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10 Things Every CEO Needs to Do to Become a Success

10 Things Every CEO Needs to Do to Become a Success

What separates an über-successful CEO from an average one? It isn’t being super bottom-line focused or being a great salesperson (although those things don’t hurt). What elevates CEOs from so-so to stellar are the things you do to not just boost your own success but help your team grow, too.

When you commit to being a CEO who envisions and upholds a holistic growth plan for your company, employees, and yourself, it leads to success personally and professionally for everyone who touches the business.

How can you be a CEO who ups the game when it comes to creating this holistic-success mindset?

1. You must be mission-driven

A clear vision is critical to business success, but is your entire team on-board with that mission? And does that mission align with their own personal missions? It’s not as simple as saying ‘Here is what we need to do, now go do it.’ You must also define the why behind the action AND ensure that each individual employee has their personal ‘why’ defined as well. If they aren’t invested in where the company is going, they will stall and drag performance down with them.

ACTION STEP: Hold a Mission Workshop with your team to outline company vision and map out each invidual’s mission as well.

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2. You should create a culture

As a CEO, one of your jobs is to create and uphold a culture that differentiates your company. A culture is more than just a cool office, flexible work hours, and beer at 4:00 on Fridays. A culture is defined by the inherent values, energy, and actions that drive you and every team member to do their best work. It’s a comprehensive spectrum of factors including goals, benefits, environment, rewards, tasks, respect,and personality traits that create a culture. Each employee must fit into and value these elements or they will hold you back.

ACTION STEP: Do a comprehensive assessment of your company culture to identify where you are now, where you want to be and the gaps you need to close to get there—then implement them.

3. You need to be realistic

Many CEOs come on board with guns blazing, ready to rock the boat and change the game. However, with change comes stress. With change comes shifts in workload. With change comes different ideas on how to make it happen. This can create chaos in an organization. If you want to be a great CEO you will set realistic and achievable expectations that don’t burn out, frustrate, or overwork your team to ensure they are fully functioning and happy.

ACTION STEP: While you want to be strategic and vision-focused, you must also be aware of what is happening in the trenches. You were there once too. Care for your employees and they will give you massive returns.

4. You must manage stress

When you or your team are stressed out, it leads to sick days, reduced productivity, relationship problems, moodiness, and many other issues. Stress isn’t something to be taken lightly. It impacts health-insurance costs, innovation, employee turnover, and general engagement and happiness with your job. Successful CEOs know that not only do they have to manage their own stress at work and at home, but they MUST implement structured training, resources, and benefits for their employees, too. There is no one-size-fits-all stress solution so you need to customize resources for each employee.

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ACTION STEP: Work with a wellness coach or consultant (or identify someone within the company) to create a comprehensive stress-management program that is customizable to your team members.

5. You should customize benefits

As a smart CEO, you know benefits can’t fit every individual. Some people value pay and rewards while others value flexibility and freedom. Smart CEOs get to know their employees on a personal level to ensure they are offering benefits, rewards, and incentives that maximize what each person needs and wants in order to do a great job and bring their best to work every day.

ACTION STEP: Do a survey to really get to know what your team wants in terms of benefits. Then get creative in offering unique things to meet those needs.

6. You need to be flexible.

We don’t all work best in the same ways or at the same times. And while you do want to recruit and develop employees who fit the culture you envision for your company, you must also honor their individual work styles and needs. Some enjoy teamwork and others are more independent. Some are early risers while others are night owls. Like benefits or stress tools, creating a workplace that is flexible also requires customizing to each individual employees’ needs.

ACTION STEP: Instill in your management team the belief in flexibility so they can work with their employees to create schedules that work for them.

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7. You must set the right goals

CEOs are always setting and measuring goals. There is nothing worse than setting goals and having them stagnate and cause stress because you’re not making progress. When this happens it is usually because they weren’t set with the right guidelines in mind. A great goal should be gut-checked, obtainable, actionable, life-oriented, small, and supported. This goes for both personal and professional goals.

ACTION STEP: Work with an expert or coach who can help you create goals that fit your needs and hold you accountable along the way.

8. You should communicate clearly

A team in the dark is a team that can turn on you. When employees feel left behind, out of the loop, or out of control, they get stressed. Stress leads to lack of productivity, worry over job security, and even sabotage if they feel so much anxiety that they blame the company. As CEO, you must ensure you have a clear way of communicating changes, ideas, and company news that everyone can access. Plus be sure that your team has a way to communicate back to you.

ACTION STEP: Work with your HR or employee-relations team to create an open communication environment for your company.

9. You must listen well

When tough times hit a company, it’s not usually a blindside. Signs and indications were there long before it went bad. Listen to your team. Open your eyes to what is happening on the front lines. Have open dialogue with employees. Use what you learn to drive goals, actions, and changes for the success of the company, the team, and you.

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ACTION STEP: Be around. Don’t isolate yourself in meetings or your office all day. Hang out with your team to hear what is happening.

10. Don’t be a jerk

This should go without saying, but really, being a jerk never helped anyone. Many believe that being a success means being aggressive and plowing forward with your vision no matter who gets hurt in the process. But it is possible to lead well AND be nice at the same time. You don’t have to be too nice. You still need to hire and fire and discipline and create growth, but that doesn’t mean you have to be the CEO everyone hates or avoids.

ACTION STEP: Get in touch with your own goals and personality. Be honest with who you are and how people relate to you. Work on the areas in which you need improvement and your team will see you as even more of a role model.

Now it’s up to you to implement the above tips into your leadership strategy. This holistic way of approaching your business will not only create momentum in your own success but will help your team and company grow too.

Featured photo credit: Businessman looking at city via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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