By Michael Gunther

Another year’s end is upon us. The last week of December always makes me reflect on the previous year—my successes, trials, tribulations, goal obtainment status, etc. Did I make the progress I’d hoped for twelve short months ago?

I realize that change happens to all of us every day, but for me this seemed to be the year of never-ending change—some trivial, some significant. If you’d predicted a year ago that some of these events would take place, I would’ve said ‘no way.’ But change seemed to be front and center for me this year—business partners leaving, volunteer organization management changes, service offering adjustments, and delegation skills and leadership abilities pushed to new levels.

I know ‘growth is optional’ and that change brings growth, but when you’re in the middle of a constantly changing and challenging year, the last thing I thought was that this was good for me, as I sifted through the adjustments caused by these fluctuations.

Yet, here I sit, realizing this was probably one of the biggest personal learning years for me in a long time. My core foundation is to be a learner—always reading and trying to grasp new concepts and ideas in order to move myself, my team, and my clients to new levels of performance. Sometimes life throws you situations that stretch you and force you to dig deep in order to find focus and determination to forge ahead. I definitely feel like I’ve pulled from resources I didn’t know I possessed to not just survive this year but to thrive.

The Top 5 Lessons I’ve Learned:

1.  Employee transitions create the opening for relationships to form with new team members, and provide skill development opportunities for current employees to take on new roles and responsibilities. As painful as transitions may seem, they are never as challenging as we perceive them to be.

2.  Delegation is the key to growth as a manager. This year I had to delegate more than ever based on my client load, as well as my volunteer obligations which required a great amount of time because of leadership transitions happening at those organizations. The interesting thing is that my effectiveness as a leader has also improved because delegating gave me more time to focus on the critical aspects of my business.

3.  Stay focused on what you do best. New ideas or opportunities may always be coming your way. The ability to say ‘no’ to some projects is important. In addition, being true to your ‘ideal client’ profile (turning down projects based on the wrong client profile) is critical. The energy and time working with these individuals can be detrimental to you and your business.

4.  It’s all about relationships. Maintaining strong relationships with your past partners and employees is incredibly important to me. These people have enriched my life and made me elevate my own skills. In addition, I hired them for a reason—they’re quality people—individuals who have and continue to contribute to my personal and professional growth.

5.  Never give up, never surrender (as Buzz Lightyear might say). You have to continue moving forward, knowing that through hard work, smart decisions and a proactive attitude, you can get through anything. I know I tend to worry more than I should, but things always seem to work out.

The funny thing is that as I’ve been writing this article, an interesting fact occurs to me. Last January, at the installation dinner for my role as Chairman of the Board of Directors for our local chamber of commerce, my speech title and topic was “A Year of Change.” Little did I know I was predicting my own future for 2011. Life always does seem to come full circle.

Bottom Line

I’m definitely ready for the New Year with all the expected and unexpected challenges, changes and opportunities ahead of me.

One of my mentors recently gave me a book entitled “The Underachiever’s Manifesto: The Guide to Accomplishing Little and Feeling Great.” I wonder if he’s telling me to slow down in 2012… No way, Bob—bring it on!

This is another article in a series on Michael’s entrepreneurial story and how being raised in a large family has influenced his career. To read the previous articles in this series, visit his blog at www.Collaboration-llc.com.

Michael Gunther is Founder and President of Collaboration LLC, a team of highly skilled business professionals who are dedicated to assisting proactive business owners to build profitable, sustainable businesses through results-oriented education and consulting services. Learn more at www.Collaboration-llc.com.

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