With 2015 slowly approaching, now is an opportune time to reflect upon the past 12 months and make course corrections for the year ahead. Specifically, it’s always a good idea to review what worked, what didn’t work and why, and think about what you will do in the upcoming year to learn from past challenges and build future strengths.
I’ve written about the effectiveness of after-action reports (AARs) as an effective tool that helps teams learn together. Any team can build a knowledge base for its members, but actually learning and implementing together is where the real magic lies, and that only happens when people trust each other and share knowledge and insights openly.
Below are five entrepreneurial leadership lessons learned from 2014 I want to share with you:
1. Shyness has a time and place -- but business isn’t it.
“Cold calling” has an evil cousin named “cold emailing,” and it works. When I set out my 2014 to-do list (I don’t set goals), getting published as a writer was at the top of it (and I have no idea why because I had never written anything before). To do so, I leveraged the power of LinkedIn by blindly reaching out to a weekly contributor, throwing my pitch and voila! I repeated this approach again for another media outlet and now write weekly columns for both.
2. Time has a price.
Nowhere else is the old saying “time is money” more applicable than in entrepreneurship. Every waking moment (and sleeping moment, for that matter) for a startup founder is spent thinking about survival: how to solicit more clients, how to expand the client list, how to convert passersby into paying customers. There’s only so much time in the day, and it’s never enough.
Remember this: choose your priorities, and the behaviors involved in executing those priorities, wisely. If you know that collaborating with a group of eight people will detract from rather than contribute to productivity, find another route that you know will be effective.
3. Be bold. Be swift. Be gone.
Every mission in the SEAL Teams had three things: a goal, a means to execute that goal and the end state of what that goal should ideally look like. In other words, our decisions and actions boldly identified an objective, swiftly executed and then quickly moved on to the next one without looking back save for lessons learned.
You know what? An entrepreneur’s day to day is no different. Every thought, every intention, and every behavior has a purpose and a consequence. Be deliberate in what you choose, for your choices become your creations.
4. Don't have the fights outside the meeting room.
Adjourning a meeting only to have random individuals move to offline discussions and pose questions they never asked during the meeting completely defeats the purpose of an agenda and shortchanges everyone else involved. Moreover, it adds unnecessary time impediments to an already busy day. Instead, discuss difficult issues in the moment. Nip them in the bud before they evolve into something catastrophic. Then go do it.
5. Keep a “dear diary.”
Chances are you will never hear this again from a former Navy SEAL. Consider maintaining a running log of leadership or performance lessons learned using apps such as Evernote or Any.do to capture insights gained while “in the moment.” You can always review thoughts or sayings later if they’re recorded, but trying to recall them out of thin air is only as good as your memory allows.
Making frequent “course corrections” along your entrepreneurial journey is more effective than larger ones less often. Stay on point by learning from the past (yours and others’) and applying the best judgment to wield value in the year ahead.