It’s no secret that our world moves quickly. Start-ups launch at a rate of about 1240 per day in the U.S. alone. New technologies pop up faster than toadstools after rain and change the way we think about pretty much everything. Geographies previously thought of as “remote” are now connected and ready to buy.
In such a volatile business climate, the only safe assumption is that what worked for you this year won’t work next year. At least, not as well.
So as we look to 2018 and beyond, there are a few bad habits we should drop right now if we want to be successful in the year ahead.
1. Delaying investment in training
It’s so, so easy to procrastinate on adding a new skill or strengthening skills you already have. After all, you’ve got the fire-drill du jour to contend with and a deadline that’s already past due. Training might feel like a tax on today’s productivity, but it’s really an investment in being more effective tomorrow.
Think about elite military and athletic teams. There’s a reason they’re on top: they’re training 40+ hours per week, and doing the job for maybe 1 hour. They’re developing new skills, new muscles, and drilling new scenarios that help them deliver ever-better performances.
Compare that to your average office worker who is delivering work for 40 hours a week and maybe learning for 1 hour. (Maybe.)
2. Acquiring knowledge
Wait. How is acquiring knowledge a bad habit? Didn’t I just tell you to stop putting off training?! Here’s the thing: knowledge and skill are different.
Thanks to the internet, information is available quickly and easily. It’s cheap. It’s ubiquitous. It’s commodity. The value is in the application of knowledge. Instead of reading about active listening, practice it. Instead of talking about “failing fast”, run an experiment and be open to it not working.
It’s not what you know, it’s how you apply it.
3. Looking for ideas at the top
In traditional organizations where information is hoarded and privileged, and where seniority is assumed to equal smarts, it’s normal to look to the top of the org chart for inspiration. But those organizations are either dying or trying their damnedest to change so as to avoid their own demise.
Take (yet another) page from Steve Jobs, who knew that great ideas can come from anywhere. In other words, we need to listen everywhere.
Staffers on the front line interact with your customers many times every day. Millennials may not dominate your C-suite, but they’re digital natives and have a keen nose for trends. The best ideas won’t come from leaders in the top echelon (who have the most to lose and tend to play it safe). They’ll come from the most engaged employees, regardless of where they sit.
4. Doing more stuff
Wherever you’re born, whatever your background, you get 24 hours in each day. The traditional approach to getting the most out of your time, and your employees’, is to dangle a carrot while holding a stick. But we’re not donkeys. And we’re way past the era when being busy meant you were accomplishing more.
Instead of obsessing over so-called productivity metrics that tell you about outputs, focus on outcomes. Set a long-term vision, and create an environment where your staff can make decisions autonomously. Then get out of the way. Trust in their curiosity and creativity. They won’t be any busier — but they’ll make a bigger impact.
5. Speaking in business BS
Hey everyone, let’s huddle up to cross-conceptualize and identify long-term synergies in our macro portfolio vis-a-vis digital disruption and cultural transformat- *ahem*… excuse me, I just threw up in my mouth a bit.
You’re chuckling right now, but we’re all guilty of speaking the time-honored language of business BS. It creates a comfy little security blanket by making us sound intelligent (though only to ourselves!) and excluding the people that don’t get it. But it has to stop.
Not only does business BS turn you into a Grade-A oxygen thief, you’re killing your own authenticity and hampering actual progress. Speaking in simple English (or your language of choice) so you can be easily understood is a sign of good leadership. Be direct and inclusive.
I’ll leave you with this gem from the venerable “Weird Al” Yankovic. Enjoy. Then, block off time for training, have a plain-spoken conversation with a front-line employee, and get ready for an effective, successful 2018.
Now that you know which habits to drop, replace them with a good habit. Follow Smells Like Team Spirit for stories about leadership, diversity, and fresh ways to make work feel less like, y’know… work.