Do you ever get frustrated that every summer your people seem to hit the slow gear when summer arrives? Does it bother you that their drive, their energy, their excitement, their speed level drops off for two months between mid-June and mid-August year after year?
After all, your business still has to hit its metrics. Your customers still want exceptional service. Your projects still need to get completed. Your strategic plan still needs to be fulfilled. And there are still plenty of people in your target market who need the solution you offer to their pain. So, what gives?
What I’ve always found interesting, having grown up in upstate New York, where there’s still a lot of farming, is that summer was never designed to be a slow season. The original reason why schools took off for the summer had nothing to do with going on vacation or giving teachers a break. The reason why schools took off for the summer was because, in an agrarian society, the summer was the hardest work season of the year and families needed their kids home to work on the farm.
In other words, summers, from the dawn of man until the industrial revolution, weren’t the lazy, sit back and relax, take a break from life, hit the beaches for some fun time in the sun time of the year. They were the most intense work horse times of the year. Spring was for planting. But summer, well that was for cultivating and early harvesting (depending on the crop).
In other words, for the past several millennia, summer has been a “work before the sun comes up until the sun goes down” time of the year.
So, how can you get your team back on track with how people have worked for the past several millennia vs. the past several decades? We’ll, here are a few ideas.
Note: This is not an argument against vacation. You and your people should take vacation whenever you choose to. However, when you’re at work, you and your people should be fully at work no matter what day the calendar says it is.
I. Bring Your A Game
If you haven’t watched my video on Leader Draft, you’ll want to. Everything in your business drafts south of you. So, if there’s something you don’t like in your business, your default question should always be, “What part do I play in this?” In other words, whenever you notice something in your people that you’re not happy with, your reflex assumption should be that you’re partially to blame. Why? Because that’s what leaders do.
I have several clients who like to take off for multiple weeks in the summer and then wonder why their people aren’t as engaged. Hum. I’ve worked with plenty of owners and entrepreneurs who mentally check out for the summer and then wonder why their people seem to check out as well. Hum. And most of the owners and entrepreneurs I’ve interacted with over the years tend to give off the “it’s okay to slow down during the summer” vibe because … well … it’s summer.
Like I said, everything flows south of you. If your people are just mailing it in, are you? If your people are slowing down, are you? Do you validate this idea that it’s summer and summer is supposed to be the slow time of the year mentality? Do you intentionally or unintentionally ascribe to this idea—either verbally or non-verbally?
I was with a group of people yesterday and said, “You guys seem a little tired today.” One of the people present said, “Well, it’s Monday.” I said, “What do you mean by that?” This person said, “You know, it’s Monday.” I said, “I don’t understand. I love Mondays. I always think TGIM. Thank God It’s Monday. I love work.”
Now, most owners and business leaders would simply agree with this person and say, “Yeah, it’s Monday. I get that.” Similar to, “It’s summer. I get that.” Which is why I said that the first place to start with overcoming the summer blues is you. You have to bring the energy. You have to be the one who says, “Thank God It’s Summer. Now we can get some real work done.” You set the pace. You determine what’s acceptable and what’s not.
The fact that other businesses ascribe to this idea that summers are the normal slow down part of the year gives you a strategic advantage … if you choose to take it. So, take it.
Note: this doesn’t mean you can’t take a summer vacation. It simply means that when you’re at work, you set the pace. If you slow down, your people will slow down. If you mentally check out, your people will check out as well. However, if you get energized, if you bring your A game, if you think, “Thank God It’s Summer and we can get some real work done now,” then that will set the pace as well. It’s really up to you.
So, what kind of pace and mentality do you want to set for you people? Are you bringing your A game all summer long?
II. Run Multiple 30-Day Challenges
If you haven’t picked up your 30-Day Challenge Acceleration Guide yet, make sure you do so now. In that guide I walk you through, step-by-step, how to organize and lead a 30-Day Challenge so I won’t repeat it here. But the basic reason for using a 30-Day Challenge is that it speeds up the process for completing projects.
