Squeezing the most out of the year-end


Jack was really irritated when he asked me, “How many times are you going to tell me ‘it’s the 4th quarter?'”  Answering  a question with a question, I asked my 15-year old how many days were left until his finals were over.  (We both knew it was 6. Such are the games of sarcasm and cat-and-mouse between a dad and teenager.)  I said, “Probably about 20 times.  You’ve been forewarned!”

Many students are hitting the end of their semester. Many public servants are hitting the end of their fiscal year. Non-profit development directors are wrapping up their annual funds. And in many cases the “fourth quarter push” will either push them over the top, or cause them to miss the mark. Yet the sense of urgency and sense of possibility are often missing.

If you’re leading in such a situation, create the urgency by telling the stories.  Here’s a success and a failure.

As a first-time campaign manager I made a terrible mistake. I allowed staff to start packing up the office (for the presumed victory party) on election day.  Election day! When every vote might count.  I got my Karmic punishment.  The atmosphere in the campaign office/victory party venue went from cocky overconfidence at 7:00 to uncertainty at 9:00 to utter fear at 11:00 . . . As results trickled in, the joy and enthusiasm, along with the campaign volunteers ebbed out of the joint. At 3:00 in the morning I stumbled from the spreadsheets and phones, pretty sure we had won.  We did, but to this day I can feel the dread!  I vowed never to forget.

Not too many years later I found myself running an annual fund for my high school.  I thought I learned the lessons, because we worked hard in that last month to reach as many people as we could before our fiscal year ended on June 30.  But I wasn’t done learning.  For, a few years later I was retained to coach a development professional named Marty H, who ran the annual fund for a Jewish charity.  Let me tell you!!!  At year end, Marty was a man on fire. He was bound and determined not to leave a stone unturned, not to leave a single check on the table, not to be afraid to encourage his staff and volunteers to call a house ten, eleven, twelve times.  The days got x’ed off, the clock ticked down the hours. Marty kept going.  Minutes left?  Marty kept his team going.

He did not kick himself (much) for less than perfect planning.  He didn’t start to prepare for the celebration. He didn’t write-off any tough prospect. He just stayed at it.

He played like it was the 4th quarter!

Got a good 4th quarter story for me?  There’s really no quit when you

Lead with your best self!