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Put One Foot in Front of the Other

What do all monumental achievements have in common? Each began with a single step forward.

As a business owner, perhaps you want to make a significant change in the way your firm or office operates, but you feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to start. A Chinese proverb states: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step"; that ancient saying provides great modern-day advice. Those small steps really do add up.

The idea is to be practical. Many New Year's resolutions fail from unrealistic goal setting. Rather than resolving to hit the gym five times per week, set more easily achievable goals, such as taking the stairs and going to the gym one or two times a week. Take the same approach with any change you want to make in your office. As an example, say your want to reduce waste in the office; here are some small steps to help achieve that larger goal.

Initiate a Brainstorm
Before implementing a waste-reduction initiative, first gain employee consensus. One of the most effective ways to do this is through brainstorming. Since employees generate the ideas, they have a natural buy-in to their suggestions.

To encourage free-flowing ideas, don't disrupt the brainstorming--evaluate the suggestions only at the end of the session. Write the ideas on a whiteboard or flip chart, and then vote on the idea(s) that employees would like to implement.

Draft a Winning Team
Ask your most enthusiastic employees to serve on a volunteer waste-reduction team. Charge this team with specific tasks, such as answering questions from other employees, setting goals, monitoring progress and providing feedback. The team can even plan an informal kick-off event with refreshments or fun giveaways.

Show Off Your Efforts
To maintain enthusiasm (and encourage more waste-reduction ideas), publicize both efforts and results. For example, announce goal to reduce the use of toner cartridges by 30 percent, and post a visual chart comparing the before and after cartridge use. This helps employees recognize that while their individual efforts may seem insignificant, the group as a whole can make substantial progress. An added benefit is that employees will likely feel a sense of shared responsibility and teamwork, which they will then apply to their jobs.


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