Facing the good and bad of the past year takes courage, especially in re-living painful experiences. But self-evaluating the highs and lows in your past year is just the first step.
Sharing your findings with the entire world takes it to a whole new level.
In this post, I’ll talk about the benefits and downsides of making your Year In Review public, and why we’re afraid to fail.
The “Year In Review” is a simple yet profound exercise where you look back to the past 12 months and observe what happened, what went well, and what didn’t go well. It is a type of post-mortem evaluation that allows us to examine events objectively, identify root causes, and make decisions about how to improve for the future.
At this point, you might be thinking:
“Okay, so I’m ready to evaluate what happened in the past year. But why would I possibly want to share my failures with the whole world?”
That’s a good question. What makes us so uncomfortable about things going wrong?
Why We’re Afraid to Fail
Most of us want to present the best version of ourselves. Facebook and other social media make it possible to hide our unpleasant mistakes and only post pictures and updates that make us look good.
But this “perfect” image is not an authentic version of who we are.
An interesting study was published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (authored by Stanford University’s Alexander H. Jordan, Benoît Monin, Carol S. Dweck, Benjamin J. Lovett, Oliver P. John, and James J. Gross). They conclude that we tend to underestimate the degree to which other people suffer. We believe we’re alone in our loneliness, and that others’ lives must be a lot more satisfying than our own.
Sharing Our Failures is Scary
Humans fear “the unknown”: what is unfamiliar, not easily recognized, and inconsistent. For example:
- What if customers lose confidence and go to a competitor?
- What if we’re laughed at, humiliated, or demonized in the media?
- What if our services or products don’t live up to expectations and are given negative reviews?
These are all examples of common Needs, Fears, and Expectations (see below).
But publicly sharing our failures is even more terrifying.
Here are 5 reasons why:
1. We’re afraid of being found out as a fraud.
This is also known as “Imposter Syndrome.”
Root Fear: Mutilation (feeling unsafe and invaded)
Since both supporters and haters will be reading your Year In Review, you may hear a mix of positive and negative feedback. Some of it will be painful, especially if you already feel “in over your head” and overwhelmed by responsibilities.
2. We’re afraid of losing the respect of those we admire.
Root Fear: Ego Death (losing the approval of others)
It’s normal to want the praise of others. But when this causes us to make illogical decisions that derail the company, we need to examine our ultimate goals. Whose opinion matters more: “everyone,” or your Ideal Customers?
3. We’re afraid of running out of money
Root Fear: Extinction (not having basic needs met)
Our most fundamental needs are food, water, shelter, and love. When these are at risk of being taken away, we tend to act in an extreme way. Some business owners have a constant fight-flight-freeze response (Read more: What Happens When We Avoid Pain in Decision-Making?).
This is especially true if you have a “poverty mentality,” thinking that there will never be enough money. In many cases, this fear actually backfires and results in Transaction Avoidance (Read more: What is Transaction Avoidance Syndrome? Part 1 of 3)
4. We’re afraid of rejection by potential customers
Root Fear: Separation (not being accepted by others)
Not everyone will appreciate your efforts, the services you provide, the niche you serve, or your personal philosophy. You need to be at peace with the possibility that by reaching Ideal Customers, you may need to turn away many “80/20 Customers” (who aren’t ideal).
5. We’re afraid of losing what we worked hard to create.
Root Fear: Loss of Autonomy (inability to make independent decision)
Owning a business isn’t a walk in the park. Every business owner I know had to work really hard, invest time and money, and make tremendous sacrifices in order to succeed. Things can go wrong. (and in fact, what could go wrong usually does; Read Overview of the 5 Types of Strategic Risk).
The one fear I hear over and over from owners is losing “who they are.” If their business fails, they also lose an identity, a community, and a sense of self-worth.
Failure may not be fun to experience, but it is normal.
In fact, failure is a critical part of the learning process, and without it we cannot achieve success.
By sharing the mistakes you’ve made, and the lessons you’ve learned from them, you will be able to deeply connect with people who can most benefit from what you provide.
A public Year In Review carries the risk of hearing negativity, but the benefits are incredible.
Here are some great reasons to share your Year In Review with the world:
Benefit 1: Face Your Fears
We all have a natural tendency to downplay bad news: negative information that contradicts our core beliefs. When this happens, we have two options:
- Acknowledge the contradiction and consider the possibility that our perspective is incorrect, or
- Totally disregard and downplay the information as untrue.
If we can neither accept nor deny a new fact that contradicts our belief system, this internal struggle is called cognitive dissonance. Over time, refusing to acknowledge uncomfortable facts can result in tremendous vulnerability. Our business can suffer. It can result in lost opportunities, a stunt in our professional growth, and even broken relationships.
By ignoring the possibility that vulnerabilities exist in our planning process, we are unable to recognize and respond to warning signs of future problems.
