Let’s face it: Many of us don’t have the greatest track record when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. Despite our best intentions, we often stumble in our desires to get fit, save money, read more — whatever it may be. According to a story by U.S. News & World Report, 80 percent of resolutions fail by February.
Yet, a new year can still be a good time to implement change. For CEOs, there are always important goals to pursue, new heights to aim for and improvements to make.
Here’s a look at several goals that could serve CEOs well in 2018.
“Education never ends,” Arthur Conan Doyle once wrote. The Sherlock Holmes author’s lesson is a good one for business leaders. Taking an active interest in learning more — regardless of whether it’s business-related — can help our overall outlook. Laura Garnett includes this in her list of resolutions “truly remarkable CEOs make” for Inc.com. She uses Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s resolutions, from reading more books to learning Mandarin, as an example.
“There is something so incredibly valuable in expanding your horizons and engaging in new ideas — remember, your intelligence can always be increased,” she writes. “Think about a way for you to incorporate new learning on a regular basis, whether that is reading a book for 20 minutes a day, taking a new class, or even learning a new word each day. You never know how this new learning will inspire in even your everyday tasks. Let your curiosity guide you — it’s good for business.”
Improve listening skills
The art of active listening is increasingly important in business. Communication is a vital skill, and that’s not just in messages being delivered from the top. It’s difficult for employees to feel satisfied in their work if they don’t believe their voices are being heard. As Mike Myatt writes for Forbes, “Stop talking and start listening.”
“… Stop worrying about what you’re going to say and focus on what’s being said,” he explains. “Don’t listen to have your opinions validated or your ego stroked, listen to be challenged and to learn something new. You’re not always right, so stop pretending you know everything and humble yourself to others. If you desire to be listened to, then give others the courtesy of listening to them.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind. It’s understandable, too, when CEOs have so much flying at them that it’s hard to see past the immediate flurry. As the new year approaches, a smart improvement would be to determine ways to focus on long-term goals. It may require restructuring and shifting priorities in the CEO’s schedule, but the benefits could be significant. As Garnett writes, “Stop focusing on the immediate bottom line and look toward long-term success and sustainability.”
“When you focus on the long term, you take care to make proper investments in your time, money, and organizational structure,” she explains. “You might not see immediate returns just yet, but acting with the long-term in mind means you aren’t stuck putting out annoying fires or regretting short-term decisions. You can work towards real growth in your company. You start to see the true benefit of having a people-first attitude. The gains are limitless.”
Mistakes, as we know, are unavoidable. How they are handled is paramount in business. CEOs that are hesitant to take ultimate responsibility may have a hard time succeeding, or developing trust among employees, clients and peers. Mike Harden, executive coach and CEO of Clarity Group, writes about this for The Huffington Post.
“More times than I can count, I have seen CEOs defend a mistake that they, or one of their employees, made,” he writes. “When things go wrong, we find it so difficult to step up and say we blew it, apologize, and make it right. Instead, we deny that it happened, try to hide it, or make outrageous statements that simply aren’t true, yet give us some cover. It’s a ‘circle the wagon’ mentality. We end up ‘doubling down,’ making the inevitable hit on us much harder. Great CEOs know when to admit a mistake was made, ask for forgiveness, and try to fix the problem.”
Here’s a resolution that could open new doors for CEOs. For those that have never attempted meditation of any kind, there may be trepidation. It’s not for everyone. But there may be value in giving it a chance. One potential benefit is focus, which is always helpful in business. Emma Seppala writes about this for Harvard Business Review.
“Research has shown that our minds have a tendency to wander about 50 percent of the time,” Seppala writes. “Add in work interruptions, text messages, IMs, phone calls, and emails, and it’s no surprise that employees have a hard time staying focused. But studies show that meditation training can help curb our tendency for distraction, strengthening our ability to stay focused and even boosting memory.”
Seppala features Peter Cooper, founder of Cooper Investors, on how meditation has helped him: “Being an investor requires the distillation of large volumes of information into a few relevant insights. Meditation has helped me discard interesting but unnecessary information and focus on the few things that make a difference to long run investment performance.”
Stop ineffective policies
A new year is a good time to take a hard look at the success rate of business policies and workflow. It could be that processes are overly complicated, with too many layers of people or steps involved, and can easily be simplified or improved. If the CEO investigates and gets an answer of “We’ve always done it this way,” that can be a signal to make a change. Harden explores the need for such changes in a story for CEO.com.
“Every CEO, manager, and staff person should review their initiatives, tasks, policies, etc., and ask the tough question: ‘Are these achieving the results we want?’ If something doesn’t work, stop doing it. If a policy is outdated and doesn’t make sense in today’s environment, change it. It’s that simple. You need to free up bandwidth, and you can’t do that if you spend all your time doing things that aren’t working for you. Get everyone into the mindset of consistently evaluating whether their efforts are getting results.”
Networking isn’t just for the young and eager professional looking to make a break in the business world. There are benefits in communicating and collaborating with peers after you’ve reached business heights. Wayne Cooper writes in a story for chiefexecutive.net that CEO peer groups are increasing in popularity, thanks in part to “a realization by many CEOs that there is tremendous value to be learned from peers who have dealt with similar issues.” He features Bob Grabill, chairman of Chief Executive Network, who says, “There’s some truth to the old adage that it can be lonely at the top.”
“Many CEOs,” Grabill says, “especially those who are committed to continuous improvement for their organizations and themselves, find tremendous value in getting away from the day-to-day whirlwind and working ‘on’ vs. ‘in’ their business for a few days a year with peers who are not competitors and have dealt with the same issues and are willing to share their successes and failures in a confidential, safe environment.”