What’s the one thing you try to do every day in the pursuit of success?
As complexity and demand rise in the workplace, it isn’t surprising that people become obsessed with shortcuts. Juggling competing projects and priorities in today’s fast-paced business world can make a business professional feel compelled to go from A to B in the speediest and most convenient way.
Great leaders, entrepreneurs and visionaries accomplish big things by starting first with one thing, whether it's following up on an insightful question, pursuing a single point of focus or taking on a healthy habit.
I reached out to some of today’s brightest management thinkers, workplace experts and thought leaders, asking, “What’s the one thing you try to do every day in the pursuit of success?”
Here are the insights the experts shared:
Align time and purpose.
"Great leaders perpetually reprioritize where and how they spend their time as they let their core vision guide them. Today, the pace of change shifts situations at such a rapid pace, leaders must challenge themselves every day to focus on the ‘right things.’ I think of it as an elegant tightrope walk: Every critical step forward sustains your focus, keeps you upright and moves you closer to your goal."
-- Kathy Kavanagh, PwC leadership development leader
Dig into the details.
"One thing that distinguishes great leaders is their ability to use rigorous analysis to make decisions and then take action. To meet the challenge at hand, I select a data-driven decision framework that helps me systematically work through issues to reach a conclusion. The objectivity embedded in the framework gives me perspective and prevents decision biases from blocking the best choice."
-- Peter S. Cohan, venture capitalist
Value every perspective.
"Every person has unique value. Find a way to establish a relationship with him or her and empower that person to express that unique value. When the time is right, that person will help you achieve your goals. Extraordinary things can happen when you find a way to bring the right people into your critical conversations every day."
-- Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, author of Bringing Citizen Voices to the Table
Stay present and engaged.
"Great leaders grow their self-awareness every day. Self-awareness isn’t a skill -- it’s a commitment to regularly gain insight about who you are and how others see you. At the beginning of the day, they might ask, What am I trying to improve right now and how will I practice it? At the end of the day, they review, How did I do and what did I learn?"
-- Tasha Eurich, author of Bankable Leadership
Turn setbacks into learning.
"I make a conscious choice every day to accept setbacks as part of the journey. Whether it's a failure, a setback or a misstep, I view it as an opportunity to learn and to be wiser in the future. Where did we get the notion that pursuing our dreams should happen flawlessly and orderly? Progress and success look messy behind the scenes."
-- Fauzia Burke, digital marketer and president of FSB Associates
Align personal hopes and business goals.
"Focus on what you want out of life, your goals and aspirations. Let your business support your personal growth. Never let it be all-encompassing. Give generously in private, pursue win-win relationships, focus on efficiency in your work and spend time in thought and learning. Taking these actions will ensure your personal and public successes, lead to wealth and make you an asset to the world."
-- Mark Beckner, author of The Coder’s Path to Wealth and Independence
Focus on authentic purpose.
"I balance my natural drive for speed and impact with a counterbalancing drive for significance, innovation and sustained customer intimacy. This involves slowing down and moving from transactive management, which focuses on speed, content, accuracy and productivity, to transformative leadership, which focuses on significance, context, authenticity and purpose. This critical shift requires constant diligence, discipline and practice."
-- Kevin Cashman, founder of the Chief Executive Institute and author
Recognize the power of choice.
"We choose every day how to engage with the world around us. Don’t waste that opportunity. Decide what kind of environment you want to create as a leader, recognize the impact you’re having from moment to moment and then consciously choose your behavior."
-- Mindy Hall, author of Leading with Intention
Balance strategy and relationships.
"Mental capital x relationship capital = financial capital. That means you’re only one idea or one person away from that next level of profitability. So any time you face a challenge, decide if it’s an idea problem or a people problem. Is it time for more brainstorming or would the challenge be solved by bringing in the right person?"
Anticipate what comes next.
"Business leaders who want to make a difference need to think around corners and get beyond their daily, monthly and even yearly work. They need to project what they do in terms of what the public hungers for over the next decade and what political and social developments are just starting to bubble up. This can be learned from a careful reading of many polls and research issued nearly every day."
-- Robert L. Dilenschneider, founder and chairman of the Dilenschneider Group
Form collaborative networks.
"Since 1997 the number of women-owned businesses increased 68 percent. Women have done this by creating ever-expanding networks of resources offering expertise and support. They do it because connecting feels good and it works! I never think, ‘What can I get from you?’ Focusing on what we can accomplish together is helping me change the world."
-- Nancy D. O'Reilly, author of Leading Women
Of course, it's not doing something once that makes an impact for entrepreneurs. The exponential impact comes when the accumulation of the effort creates forward momentum.
A successful initiative or startup is ultimately just a reflection of the daily decisions and actions that unfold between each milestone. It cannot go from concept to fully executed plan overnight, but it will sequentially advance as you accomplish each objective. Doing the first thing is a prerequisite to reaching the finish line.
When an entrepreneur focuses on smaller steps, he or she gains confidence and traction. What was overwhelming becomes bite size and doable. And what was murky now has a clear opening to move forward.
And what do I think about on a daily basis myself? I ask the question, What is most important to get done today and what’s the job within the job? This helps me find the value-added element or hidden challenge in every task so that I go above and beyond expectations and stay one step ahead of the change curve.
These are all insights you can use, but the list is also an invitation for you to join the conversation and share your thoughts below.