It’s a busy season – shopping, wrapping, decorating, holiday gatherings, baking (well, for some people!), as well as year-end business deadlines, planning and budgeting for next year. So in the spirit of the season – and recognizing that everyone is just a little busier in December – I’m offering a short, reflective column this month: 50 continuous improvement tips, gathered from the other articles in 2014.

In today’s busy world, consider them the “CliffsNotes” of many great ideas for improving your personal effectiveness, your leadership, your organization’s performance. If you want to read more, the links to the various articles are beneath the each title. As we wrap up 2014, and begin to turn the page into the new year, I hope you find a few tips you can incorporate into your busy days and a few best practices that will improve your organizations’ outcomes.

Leadership’s Role in Sustaining Excellence

  • Great leaders lead with their “why”
  • Great leaders lead by example
  • Great leaders maintain high integrity
  • Great leaders build and nurture relationships
  • Great leaders engage, empower, and trust their people
  • Great leaders ask good questions…and then listen
  • Great leaders make excellence a priority, but
  • Great leaders don’t let perfection be the enemy of great

Perfect Vision: The Power of Leading Indicators

  • Use leading indicators to predict future performance, make better decisions, more quickly respond to changing or poor performance, and create a truly adaptive, learning organization.
  • To improve decision making, strategic planning, and overall performance, formulate cause and effect hypotheses between leading indicators and lagging outcome metrics that can then be tested, adjusted, and improved.
  • Blending leading indicators and lagging outcomes allows leaders to make better decisions and allows organizations to have better, more predictable outcomes.

What the NFL Has Taught Us about Ethical Leadership

  • Organizations need crystal clear core values that guide decision making, that capture the culture – the traits, social mores, expectations, and personality – of the organization.
  • Core values need to be articulated, understood, lived and used by all employees in making decisions.
  • Decisions need to made based on data – not on conjecture, not on intuition or gut feel.
  • Organizations and leaders need to think about the implications of their decisions – they need to play out scenarios, think three steps ahead (“if we decide this way, this might or probably will happen”).
  • When leaders realize they made a wrong decision, they need to take accountability, apologize, and be visible to answer to critics.
  • Leaders have to create an environment in their organizations where ethics are not just important to consider, but absolutely integral to decisions and behaviors.
  • Put ethics at the center of all decision making.

Chillax: 13 Ways to Reduce Workplace Stress

  • With 83% of American workers stressed, and 70% disengaged, leaders need to create an environment that reduces employee stress – it’s best for their satisfaction and well-being, and it optimizes their productivity and maximizes their effectiveness.
  • But workers can – and should – also take steps to reduce work-related stress.
  • Some stress-reducing techniques are obvious: exercise more, sleep more, eat right, spend more time with family and friends, take breaks throughout the day, take vacations, and occasionally unplug from technology.
  • But some stress-reducing tips are unique: spend time outside to recharge, volunteer, spend time centering yourself (with breathing, yoga, meditation), use acupuncture or message, smile, and simply practice more gratitude.

Workers Are Mad as Hell: 14 Ways to Increase Employee Engagement

  • Let employees see the big picture
  • Give employees something to believe in and strive for
  • Streamline workflow
  • Match headcount to workload
  • Acknowledge the fallacy of “face time”
  • Support camaraderie and collegiality
  • Identify and deal with “problem people”
  • Foster a culture of gratitude: recognize your people
  • Change up the work environment
  • Tame your technology
  • Respect work/life balance and avoid long hours
  • Develop your people
  • Empower your people
  • And above all, listen

20/20 Vision: How Strategic Planning Helps See the Future

  • A good strategic plan starts with an in-depth understanding of your organization’s external environment – it’s opportunities and threats
  • A good strategic plan also starts with an appreciation of your organization’s internal environment – its strengths and weaknesses
  • A good strategic plan considers the organization’s strategic advantages, strategic challenges, and core competencies
  • A good strategic plan involves all key stakeholders in its creation
  • A good strategic plan considers a variety of future state pathways for the organization
  • A good strategic plan considers strategic opportunities
  • A good strategic plan includes strategic objectives – aims, goals, or responses that articulate how the organization addresses its strategic challenges, competitive or market changes, strategic advantages, and core competencies
  • A good strategic plan considers an organization’s blind spots
  • A good strategic plan has flexibility
  • A good strategic plan uses data and not just conjecture and opinion
  • Finally, a good strategic plan includes action plans, which translate strategic objectives into plans for implementation
  • Today – more than ever – organizations need strategies that are bold, compelling, well-resourced, integrated, implementable, realistic, agile, and inspiring. They need to be grounded in the current reality, but forward-looking to anticipate emerging trends, requirements, risks, and opportunities. They need to be rooted in data, but open to new ideas, creativity, innovation, and strategic opportunities. They need to create alignment and motivation for change, providing a compass or beacon for moving an organization forward. And perhaps most importantly – especially given the certainty that the future is unpredictable – they need to be flexible, agile, and responsive to ever-changing circumstances.

A Story is a Thousand Pictures: The Power of Business Storytelling

  • In today’s complex, data-driven world, helping people cut through the noise is oftentimes the difference between effective and sub-optimized communication. Data are important in helping leaders make their case (and to make better decisions), but there is power in telling stories to convey your perspective, to capture the attention and interest of your audience, and to inspire change.
  • Stories already exist in your organization, so the trick is to evoke them by asking open-ended story prompts. Select stories that resonate – those that characterize the essence of the organization, what it is trying to accomplish, and what it values.

The 50 tips above come from my articles May through November 2014. For those who want a little extra holiday reading, check out the rest of 2014’s blogs – they are full of 117 additional improvement tips!

· Pathways to Excellence: Insights from PENworks 2014

· A Recipe for Excellence: 50 Ingredients that Drive Organizational Performance

What other insights do you have to improve organizational and personal outcomes? Want to participate in a discussion on this topic??  Visit our LinkedIn group and/or our blog our to post a comment!

Happy Holidays & Never Stop Improving!

Brian S. Lassiter

President, Performance Excellence Network (formerly Minnesota Council for Quality)

Catalyst for Success for 27 Years!