We’ve reached the end of the year, and it’s time for my take on a few of the things I’ve seen happen within companies and among people in 2010. And it’s time to offer some suggestions on how to make it better in the upcoming New Year.

I grew up on the far south side of Chicago, near the Gary, Indiana, steel mills. My dad was a steelworker for 42 years. The summer of my junior year in high school, I got a job at the same mill he worked at. I’d never seen so much money in all my short life. So much, in fact, that I decided to punt college and buy that used ’57 Thunderbird I’d wanted. And then, all of a sudden, I got promoted to coal slinger in front of the blast furnaces. My pay went up exponentially.

But then came my first day. August in Chicago. Ninety degrees, 90 percent humidity, and this was before OSHA and, I think, child labor laws. Guess who engineered that deal? Let’s just say my dad knew how to communicate. I decided really quickly to go to college.

I am seeing so many examples of people not communicating today. It’s like a marriage. In the best ones, they never stop talking. Years go by, and they’re still talking.  

The best communication relies on two actions: honesty and full disclosure.  

Probably the single biggest threat to honesty, besides dishonesty, is trying to outthink the other person. If I say this, what will he think of me and what will he do? Now it’s always good to stay in line with the Golden Rule and walk a mile in the other person’s moccasins, but you can get really tangled up if you try to always anticipate another’s thoughts. If you truly believe something, lay it out there and listen to the reactions. Good listening is part of true honesty. You are honestly trying to learn by keeping yourself open to criticism, and how better to form a relationship than that? Besides, if you are honest, you will never have to remember what you said. That’s the truth.  

And full disclosure? I have seen more people trying to decide what to say and what to hold back in the last year than ever before. Unburden yourself; talk to your people, your boss, and yourself. Let it all out. Don’t get yourself thrown in a rubber room, but also don’t worry about what others think if you are being honest about the situation. We are becoming a bunch of numb sheep. “As long as I have grass and a three-sided lean-to, I won’t rock the pasture.” Yeah, right! Gather all your thoughts logically and state them for the record, or don’t ever complain about the decisions made.

Let’s talk about consideration for the person sitting next to you. That’s another area that our overall numbness seems to be affecting. I know a really nice guy who also happens to be a franchisor.  He is supposed to receive a monthly fee from each of his franchisees. He isn’t—and he’s hurting. Now, he could sue based on the agreement, but he doesn’t want to. He doesn’t want to put those people into that position. What makes these people think they don’t have to pay? Is it because he is too nice of a guy? He is trying to be considerate of them, but the reciprocal is due.  

Simple human consideration is something we should all strive for. For example, there is never a reason to litter. Why would it be OK for you? Just because you borrowed your uncle’s handicapped parking hanger doesn’t mean it is OK to park in a handicap spot. Someone else may really need that spot and you could probably use the walk anyway. And don’t take more from the condiment bar than you need. You are just wasting food and money.  

We are becoming a bunch of numb sheep. “As long as I have grass and a three-sided lean-to, I won’t rock the pasture.”

It sure would be nice if we all thought just a little about our actions. Go ahead, clean your own table instead of leaving it for someone else to do. That’s the considerate thing to do.

Last sermon: partnership. It means being a partner with everyone you come in contact with. I recently was witness to a near tragedy. Two really close partners almost severed their relationship over the well-meaning actions of one of them. Being the majority owner, the one partner took some really harsh occurrences affecting the business upon himself and worked toward solving them without involving the other partner. He thought he was saving his partner from worry and stress. But in doing so, he stopped talking to his partner because he was so busy. His partner began to think that he was being ignored and that perhaps something weird was going on. All that was really happening was that his partner was trying to shield him from the bad stuff. It came really close to being ugly.

Be a true partner. Make sure you are communicating what you are doing and why, and ask for advice. Don’t try to do everything yourself without help. You will be amazed how much others want to be involved.

When you have all the facts and have partnered, then make a decision and stick to it. Be timely and direct. Explain why and then go ahead. No loitering in the halls of indecision.  

The holidays are here. I love the warmth and fellowship these days bring. There is never a better time to hold a meeting of your people, your peers, and your partners to report on the past year, ask for suggestions for the coming year, thank everyone for all of their hard work, and clearly state your plan for making everything better. I would do it the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s kind of a nothing week anyway and you can make it special.  

Merry Christmas and happy New Year’s from Kate, Hubcap, Latte, Cowboy, and especially me. Thanks for five great years of writing this column and taking the time to read it. I appreciate your time and all of your e-mails. Here’s to a great ’11.

Happy trails and a most peaceful life.