5 Reasons To Stop Making New Year’s Resolutions 

As we approach the heels of a new year, the electrifying buzz of resolutions are in the air. The hashtags are gaining steam and people are ready to restart the clock at midnight on New Year’s day with the hope of prosperity, change and happiness in the new year. 

However, we have all heard various statistics of the length of time before the buzz of a resolution fades. Whether it is a day, a week or a month; the enthusiasm of New Year’s resolutions fade quickly. Why do people give up so fast?

The larger narrative is why are resolutions effective for only 10% of people who manage to commit to to their goals? I believe it centers around personal goals and habit loops. We are in an age of instant gratification, which creates short term fulfillment for impatient leaders. 

Let’s discuss 5 reasons why New Year’s resolutions fail: 

1. You are trying to achieve too many goals in a short time

The issue with instant and short term gratification is the ability to create huge goals, which are close to impossible to achieve, without a considerable measure of time. Whether it is to begin living a healthier life, or starting your first company, etc., a great strategy, focus and time play a major role in your success. I learned a valuable lesson in 2010 when I set out on a quest to expand my company and was greeted with my first rejection in the first quarter. The goal was too ambitious to achieve a successful outcome within such a short time-frame. 

It takes time to create a new life change and many underestimate the amount of consistent effort it takes to change. It may not happen in the first 30 days, but it will happen once you become flexible with time. 

2. You are focused on perfection

Perfection is a habit loop of focusing on the imperfections, while delaying implementation. Over the years, I have personally witnessed great leaders defer their dreams indefinitely due to perfection. I know of numerous authors who will not publish their first book because the cover is not right, and business owners who have not had the ability to scale due to waiting to find the right office space and website in order to launch. Resolutions often fail when you are focused on perfection, rather than rewarding yourself for consistent progress. 

3. You may be struggling with impostor syndrome

We also label it as comparison syndrome. These are goals that are the result of your fascination with the possessions and successes of others. Have you ever noticed that you changed your goals because of someone you compare yourself to? One distinct, and very dated, personal memory was when my closest friend came to school with a Ford Probe, I became obsessed with the car. I factored her happiness with her new car with changing my mind about my own desires and goals. Essentially, I only wanted the Probe because I did not achieve my goal. 

Impostor syndrome will force you to set goals that are not authentic for you. The more you compare yourself to others, you are more likely to change your goals.

4. You are feeding your distractions 

 The death of many resolutions are the unlimited amount of distractions. Attending dead end networking events, consumed by social media during peak hours of the day, taking repetitive breaks to detox your mind, etc. They are all distractions that will deter you from achieving your goals. I operate a “distraction free zone” until 7 P.M. each day, which limits the amount of unsolicited interactions daily. As a result, I accomplish most of my goals by the third quarter of the year. 

Once you limit the amount of unproductive distractions, you will gain a renewed sense of focus to commit to your resolutions. 

5. You have a lack of patience 

The desire for instant gratification has changed our ability to wait for change. A resolution for a new year has now become the magic formula for instant success. Success takes time. Starting a resolution in a new year will require you to be patient while celebrating achievement milestones. A lack of patience will cause you to defer your dream, most often, prematurely.

There is a simple solution – Create goal-specific milestones and celebrate each accomplishment during the journey. It provides a focused perspective on goal setting and allows you to pivot throughout the year, rather than give up. A great example noted by Psychology Today is “If your goal is to lose weight, pledge to buy yourself a new piece of clothing when you hit the 10-pound mark.” Once you celebrate each milestone, create a road-map for the next level of your goals so you will be committed to the process of actualizing your plan. 

4 New Year’s Resolutions Inspired by the 2017 Inc. 5000 Conference

Ajay Pattani is an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) member from Chicago and founder (and reigning ping pong champion) of Perfect Search Media, a search and social agency named to the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing companies. Ajay went to the 2017 Inc. 5000 conference, and he’s taking the lessons he learned there to heart for the new year.

This year, Perfect Search was honored on the Inc. 5000. It was a highlight!

I felt fortunate to attend the Inc. 5000 conference in Palm Desert, California. It was a privilege to hear inspiring speakers and to meet accomplished, creative entrepreneurs. With 2018 around the corner, I’ve reflected upon my experience and crafted New Year’s resolutions inspired by the conference. Could any of these work for you?

Be Proactive in Taking Emotional Risks

Dr. Brené Brown spoke about “Daring Leadership: The Four Pillars of Courage.” Dr. Brown is a wonderful speaker and professor. If you haven’t checked out her TED Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” I highly recommend it.

