as posted in the Appleton Post-Crescent on January 1, 2011

It’s that time of year when many┬ápeople look forward to a fresh start in life and resolve to get to the gym more often, restart their diets or spend more time with their families. However, the problem with the start of a new year is that most good intentions are often derailed within a few weeks.

Resolutions are often forgotten as the daily grind consumes our attention.

I recently spoke with one of our MBA alumni, and she said one of the things she learned during her graduate studies was to create a personal strategy plan, similar to corporate strategy plan. At the start of each year, she writes out her personal strategy, and this method has worked to advance her career and earn awards and invitations to esteemed positions in the community.

This is the kind of personal dedication that produces profound results and is exactly the type of dedication that I’ve recently charged the College of Business faculty and staff to achieve.

In fall 2010, I formed a Strategic Planning Council (SPC) made up of faculty, staff, students, alumni and business representatives. Part of the SPC’s responsibility is to help me choose the initiatives that are most important to the college.

At the start of the fall semester, several volunteer action teams were created, and many ideas have been generated for advancing and distinguishing the college. At our next meeting, we will be deciding which of these initiatives are the most pressing and, therefore, setting the college’s New Year’s resolutions.

Not all ideas can be addressed immediately, but it is encouraging to hear ideas that cost little to nothing and have the potential to distinguish our college and make positive changes in the lives of our faculty, staff and students.

I encourage everyone to set goals for the New Year, and I especially encourage executives to set corporate resolutions that engage and benefit their employees directly. One of the “soft” costs of a bad economy can be morale. Engaging employees to participate in short-term initiatives is a great way to create an emotional investment in the company. It also allows people who are in non-leadership positions to take part in the planning and even spearhead initiatives they are particularly passionate about.

The challenge is to be innovative on short-term initiatives. What can be done with a limited budget that can make a positive impact on employees and company morale? Your employees may have some of the answers.

In a recent presentation given by human resources management students, it was stated that Generation Y’s search for meaningful experiences makes support for volunteering among the benefits they value most. Maybe it’s time for your company to incorporate a volunteer program that allows employees some time out of the office or factory to volunteer for a charity that is most important to them.

The returns to the organization of such initiatives could be immense.