The only way to correct a distorted philosophy and see vulnerabilities is by facing the problem head-on. Out of the 4 fear responses (Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Face), the final one — Face the problem — provides the best result.
Facing our fears pushes us out of our comfort zone. When done right, a Year In Review will stretch your limits, forcing you to wrestle with challenging questions. It may uncover truth that confronts your core philosophy. It can allow you to see things that are normally difficult to see.
This process will also make you stronger leader. Expressing your lessons learned in a public way allows you to step into the shoes of your Foundational Staff, connect with your customers, and develop self-confidence. By addressing these uncomfortable truths directly, you will be better positioned to make better decisions (Read more: 5 Painful Discussions That No Organization Should Ignore).
Benefit 2: Review Your Numbers
A really good “Year In Review” involves not what happened, but how it happened using exact figures and honest feedback. (Read more:
To analyze your past year’s data, start by evaluating quantity (numbers) and quality (experiences). The two main ways to evaluate data are Quantitative (measurable numbers) and Qualitative (subjective experiences and emotions).
Here are some of the measures that are helpful for a Year In Review:
Quantitative Data to Review
- Higher Net Revenue
- Higher Profit Margins
- Lower Costs
- Increased Productivity
- More Time Spent on Key Objectives
- Less Wasted Time
- Lower Employee Turnover
- Increased Number of New Customers
- Repeat Purchases by Established Customers
- Measurable Progress Toward Objectives
- Faster Output and Processing Time
- Fewer Mistakes or Defects
- Fewer Returns or Refunds
Qualitative Data to Review
- Higher Customer Satisfaction
- Improved Employee Engagement
- Engaging Company Culture
- Increased Mental Clarity
- Clearer Communication
- Teamwork and Community
- Reduced Pain
- Less Frustration
- More Peace of Mind
- Better Quality of Life
- Less Stress and Worry
- Higher Sense of Freedom and Satisfaction
It’s helpful to ask:
- Has this increased or decreased in the past year?
- Should we continue this, or stop doing it?
- Where are we most successful?
- How can we improve?
- What do I want to change for next year?
Once you’ve review the data, you’ll start to see patterns. Those patterns are then used to make risk intelligent decisions.
Benefit 3: Evaluate Your Vulnerabilities
A Year In Review is like an x-ray machine. It provides a clear, unobstructed view of where we’ve been.
All areas of progress are easy to spot.
All failure points become obvious, too.
While we may want to focus on the “good,” you’ll get the most benefit from examining negative outcomes(the root causes). This will give you an accurate picture of why things went wrong, identify blind spots, and isolate which attitudes and behaviors need to change.
Benefit 4: Level Up
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
Unfortunately, many companies are running toward a wish. I recommend creating goals that are both SMART and CLEAR.
A SMART goal includes the following components:
Most business owners don’t set SMART and CLEAR goals; they simply pick a target, write it down (a strategic plan), and forget about it until the next year.
That’s where a Year In Review can help. This process provides a measuring stickto meet next year’s goals. It forces you to take a hard look at where your company is now, and where you want to be.
The added pressure of sharing your progress publicly can be a huge motivator to “level up” and reach even greater results.
Benefit 5: Attract Ideal Customers & Staff
Ideal customers, and ideal staff. The long-term success of any business is only possible with the right people.
But not every customer is ideal, and not every employee is a good fit. Here are some questions you can ask as you review data from the past year. Do your customers or employees:
- Arrive on time?
- Speak up about her/his symptoms and concerns?
- Respect your policies and procedures?
- Pay you (customers) or achieve goals (staff) without complaint?
- Respond well to services or treatment?
- Give you pleasure to serve their needs?
- Agree with your philosophy and beliefs?
If you want to determine which of your customers are Ideal, simply go through your customer list and ask the seven questions above. You can also add a weighted component to help you come up with a final score; find out how in this video).
Sharing your mistakes, “lessons learned,” and how you’re still growing will connect you with stakeholders. It’s a wonderful and organic way to build trust.
And best of all, it’s free. Your only investment is time.
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to create a Year In Review. And there is no “perfect” audience. You may choose to keep it private. But now that you’ve seen all the benefits that come from publicly sharing what you’ve learned in the past year, I hope you’ll consider trying it.
After you publish your own “Year In Review,” share the link below or send me a note. I’d love to check it out!
If you are a business owner who feels frustrated about planning for the future, let’s talk. Schedule a free call so we can discuss ways you can regain control.
Grace LaConte is a Strategic Risk Expert who helps service business owners find and fix organizational vulnerabilities. Using her experience as a Risk Officer in the healthcare and technology fields, Grace shares a refreshingly honest approach to uncovering hidden risks and opportunities. Learn more at http://laconteconsulting.com, or connect with her on Twitter @lacontestrategy.