As we head to the end of the calendar year, many businesses will be preparing to take stock of their inventory to determine what has been sold, what has not, what should be re-ordered, and how all of this adds up to determining their profit or loss for the year and what balance sheet adjustments need to be made.

In truth, with today’s modern computing capabilities and advanced systems, the old methods of physical inventory counts are certainly less prominent than they once were, although my son, who is an accountant, still likes to tell stories of crawling around in dusty warehouses and climbing up on big tanks to take measurements to get accurate baselines.  

A company that only checks its inventory once or twice a year is probably more at risk than it realizes. And so it is for other parts of the organization. Nevertheless, the close of a calendar year for many is a time to assess how things have gone, and not just in inventory counts. The term “taking stock” has a meaning that goes beyond business inventories. It has come to describe a process of reflection on any number of things. How are we doing strategically? How is my team performing? How have those major investments we’ve made been paying off? What is our competitive posture today? What could we do to really transform this organization? What do we really need to focus on for the next 12 months?

That kind of organizational stock-taking can be extremely helpful. In fact, the more intentional leaders are about this, the more likely it is they will discover some new method, idea, process or other improvement that can really make a major difference. I highly recommend it.

But another form of taking stock can be just as valuable, which I also highly recommend. This one focuses on you as the leader. You are the subject of the “stock” assessment. What have you done this year to move your people to a higher level? What did you try to do that fell flat? What personal skills or knowledge are you lacking? What personal behavior patterns are working for you or against you? What moves did you make with your personnel that did not work out, and what can you learn from the decision process you used that led to that error? Are you deploying yourself in your own personal highest and best use? What do you feel good about and deserve to celebrate?

You are probably going to have some extra free time in the next few weeks as the Christmas and New Year holidays rapidly approach. Perhaps you would find it helpful to devote some of that precious unscheduled time to taking stock of your organization and of your own leadership somewhere in between the feasting and the parties. I’ll be joining you in those exercises. Here’s to a good stock count.

Kevin Eichner is president of Ottawa University. He invites your feedback to this column. Email him at