Labor Day is around the corner. School is starting any day now. Last week, I swear I saw a single yellow leaf flutter onto the sidewalk in front of me on my morning walk to work. Summer 2016 is drawing to a close and while we still have weeks of sunshine and warm temps left to bask in, the arrival of September brings with it an undeniably different mindset. Before you pack up the lawn chairs and turn down the office A/C, there are few tasks to tackle that lend themselves perfectly to the final days of summer. If you’re a leader who wants to close out the season on a high note, here’s how we suggest you do it.
Check in your team’s 2016 progress
Remember those goals you set back in Q4 of 2015? It’s time to review them. Late summer is a great time to reflect on what you set out to do in 2016 vs. what actually got done and what explains any gap between the two. If you’ve fallen short on planned initiatives, what happened? Maybe you lost a critical team member or you had a new project dropped on your plate that ate up time and resources. Or maybe what you identified as a priority months ago ultimately proved to be less urgent and valuable than you originally expected. For those goals that you still want to hit, if you start regrouping now, you’ve got a good chunk of 2016 remaining to make a concrete plan for completing them.
Start sketching out what you want to accomplish in 2017
It’s never too early to think about next year is a truism every manager knows well. With fall, comes budgeting season, so there’s no better time to start thinking about the major campaigns and projects that will fill your 2017 and how bigger organizational goals will inform your team’s workload and focus. If there’s a gap between what you’re setting out to do and your ability to do it with your current resources and processes, now is the hour to address this schism and start working toward identifying solutions (creating new roles, reallocating workloads, augmenting your tech stack, etc.).
Create some space for forward thinking
We’ve written before about how getting some distance from your key challenges opens up space to think of new ways to solve old problems. If you haven’t taken a break from the daily grind to open your mind to thinking about your work in a fresh way, this is your (last) chance. Your to-do list will likely never be shorter than it is during the dog days of summer, so take a few beats to shift your mindset from putting out fires to sketching out a vision of where you want your team to go. Right now, fall is a blank slate waiting to be filled. Ask yourself what you’d like to write on it.
Connect with your team
Before the temperatures drop, make time to rally the troops. With differing vacation schedules, it’s probably been a while since you’ve had significant face time with your direct reports. Clear some space for that now. Check in with individuals about what they’ll need to set themselves up for success this fall and make time for the whole team to come together to discuss plans and goals while everyone is still basking in their respective post-vacation glows.
You can’t do anything about those changing leaves and the college kids crowding your favorite haunts, but you can end August with renewed focus. As summer wanes, refocusing your energy toward the future helps you to transition between the seasons more fluidly and with greater purpose.