6 Management Lessons We Get Each Fall
As the air begins to cool and the days start to get shorter, we begin to see the first stages of fall settle in. For some, it’s a welcomed sign; for others, it may mark the end of a great summer. But for everyone, the arrival of the fall season is inevitable and simply part of life. And with the onset of fall this year, we can learn some fantastic management lessons that we should apply to our businesses. So settle in, get a cup of warm apple cider, and read on to learn what the fall season teaches us about management.
1. Change is Inevitable
Let’s tackle the easy one first. Things change when the fall season comes around. The weather cools, the leaves change color, and schools go back into session. While the office may have been fairly quiet during the summertime with people off on holiday, when fall arrives, much of that is over and the cafeteria and parking lot begin to fill up again. It’s a cycle we go through every year.
For all of us in management and leadership positions, we are all too familiar with the fact that change is inevitable in business. There are economic booms, political tremors and natural disasters, all of which can impact our business. And if we look at our employees, some will quit, some retire, some go back to school, and some get promoted, forcing us to replace them. But then we hire new people, restructure and maybe invest in opening up a branch in a new city. Change in business is inevitable, just as the seasons themselves come and go. Though we can stick our heads in the sand to try to hide from change, we’re better off spending energy growing to expect it.
2. Different Things Hold Different Meaning For Different People
For my wife, who grew up in a tropical climate, fall is a joy. With fond memories of her youth, fall represents the end of the sweltering heat, colorful leaves, and hot soup on cold days. By contrast, for me, fall has a different meaning. Having grown up in the cold winters of New York City, fall represents the end of the pleasant summer weather, short days and scraping ice off my car before the sun comes up. I have never minded the summer heat because I remember those countless months of the cold and dark winter growing up. And while I love the colors on the trees, as soon as they settle on the ground, I am immediately ready for the blossoms of spring to emerge once again.
Just as my wife and I have our separate different views of fall, the same holds true for the people we staff in our business. Some employees love the interaction with colleagues and enjoy working on teams. Others like to work in solitude so they can concentrate and focus. While some employees want to be in charge and move up the management ranks quickly, many prefer to stay put and remain a worker bee to avoid the stress and pressure. There is a great management lesson here. When it comes to managing people, the key for us as managers is to recognize that not everyone is the same, and we should thus avoid managing them in the same way. In order for us to run effective businesses, we need to value the individual differences and the interests of our employees and find the best way to use these preferences in order to best serve the organization.
3. Planning is Important
Upon the onset of fall, many of us begin to work through that mental checklist we all have in anticipation of winter. Get the chimney cleaned. Check. Stock up on firewood. Check. Get out the warmer blankets. Check. Invite Aunt Betty for the holidays… of maybe not this year? Regardless of what your list includes, we do a lot of planning for the winter months during the fall season.
In the context of business, planning is perhaps the most important aspect of being an effective manager and business leader these days. We plan our budgets. We plan for growth. We plan for layoffs. We plan for new contracts. We plan for succession. It goes without saying that careful planning helps us prepare for and anticipate changes to our business, making them less vulnerable to unforeseen circumstances. So just as planning during the fall season is important, the most effective managers carefully plan their business activities on a regular basis as part of their standard routine.
4. The End of One Thing Represents the Start of Another
To use a sports analogy, here in the United States, the end of summer represents the end of baseball season. By the time the leaves begin to change color, we know if our team will make it to the playoffs, or if they’ll simply pack it up and go home. But at the same time, the beginning of fall represents the start of a new football season (American football, that is), which draws friends and families together each week more than any other sport in the United States. So while one’s baseball team may have to pack it up, their football team may get off to a 4-game winning streak.
As managers and business leaders, we know that eras begin and end every day. A disappointing quarter can be made up by a huge order only days later. The retirement of a beloved manager can result in hiring a new, even more inspiring leader into the business. A new project or contract can present opportunities we would otherwise not have had. When times are tough, everyday we work towards resolution is one step closer to the end of the challenge, and one day closer to more enjoyable activities. Recognizing that the difficult days are finite can help soothe tempers when in the heat of crisis.
5. Business Can Be Seasonal
Fall is one of the four seasons we experience every year. No matter what we do, what we don’t do, or what we try to do, it will always be here around the same time every year, give or take a few weeks. And while we have a few more seasons to go, fall will be back next year, with all of its color and pleasant weather.
Many businesses are seasonal. Whenever we think of ‘seasonal business’ we instinctively think of Black Friday and the retail boom of Christmas. But there are other types of ‘seasons’ that may impact your business. Consider Tax Season, which is the time of year many businesses see their annual peak as people prepare their tax returns. And there is Road Trip Season. When schools are off and the weather is warm, the summertime becomes one of the busiest seasons for road trips, gas consumption and related tourist services.
The management less on here is that while your business may not be purely seasonal, the seasonal aspect of your customers and other companies can impact you. When looking at your revenue and customer actions over the course of the year, it’s always a good idea to try and tie those actions to the events around you to help you gain some insight.
6. Family Should be a Focus
Every fall, I begin to think about the holidays. Not just about buying gifts and the cheery music, but about making plans to spend time with family in what is really the only time we can all manage to get together. And knowing it will only last a few days before life takes over again, when we are together we always try to make the most of it.
Although there is this trendy HR term called “work-life balance,” which refers to maintaining a healthy balance between work and personal lives, how many companies truly step back when it comes to employees taking time off? Weekends? Not as many as you might think. As managers and business leaders, we set the tone when it comes to focus on family. If we find ourselves routinely working and calling employees on weekends or holidays, what are we really saying to them about a fair an appropriate work-life balance? For all of our employees as well as ourselves, family should be a focus that we do not compromise. The fall season and the holiday season that follows are a great time to refresh that ideal within companies and teams.
So there you have it. As the weather begins to cool and the leaves begin to change color, take these management lessons from Mother Nature and apply them to your business today.
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