lose track of how many hot buttered rums you have now poured.

I am running out of space here and I am taking up your valuable holiday time. So I will sign off, hoping that these examples have helped you avoid making those failure-prone resolutions, and maybe, just maybe, have helped you do small things that will kick your New Year off well. I will look forward to hearing about it.

And in the meantime: I am giving up lima beans.

Have a great holiday season.