“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”—Lewis Carroll, from Alice in Wonderland
With an endless flow of inbound information and distractions from everywhere, it's increasingly difficult for an outstanding leader to decide what to do and when. With organizations becoming flatter and more physically fragmented, taking definitive actions at the beginning of the year has become critical for every leader to grow their company in 2013. Here are 5 actions that must be taken in January for a leader to be successful:
1. A leader sets public company goals. Collectively, employees have no idea where they're going unless a leader guides them. After the leader sets the major priorities, they need to build management consensus on how to get there—deciding exactly who will implement what and when is also critical.
2. A leader decides what not to do. Deciding what to stop doing is almost as important as deciding what to keep doing. Steve Jobs always asked his management team how they can focus on fewer products, not more. Ask, “If this does not get done, what is the effect long term on the company?” If the answer is “not much” or "don’t know,” then forget about it for now.
3. A leader measures employee performance against published objectives. Employees must know the objectives they are being measured against. Leaders also remind people how they will be measured and consistently inspect that result. Remember, employees do not perform well against moving targets. They need examples of what success looks like. A leader gives ongoing feedback to employees (positive and negative) against these goals. The best companies no longer depend on the annual review to communicate this.
4. A leader does not get easily distracted. In this interruption-based culture, everything wants to get in the way. The evening before, effective leaders set the two tasks that need to be accomplished the next day. These leaders do those two tasks first before checking email, voicemail or social media feeds. They also turn off popup interruptions like email and other alerts that actually prevent short-term progress. While leaders have an open door policy, sometimes that door is closed so they can focus on getting critical tasks done.
5. A leader hires a mentor. Small-business leaders report that the one critical factor in their success is to have a mentor. This is important because it's easy to form tunnel vision trapped inside an organization. Leaders find mentors that have had similar experiences in their fields. They are not afraid to give unfiltered and sometimes unwelcomed advice.
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