At the Inc. 5000 conference, she spoke on the importance of being proactive and taking risks. One standout anecdote was about her daughter, who was placed in her least favorite stroke in an upcoming swim meet and wanted to drop out. Despite her reservations, she swam anyway. Yes, she came in last―but she felt like a winner. Sometimes, just trying something new or scary is a form of winning.

Acknowledge Random Luck

In his talk, “How to Build a Billion Dollar Brand,” Brian Smith, the Founder of UGG, emphasized that random moments of luck matter in business.

I appreciated his humility in sharing the mistakes he faced throughout his journey. Smith’s passion for the product also shone through. This excitement for the UGG brand made him a sales phenomenon―and he was a stellar speaker, as well. My takeaway from his presentation was that results matter more than credit. Life is a team sport, and luck is part of the game.

Keep Your Options Open

Michael Dubin is the founder of Dollar Shave Club. Its success was swift, from a company with US$3.5 million in revenue in 2012 to being bought for US$1 billion by Unilever in 2016.

Dubin’s presentation, “How to Build and Sell a Billion Dollar Business,” focused on the importance of brand voice. I appreciated his points on how his strong team created a strong brand strategy, which then created a strong company.

He also offered his perspective on being acquired. Dubin explained that he and his team focused on how their partner, Unilever, could help advance the goals of Dollar Shave Club, instead of how Dollar Shave Club could help Unilever. That’s a valuable angle to consider.

Cherish Your Health

Daymond John of Shark Tank fame spoke about, “The Power of Broke: Lessons in Business and Life from Daymond John.”

While I enjoyed his thoughts on how he became a self-made millionaire and entrepreneur, I was struck by his honesty about his recent cancer scare. He reminded me that you can have all the business success in the world, but there’s no point in doing so unless you have your health. That is the most important lesson of all.

Other Highlights

I was pleased to see the Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s booth at the Inc. 5000 conference, and there were about 50 EO members in attendance. It was wonderful to see the success of the EO community represented so visibly.

I’ll end with a hot travel tip: I had planned to rent a car to get from LAX to Palm Desert, but then a friend told me about Tesloop, a new city-to-city transportation service. You simply book a ticket, a driver in a Tesla picks you up from the airport, and you relax for a few hours with Wifi and snacks en route to your destination. It was an awesome experience; I highly recommend it if you’re traveling in Southern California during the holiday season.

2018 Is the Year of the Employee Experience

Consumers today have high expectations for experiences. Just look at what’s happening to scheduled TV viewership. Netflix now automatically provides recommendations for what to watch using predictive analytics, letting users control their own experiences by making specific choices and providing feedback through the ratings system. But there was also a time when looking at TV Guide magazine was the only way to decide what to watch.

Work was different then, too. Feedback, for example, came once a year during an annual performance review. Now, employees want feedback to be an ongoing conversation and they expect to play a part in determining how it’s given and when they receive it. As consumers, we’ve grown accustomed to controlling our environments and, consequently, our expectations for what the employee experience should be has drastically changed. It’s no surprise, then, that employee experience is a differentiating factor when it comes to employee happiness and retention.

According to data from IBM’s Smarter Workforce Institute, employees with the most positive experiences at work are three times less likely to be searching for a new job. The downside? According to YouEarnedIt, only 10 percent of employees rate the employee experience at their job a 10 out of 10.

The question I get asked all the time from business leaders when it comes to employee experience is: where do I even begin? It’s not a simple or straightforward answer, unfortunately, and there are a lot of factors at play such as office friendships, organizational trust, and work-life balance. But, for starters, I suggest leaders adopt this two-pronged approach.

Make work meaningful for employees.

According to IBM, meaningful work is the single largest contributor to an employee’s positive experience. The response I often hear is: “There are some tasks that may seem trivial to an employee but they have to be done anyway.” So, how can we ensure that the work we’re giving to an employee is meaningful to them while also meeting business objectives?

For those types of tasks, explaining the bigger picture is key (i.e., how this one seemingly trivial task makes an impact).

It’s also important to empower employees by giving them opportunities to step into new roles. For instance, our team at headquarters meets with the larger global team once a month via video conferencing. Instead of having one of the senior leaders lead the meeting, a different person from the global team takes the role of the host every month. They are charged with organizing the agenda, coming up with a theme and leading the team through a creative activity. It’s not only been fun for me to see each of them bring their own unique flair to the meetings they lead, but it’s also rewarding for them.

Embrace the human side of work.

Too often we get bogged down with meetings, deadlines and deliverables that we forget what our roles as managers should be. The fast-paced, digital world we live in has downplayed the importance of the human element at work.

