First Quarter Focus

first quarter focus

The ball has dropped, the kids are all back in school, and the real-life routines, of real life, have taken over once again. It is easy to get weighted down by the post-holiday slump. In fact, many of us tend to feel it around this time of the year. But if we aren’t careful, it will get the better of us and before we know it, the first quarter of the year has come and gone.

The first quarter sets the tone for the rest of the year, so it is important for PHAs to ensure they are proactive in their attitudes, actions, and intentions. When December rolls around again, what would you like this year to have looked like? Those decisions begin now so we are going to look at three key focus areas to get your year started on the right foot.


Now is the time to actually implement the changes you may have wanted to put into effect. Your team members are more likely to be on board and give less pushback on changes that are made at the start of the year.

It might feel a bit philosophical, but there is just something about the start of a new year that makes so many of us want to do things differently and be better people overall. As a result, we tend to be more motivated towards new things, and have more energy and intensity than we would later on in the year. In fact, studies show that 44% of employees feel more optimistic and motivated in their work after the holiday break. That is prime territory for making successful changes!

Whatever changes you implement, make sure to celebrate your agency’s victories openly, and as a team. This will help keep the momentum going further into the year.


January is the perfect time to initiate performance evaluations for members of your team. Factoring in the extra dose of motivation we all tend to have at this time of the year, your teams tend to be more receptive to that conversation right around now.

When it comes to performance evaluations, there are a few important things to keep in mind that will have a direct impact on the success of the interaction. They are:


These types of conversations are most effective when it is a two-way dialogue between leadership and team members. Your team should always have an open door to give honest feedback. When they know they are valued and heard, they will respond by raising their performance and potential.


Come prepared with the facts. Let’s be honest; our performance at work is always tied to everything else going on around us. Difficult work relationships, stressful private lives, financial worries… they can all impact our output. Thus, conversations like these can be emotionally charged, even under the best of circumstances. Being able to present objective data to emphasize or explain performance gaps can help to deescalate the moment from feeling personal. One of the important things to remember about this is, you need to have a set of metrics that are clearly communicated and understood by everyone. This way, when the time comes, there is no confusion about how performance is measured.


We all hated group projects in school, right? There was always that one kid who didn’t live up to their end of the deal, and  we all suffered for it.

When measuring performance, it is important to make sure the expectations are understood, realistic, and that the team member knows they have control over the outcome. Yes, we work as a team, but each person’s performance should be measured based on what they alone contribute. We also must ensure each team member has  access to everything they need to be  successful.

Everyone will be stronger and work better as a result.

Set the Tone

Remember, what you do in the first quarter  sets the tone for the remainder of the year. No pressure, right?

So we must set and clearly communicate goals and benchmarks for the entirety of the year. Make sure your team understands what the agency wants to accomplish AND what it looks like in your eyes to accomplish it. Break it down and set expectations so your team can gain an operational rhythm for the year.

We also must remember to set challenging goals. But don’t do too much too fast. Your team will burn out and it will have an opposite effect from what we desire.

This is a great time to meet with individual departments. Assist them with setting cohesive goals that will help to advance your agency’s overall benchmarks. This is especially important because each department operates at a unique level, and you want to ensure that each person’s expectations, including yours, are reasonable.

Don’t forget…

Each year is a marathon, not a sprint. And the work we do is not a destination, it is a journey. To see success, we must pace ourselves for the immediate challenges and find joy along the journey. This is how we refine our First Quarter Focus.

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