And summer is the perfect time of the year to run multiple challenges. Why? Because the reality is that since a lot of businesses do slow down during the summer, you and your team probably do have extra time to get some of those projects done that haven’t been completed yet.
In my coaching club, we organize our years into
- Marathons (yearly plans)
- 90 Day Races (quarterly plans)
- 30 Day Sprints (monthly plans)
- Weekly Dashes
- Daily Meetings
In light of that, my recommendation to you would be that you host three 30-Day Challenges each summer to nail several big projects each summer (one in June, one in July and one in August). However, since I’m writing this at the end of June, I’d recommend you still host two 30-Day Challenges before September arrives this year (and then three next summer).
Moreover, if you follow the plan I lay out in the 30-Day Challenge Acceleration Guide, it won’t take you long to create the challenge (i.e. you can do this today if you want to).
Grab your team, some post it notes®, some dry erase markers and go at it. Pick one to three projects to focus on, come up with all your task ideas for what needs to happen to successfully complete this project over the next 30 days and place them in the hopper, then move the first few into the on deck section for tasks for this week and then the doing section for what you’re working on now until they finally end up in the done section. That’s it.
In an hour or so, you’ll have your first challenge started. Then you simply need to meet in front of your board for 10-15 minutes per day for a daily meeting and by the end of July, you’ll have accomplished more than most will in 90 days. Do this same process again in August and by the end of August, you’ll have accomplished more than you would have normally by December.
So are you up for a 30-Day Challenge?
III. Reward Your Team With More Fun and Play
In the midst of challenging your people to play all out during the summer, you also want to use this as a chance to bring more fun and play into your workplace. Giving people more for doing less doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But rewarding your people for digging in and bringing their A game during the summer … well, that makes a lot of sense.
In essence, you’re saying to your team, “Summer is the time of the year that we work harder and play harder here at Acme Inc.”
In addition, this isn’t something that just you have to do, it’s something that you can get several of your team members engaged to do. As I said to a client recently, “It’s not unusual for a company to have a culture committee or a social committee (or team) engaged to help make this happen.” In other words, find your extroverts who like to play, give them some guidelines and some money and let them help make the summer fun for your employees (in addition to what you can do). For example, you could …
- Buy more lunches for your people (and make sure they’re from different places than normal so they feel the love)
- Bring in a vendor for lattes or omelets or desserts or …
- Hire an ice cream truck (or have one stop by)
- Organize an outing to a baseball game or soccer match (or whatever team sport is in your community)
- Go to a place with bumper cars or a Dave and Buster’s type environment
- Organize team or individual challenges with prizes (i.e. who wouldn’t want a new iPad Pro :-))
- Have your team work together on a community project (like building a ramp for someone in need)
- Organize some happy hours (if that fits your culture)
- Take everyone out to a movie or a driving range or a _______ during a workday when they complete something major
- Give away random gift cards for projects that are well done (i.e. Starbucks® cards or free movie tickets work well for most people), etc.
Use your imagination. You know your people. But the key here is to let your people know that even though summer isn’t a slow down season, it is a high reward season. If you work hard, you will be rewarded well.
So, there you have it. Three very simple ideas that you can begin to employ this week to help overcome the summer blues/slow down that normally occurs here in the states between mid-June and mid-August.
- Bring your A game
- Run multiple 30-Day Challenges
- Reward your team with more fun and play
However, don’t forget that the real change for overcoming the summer blues begins when you change your mindset and that of your team about summer—that summertime isn’t meant to be a slow down time, it’s meant to be a hard work time. It’s the time of the year when you do the hard work that’s necessary in order to have an incredible fall harvest.
So start preaching, “TGIS. Thank God It’s Summer. It’s that time of the year when we can get some real work done.” If you do this right, you’ll have a huge strategic advantage over your competitors.
To your accelerated success!