New Years Resolutions

January 7, 2014

2013 has been a turnaround year for many organisations, and I hope it has for you and your team too.  The financial pinch seems to be releasing its grasp on consumer confidence, and the commercial landscape continues to build energy month on month.  There’s no better time to take a fresh broom to your operation and use this first month in the new year to press a ‘reset button’ on some of the areas that have room for improvement.

I’ve loved the experience of writing for Ulster Business, and as every month goes by I receive more and more emails from readers asking for more information on how the techniques can be used to motivate their teams, sell more, and generally improve the way they work.  Even if you haven’t sat down and listed them explicitly, we all have a few resolutions that we’d like to get off the ground in our personal or professional lives.  Unsurprisingly, research shows the fact that 92% of such resolutions fall flat in their first week, usually because they are too complex or grand in their ambition to have longevity.  This month’s article aims to offer you a ‘cut out and keep’ opportunity to improve your personal and professional performance by summarising some the most impactful content from the last year in bite sized chunks.

Put your OCD aside and remove this page from this edition, and position it somewhere you can see it every day.


Less is More 

Most businesses work to build a vast product range to offer their clients a rich choice and varied range, but research has shown that having less products in your range than competitors can dramatically increase your sales. Every decision that we make involves a certain amount of mental effort, and those that involve spending money arguably require even more effort. Few of these decisions are simple; prices vary, specifications are unequal, and everything from availability, size, postage, warranty, and build quality factor into the process. By concentrating your sales offering, you simplify the decision-making process for prospective buyers, you achieve better scale economies, develop more specialised expertise in house, and according to studies an organisation that has less product choice can have a conversion rate that is up to 10x greater than a competitor with more on offer.



It really is better to give than receive, especially when you need something in return.  You might have questioned why charities send free pens and gifts in the mail while soliciting donations. When we unexpectedly give our clients or prospects something that is of value to them, they feel an incredibly strong obligation to reward us and are doubly more likely to buy from us. The key, though, is that the ‘gift’ is unexpected, and unconnected to any perception of an ulterior commercial motive.


Social Proof 

Like it or not, we are herd animals. As human beings, we all tend to believe that we are unpredictable, when in fact our penchant for believing that we are unpredictable is in fact one of our most predictable traits.  We are compelled to behave in a manner that is consistent with ‘the crowd’, so when we are told ‘most people’ behave in a certain way we tend to change our actions to match the crowd.  So, whether you need to get deposits in sooner from clients, or to have more staff engage in an out of hours CPD programme – simply telling them that ‘most people’ are already doing so will dramatically increase their likelihood of engaging.



In an increasingly competitive commercial climate, an organisation’s ability to effectively motivate their troops has become an essential competency.  Without trying to sound too clichéd, motivation really is the oxygen of a successful organisation.  In one experiment, a group of individuals were divided into two basketball teams; half were told they were naturals with an innate gift for the sport, and the other half were told they weren’t quite up to muster.  The truth is, they were divided randomly with no attention paid to their competency in the sport, but the impact was astonishing.  The team that were told they were naturals dramatically outperformed their counterparts, and the applications for this technique alone in your organisation are vast.  Talk of ‘a difficult year ahead’ and ‘a market that’s stacked against us’ may be honest, but it could be having a damaging effect on your team and their performance.  When your teams and individuals believe that they ‘can’ do something, their likelihood of making significant strides towards actually achieving that goal increases exponentially.


Small Teams get Big Results

The more complex the problem we’re facing in our company, the more man power we should throw at it, right? This may not be strictly true, and a fast-growing body of research shows that when it comes to teams, bigger is rarely ever better.  Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos famously said that he wanted his entire organisation – now one of the most powerful brands in the world – to be made up solely from “…two pizza teams: if a team couldn’t be fed with two pizzas, it was too big”.  Bezos gave oxygen to the growing argument that in modern business, maybe one head might just be better than two.  It’s true to say that larger groups offer a larger collective capacity in some respects; they’ll have more combined personal and professional experience, they can certainly manufacture goods in greater quantities or process raw materials at a faster rate, and frankly five brooms will sweep fifty rooms faster than one.  On more qualitative tasks though, like creating a strategy, developing a brand, or implementing a program of change, there are a lot of reasons why taking a lot less people to the job at hand might equal a lot more results.  As the size of a team increases, so too do the challenges associated with managing the individuals and respective relationships therein.  Beyond the anecdotal level, the research shows that levels of personal performance reduce and individuals become dramatically less engaged when they see themselves as just one tiny cog in a complex organisation.


Back in The Office

New year’s resolutions fail virtually every time, mainly because we don’t see the impact of our efforts immediately and subsequently lose interest.  Instead of trying to start a revolution, you’ll see much more impactful results if you make small changes here and there that – when added together – create a result that’s greater than the sum of its part.  So, start 2014 the right way by cutting out this article and refer back to it every once in a while, – and maybe your resolution will start a revolution!


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