As 2017 kicks into high gear, entrepreneurs and CEOs are left facing their ambitious list of to-dos and looking for ways to grow smarter. And the leaders of Lyft, one of the United States’ dominant ride-sharing companies, are no exception.
Although the company enjoyed a highly successful 2016, its leaders aren’t resting on their past achievements. The vice president of marketing, Melissa Waters, recently told
#1. Maximize your use of current tools.
According to Enterprise Management Associates, only 50 percent of businesses actively use half of their current tools. This year, make a push to use the tools you have to their fullest potential.
At SUM Innovation, for example, we’ve used Microsoft Office 365’s calendar and mail functions for the past few years, but we wanted to see what else we could do with it, particularly in terms of teamwide collaboration. So we dug deeper and discovered the Office 365 Planner. After a few conversations on implementation and several practice runs, we’re now using it on various management projects and realizing that it’s a tool we can use to “level up” our collaboration.
Once you’ve maxed out the functionality on your current tools, consider bringing on complementary apps to augment your current ones. For example, if you’re already using Xero as your accounting software, think about a tool such as Float to help you streamline and manage your budgeting and forecasting processes.
#2. Plan to re-plan.
According to the Boston Business Journal, 90 percent of people don’t write out and prioritize their goals, which is why they fail. Tracking your goals helps to ensure you’ll hold yourself accountable and stick to your core priorities. But to truly succeed in business, you must also plan to re-plan.
Setting goals at the beginning of the year is step one, but you need to re-evaluate your progress periodically. Schedule review and planning days each quarter to bring your strategies back into alignment, and re-invest resources based on emerging trends and new information.
If you’re ready to take your planning to the next level, consider a tool like LivePlan, which enables businesses to track concept development from inception through the testing and pitching stages. Teammates can collaborate directly in the software, making it easier for them to bring great ideas to fruition.
#3. Respect and challenge your external partners.
Entrepreneurs often outsource critical functions to qualified professionals such as content developers and accountants. When it comes to the latter, KPMG found that 40 percent of businesses intend to ramp up their use of outsourced accounting.
As this trend accelerates, make sure you’re vetting your contractors before you sign on the dotted line. Ask who they’ve worked with previously and whether their clients were satisfied, as well as what attributes distinguish them from competitors. A worthwhile firm will be happy to answer those questions.
Once you bring partners on, continue to challenge and question them. After all, part of good management is respectfully questioning those professionals’ decisions and asking for clarification on their work. Within reason, their job includes helping you to understand. But it starts with you asking a few great questions.
#4. Re-envision how you engage with teammates to integrate their voices into strategy.
Workers want to share their insights with employers, but a Medallia Institute survey found they’re rarely included in company conversations in meaningful ways. Ignoring or sidelining employees’ opinions leads to huge missed opportunities.
Instead of spending hours in your inbox, schedule face-to-face meetings with your colleagues and employees. Build in an hour more than you think you’ll need during these sessions because effective conversations often take longer than you expect. Teammates will feel respected when they see that you’re prioritizing your time with them and investing in their ideas.
#5. Eat a huge slice of humble pie … because you’re not always right.
The best entrepreneurs know that no one is right all the time — not even the most conscientious, intelligent and experienced leaders. Great people make mistakes, so they surround themselves with smart people who can fill in the gaps where they fall short.
And according to Catalyst, humble leaders bring out the best in those around them. When your employees perceive your behavior as humble, they’re more likely to suggest new ideas, participate in team-building activities and gain the confidence necessary to grab the bull by the horns.
As President Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” Recognize that you can’t be all things to your company and that you won’t always get it right. But if you develop a quality team that can catch your mistakes and adapt to the organization’s needs, your business will prosper.
#6. Take more (and smarter) risks.
People are often skittish about risk, believing it to be foolhardy. But as president and CEO of EngenderHealth Pamela Barnes said, “Until we are willing to put ourselves out there and take a risk, we will never be able to achieve professional success and realize our potential.”
Rather than view risk as a negative, reframe it as an opportunity to push through the next growth challenge. Make educated decisions by understanding what’s at stake and what the negative consequences might be. When the positive potential outweighs the drawbacks, embrace the chance for change.
Applying a healthy attitude toward risk will give you the courage to explore new ideas, launch new products and hire unconventional team members. Remarkable companies are built on calculated risk, so vow to be bold in 2017… just don’t be stupid, ‘cause that’s a real thing, too!
#7. Break up with your email for a week.
Entrepreneurs and CEOs are inundated with distractions. According to a survey from The Alternative Board, entrepreneurs spend approximately 68 percent of their time working “in” their businesses, and more than a third believe email is the biggest time suck. It’s impossible to nurture your leadership skills and refine your strategy when you’re constantly responding to non-urgent, non-important messages and reactively putting out fires.
Book a vacation — or staycation, for that matter — and switch off these distractions. The myth of our current generation is that we have to be connected all the time. The truth is you can stop running your life out of an inbox, and ignoring a few text messages doesn’t mean catastrophe. You just need to pull that plug to trigger your true productivity powerhouse.
So much of entrepreneurial success comes down to planning and creating space for big-picture thinking. Harness the energy that comes with the start of a new year to revamp your processes, energize your team and think differently about how you’re going to destroy your 2017 growth goals.