If you have goals you want to achieve in the new year, start taking action and building habits today.
There was a thing going around on social media at the end of 2022. Instead of making resolutions for the new year, people in my orbit were choosing a word that would serve as their theme or guiding star for the next 12 months. Adventure. Serenity. Boldness. I got new pants for Christmas – the type with the stretchy fabric – so for a short period of time my 2023 word was going to be “comfortable.” Some pushback on that ensued.
I was in the gym last week (of course I was, it was early January) and ended up listening to a podcast featuring James Clear, the author of the bestseller Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones.
He said, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”
It’s all about the execution. We all know that. But Clear goes on: “The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become. Your identity emerges out of your habits [your systems]. Every action is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”
Clear had a friend who improved their health in a measurable way by continually asking the question, “What would a healthy person do?” They wanted to become a healthy person, they focused on making choices consistent with that identity, and they – over time – became a healthy person. And a specific, quantifiable goal was achieved too.
The lessons in Atomic Habits are widely applicable to business. Firms are complex living organisms with their own habits, many of which are counterproductive.
While the new year is still fresh, ask yourself a few questions:
- What type of firm do you wish yours would be?
- What type of leader do you want to become?
Then do a survey of your firm’s habits – its operating cadence, its policies, its values (spoken and unspoken). How do they line up with the identity you want to manifest?
For example, if you want to be a firm that communicates frequently and meaningfully with your employees, you could resolve to do the following in order to achieve that end:
- Send a weekly email acknowledging project wins, outstanding individual work, and other real time items of interest
- Send a monthly recap of core business metrics
- Hold a quarterly all-hands call, discussing progress on key strategic initiatives
- Get the whole gang together in person once a year
I think if you consistently execute a set of actions like this you could reasonably lay claim to being a firm that communicates frequently and meaningfully with employees.
Consistency is key. Clear offers an important piece of advice: “You can reduce the scope, but stick to the schedule.” A five-minute set of sprints up and down the sidewalk is better than no workout at all.
Don’t have time to send the well-composed email that you’d like? Send a two liner instead: “I got caught up in a project with Acme Corporation that put me off track today. I heard that we did excellent work for Vandelay Industries – well done team.”
Hold a 30 minute quarterly all hands call on-time and without an elaborate PowerPoint rather than try to make up the difference the following quarter.
My word for 2023 is “present,” by the way. I need to get my face out of my phone and be more fully present in whatever else I’m up to (like talking to my spouse). What type of person do I want to be? I want to be a person who can pay uninterrupted attention to important things.
What are your words for 2023? What type of firm do you want to lead? Every action is a vote for the type of firm you wish to become. Start voting today.
Tom Godin is a strategic planning advisor at Zweig Group. Contact him at email@example.com.
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