Words of Wilson will teach you each month to better understand, develop and manage your most valuable resource – your people.

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As you look ahead to 2018, your planning punch list is complete. You’ve set clear goals, identified ways to implement and measure next year’s success, and reaffirmed workplace norms. As demanding as that process was, though, the real challenge lies ahead.

Keeping your team on goal for 2018 is going to require creating a performance-based plan that helps you take control of the strategy by listing all the activities you want to accomplish, not just the outcome. Ways to start off on the right foot include:

Recruit aggressively.

Even when you don’t have openings, continue to recruit. Hire talent whenever and wherever you find it. Encourage your loyal and trusted employees to bring value-aligned friends into your company, regardless of whether they have industry experience. This is the key to sustainably growing your business. Opportunities will be there. Will you be ready?

Promote learning.

Your team’s ability to learn faster than the competition is a durable competitive advantage. Copying your competition helps you keep up, but not lead. The larger your company gets, the more important it becomes that you develop a strong leadership team to help you drive the company.

Go lean.

Labor shortages are a fact of life. Get rid of inefficiencies in field operations and eliminate wasted motion. Break the habit of crews doing the same thing on every property on every visit. Use the labor you have and offset its shortcomings by innovating. There are new products and technologies that can help reallocate resources and enhance productivity.

Redefine jobs.

Start with the role of field supervisor. Determine why they are ‘firefighters’ and ‘gofers,’ and why they are frustrated by a growing ambiguity in their role. Revitalize this position or eliminate it. Invest in on-the-job leadership training so they know how to do things the right way and lead their crews instead of pushing them.

Maintain a sense of urgency.

Two issues are brought to my attention regularly when I start working with new clients. First, the property manager complains that the crews have lost their sense of urgency. The second is their realization that their landscape contracting firm is less than accountable.

A sense of urgency is easier to establish and maintain in young companies. Entrepreneurial firms are exciting; there is a collective giddiness about the big idea. When success is achieved, employees relax and complacency sets in.

Leaders must work to keep the sense of urgency alive and walk the talk. If company leadership loses its passion, so does everyone else. Fast companies beat slow companies across all industries. And small companies change faster than big ones. Choose agility, disciplined speed and a sense of urgency for the win.

Choose agility, disciplined speed and a sense of urgency for the win.

As for accountability? I prefer, instead, the term ‘ownership.’ There is no top-tier company without a sense of shared ownership at its core. Employees need to own their job, whatever their responsibilities involve.

Ownership means holding yourself accountable for the performance of what’s on your plate. Weak players undermine accountability. The right people in the right jobs keep accountability an actionable thing all year long.

Our final point goes back to our first. Recruiting the right people is a year-round activity. There are lots of talented individuals looking for a great place to work, a job that’s fun and upwardly mobile, and co-workers who are amazing.

Look to other industries and professions offering transferrable skills for people with character, intelligence, integrity and drive. When you make decisions about who you let into your company, it’s good to be excited about the prospect of them coming to work for you.

Bruce Wilson is principal of green industry consulting firm Bruce Wilson & Company.