January is a great month for reflection, planning, and getting re-focused. As a business leader, you’re reflecting on your wins and losses in 2022. You’re working on your organizational SWOT analysis, setting the foundation for your 2023 business plan. And you are laser-focused on setting goals and objectives for the new year.
In addition, I think there are three key questions that every leader needs to ask themselves at the beginning of every year. I didn’t invent these questions. They come instead from a great TED Talk done several years ago by Roselinde Torrers. A senior consultant with an international consulting firm, Torrers has studied great leaders for over 25 years. She found that these amazing leaders asked themselves these three questions regularly.
How will you answer these same questions today?
#1. Where are you looking to anticipate change?
The world we live in and the business environment we lead in have never seen the speed of change we see today. Pre-covid, the idea of your employees working remotely seemed unlikely. Covid struck in March 2020 and now two-thirds of all workers are doing their jobs from home. What an amazing change happening so quickly!
Is it possible that we can anticipate these types of changes to our business and our lives? I believe it is if we are proactive in our approach to looking for new business trends, societal changes, and shifts in politics. I attempt to achieve this in several ways:
- I belong to five different mastermind groups that meet regularly.
- I read a daily newspaper six days a week and two on Sundays. I also subscribe to dozens of magazines, blogs, and podcasts each month.
- I read at least two non-fiction books a month.
- Most importantly, I remain curious year-round. I “wonder”.
#2. What is the diversity measure of your network?
I am very fortunate to work and spend time with a wide spectrum of friends, colleagues, and clients. Many of them do not share my views on sports, politics, or societal norms. I am constantly challenged about my core beliefs by those around me. I also find that I learn a lot more from those that I don’t always agree with than from those who share my opinions. While I may not agree with them, I try hard to understand their respective position. In recent times, that has been difficult when it comes to politics.
How have I attempted to address this question?
- Manage my fear of engaging with someone who holds different views than my own. Best-selling author Steven Covey is famous for suggesting, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
- Getting away from my immediate surroundings and traveling both domestically and internationally has helped expose me to diverse thinking. Reading local newspapers. Engaging with a stranger on a plane. Overhearing dialog in a local cafe.
- Decision-making. Sometimes when making a difficult decision, I seek out someone who I know will have an opposing view and seek their counsel. While their advice could be completely contrary to my decision, it is helpful to hear someone else make a compelling case for doing the exact opposite of whatever I am planning.
#3. Are you courageous enough to abandon the past?
I think this is the toughest question of the three for most leaders. Best-selling author Jim Collins talks about “Great” companies and the fact that they are typically very good at asking “what are we prepared to stop doing?”.
It’s hard to change course. It’s difficult to give up something that has worked in the past for something that may never work. It takes great courage to “change horses” midway through our entrepreneurial journey despite knowing that every strategy has a life to it. A beginning, a middle, and an end.
What strategy, habit, or company norm are you willing to abandon in 2023? How do you make that decision?
Here are several tactics I use:
- I try to ask, “What am I prepared to stop doing?”, whenever I am thinking of starting something new. I think there has to be some balance between the “starts” and the “stops”.
- When considering a “stop,” I will ask the following pre-mortem question. “Imagine I do this and six months from now, it’s a complete disaster. What went wrong?”
- Sometimes, instead of abandoning a current strategy, I might choose to just do less of it. It’s a test. At the end of the test, I will then decide to either stop doing it or not.
Once you’ve asked yourself each of these three questions, you can then ask them of your followers. The results could be life-changing. Good luck!