The first three months of the year are a critical time for your business. What you accomplish now sets the tone and lays a foundation for the rest of the year. If you’re feeling a little behind the 8-ball, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there is still time to start fresh and give your team the boost they need to hit your Q1 goals.

Here are three steps you can take to ensure you have a good plan and execution strategy for a successful Q1 and beyond.

Step 1: Establish a Roadmap

Entrepreneur reading roadmap
Entrepreneur reading roadmap

The only way to ensure that you have a successful Q1 is to define how success looks. Depending on your company’s long-term goals, success can look different for every business. For some, it might mean landing new deals early in the year, while for others, it might be hiring new employees. If you already have your 2021 business plan, you can skip ahead to step 2. If not, you can create your strategy for Q1 by working backward from your overall vision.

Your company vision is the foundation of your business. It’s the driving force that propels you and your team forward. Once you have a vision of what you want to achieve over the next year, you can work backward to create a clear roadmap that outlines how you will reach your main objectives each quarter.

For a successful quarter, identity 3-4 SMART goals. SMART Goals are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. SMART goals help you turn your goals into an actionable plan, giving you and your team a framework for what needs to be accomplished. For example, if your goal is to “grow your revenue,” a SMART goal could be to “increase revenue by 20% in 3 months.”

You could then break those SMART goals down even further to identify which tactics you will use to achieve each goal.

Once you have created your goals, you need to communicate them with your team to ensure they are achieved. To see the most success, you need to establish buy-in with your team and hold tension and accountability to those goals.

Step 2: Create Buy-in

2021 lightbulb with goals, development, strategy, plans, success, and motivation concept
2021 lightbulb with goals, development, strategy, plans, success, and motivation concept

As important as it is to set SMART goals, you must have buy-in from your team to reach those goals. Regardless of how long you spend developing a strategic plan for your business, your team holds the key to achieving those goals. And if your team lacks buy-in, you won’t be able to move the needle in your business.

When it comes to pushing your goals to the finish line, you need buy-in and support from your team. The more support you get from your employees, the more productive they will be in executing your goals and initiatives.

Here is a simple way to measure buy-in with your team.

Buy-in equation

Quality of the Idea x Buy-in Level = Execution

When presenting an idea, you must answer two questions:

  • What is the quality of the idea?
  • What is the buy-in level of the employee?

By comparing the quality of the idea with the employee’s buy-in, you can gauge the execution level. The more excited your employees are to complete a task, the higher the execution level, meaning the higher the likelihood it will be completed.

Unfortunately, not all of your employees will be psyched to execute your goals all the time. Luckily, you can take steps to encourage buy-in and ensure your team stays engaged and productive.

  1. Communicate your vision with your team. Buy-in starts with understanding the why. If you can walk your employees through your vision from start to finish, it helps outline how they can impact the organization.
  2. Involve the team and personalize tasks. In addition to explaining the why, you can set your team up for success by ensuring you assign tasks based on their individual strengths. Explain how each person’s role is vital to the outcome. If possible, allow your employees to take part in the goal setting.
  3. Stay connected, and schedule follow up. When you’re working towards a goal, stay connected with your team, and ensure everyone is on the same page. Encourage employees to update you when challenges arise so you can help problem-solve.
  4. Address resistance. Some employees will lack the desired buy-in. As a leader, it’s important to address resistance head-on. If an employee is resistant, schedule a 1-on-1 to learn more and realign on your vision.
  5. Be prepared to pivot. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Sometimes that means mid-course corrections. Other times, it means scrapping the plan and starting from scratch. Assuming you have the right team in place, ask for feedback, and adjust the game plan. That’s not defeat—it’s the ultimate sign that you value the buy-in from your employees.

The more buy-in you get from more of your employees, the more productive they will be in executing your shared goals and initiatives. But getting the buy-in of your employees is only as good as the execution. To ensure projects are completed, you need to hold tension to those goals.

Step 3: Tension and Accountability

Team members planning 2021 goals
Team members planning 2021 goals

Buy-in ensures your team members are aligned, focused, and clear on their contribution to an overall vision. But buy-in alone won’t ensure tasks are completed—the success of your employees and your team hinges upon accountability. As a leader, it is important that you not only hold yourself accountable for hitting your Q1 goals but that you hold tension to goals set, and you create a culture of accountability on your team.

If accountability is something your team has struggled with in the past, you’ve likely experienced missed deadlines and repeated mistakes. In addition to missing goals, lack of accountability is also bad for employee morale. One way to keep your team accountable is to hold consistent recurring meetings.

Recurring meetings with your team allows you to track progress and identify areas where you need to improve or pivot throughout the quarter to stay on track for your goals. Contrary to popular belief, accountability meetings are not meant to micromanage employees. Done correctly, they’re a tool to create an environment where employees feel supported.

To set up recurring meetings with your employees, determine how often you should meet and stick to it. Consider how best to structure the meeting to achieve the goals you’ve set for it. Participants should prepare ahead of time, come to the meeting ready to check in on the goals, and review progress. These meetings are about open, proactive communication. They’re a time to re-assess and set new goals for the next meeting, walking through the steps to reach each new goal established. 

Providing a safe space for your team members to bring topics and get the support they need will help the overall team succeed in their goals. Developing a plan for your quarter and applying this framework is an effective way to keep your business on track all year.

If you’re not sure where to start, you don’t have to go at it alone. Schedule a free two-hour session to dig into your business to uncover bottlenecks and develop a roadmap based on where you are in your business and where you would like to be. With this roadmap, you’ll have a tangible plan you can implement to reach your long-term goals.

Have any more tips for leading your team through a productive first quarter? Let us know down in the comments.

This article originally published on GREY Journal.