Bringing back this human element at work can take many forms. It can be as subtle as your CEO shaking the hand of each new hire on their first day, having your entire team video conference a remote employee to sing to them on their birthday, or leaving a Post-it note on your employee’s computer that says “You are so appreciated.”

It can also be a more formal program like my company’s monthly “Coffee with Cornerstars,” a Q&A at our headquarters (which is also streamed globally) that gives employees the chance to share about themselves and learn about each other. One of the recent Q&As featured our head of legal. Employees learned how he got his start in law, how he defines success, what it takes to do his job, the best piece of advice he’s ever received, and that his guilty pleasure is watching “The Golden Girls.” It’s these types of programs that bring us closer together as a team and create a sense of connectedness, and that’s something you won’t find at any ordinary company.

If we look at managing others as a set of human interactions rather than an endless cycle of work that needs to get done, we will be better able to create a space where people feel valued as a member of the team and recognized for who they are as a person. As managers, we can enable others through the giving of ourselves. That’s to say, we can’t expect the people on our team to bring their whole selves to work if we don’t either.

Turn These 4 Tips Into New Year’s Resolutions to Boost Your Business (and Life) in 2018

The end of the year is a time to reflect on our business successes and shortcomings, learn from them, and begin to plan for a new (and better) year. When I look back on my articles from this year, what stands out are the topics that people found most interesting and helpful to running their businesses.

The ones that were most popular are varied–from exercises that improve brain power to the importance of having a hobby. Yet, these stories share a common theme–they offer insight from top business leaders and science on how best to improve your business skills by ensuring you stay mentally sharp and find ways to stay present and be more productive.

So in case you missed them the first time (or need a reminder), here are four tips from my top stories this past year that can help you prepare for a more successful 2018.  

1.  Try slow movement fitness over cardio for added brain health. 

It’s no surprise that science has found a direct link between exercise and brain health. In fact, research shows that exercise stimulates your hippocampus, the brain region associated with learning and memory — both critical skills for successfully running a business.

But exercise doesn’t have to be all treadmills and free weights. There are great benefits from doing slower movement type activities such as tai chi, yoga, ballroom dancing and even walking.

Not only can these activities challenge you to move out of your comfort zone, but they can improve your brain health in ways that traditional exercise programs don’t. For example, a 2017 study showed that an 18-month dance training program created greater brain neuroplasticity — the ability for your brain to grow and expand —  in older adults when compared to an endurance and flexibility training program of the same duration.

2. Get over your fear of the world falling apart without you.

More than half of American don’t take all of their vacation days according to a recent survey. Why? They are afraid they will get behind and nobody else can do their work or that their business will crumble without them. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get over this fear. You need to take vacations in order to recharge your body and mind.

I too once feared taking a vacation early on in my career.  When I began my first accounting practice, my children were young, and I didn’t have anyone working for me.

It’s tempting to try and do everything yourself, especially when you own your own business. I would work with my clients all day long, then come home, eat dinner with my family, put my children to bed and then get back on my computer to pay the bills, invoice customers and balance the books.

I’d never take a vacation. And I’d go to bed late, wake up early, and do it all again the next day. I soon realized that this was unsustainable and harmful to me and my family.

I finally overcame my fear of vacation by hiring a virtual assistant (VA) when I took time off when I was a solopreneur. The VA took client calls for me and patched them through–if the matter was urgent.

3. Find a hobby that stimulates your problem-solving skills.

Name an inspirational business leader and odds are he or she has a dedicated hobby. An outside interest not only gives you time to relax and unwind, but a hobby can also stimulate your thinking, learning and problem-solving skills. One of my hobbies is playing the bass guitar. It has helped me to learn how to learn again. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett play bridge and have said that it stimulates their strategic thinking as it’s about regularly calculating and weighing gains versus losses. In the same way, Elon Musk and others play video games, while other top executive play chess.

4. Become a master at listening.

Listening is a skill that every business person should regularly work on as it helps them become better leaders, improve their business and uncover new opportunities. It takes more than just not talking to be a good listener. You have to maintain good eye contact, let people finish their thoughts, and ask probing questions when needed. It also helps to work at repeating back at least some of what people have said to you. This makes you focus on what a person says rather than what you want to say next.

As business people we are always striving to be better. By putting these key strategies to practice in 2018, you’ll become more aware and agile so you can easily pivot when needed to jump on new opportunities and create more business success.

Was 2017 a Good Year? 4 Ways to Evaluate Success (Beyond Financials)

In startups, we’re hyper focused on metrics — measurable, objective data. And it makes sense. 55% of startups fail by year five. You need cash, you need customers, and you need growth. And when reporting results to investors or pitching to partners, you need cold, hard data.

From revenue run rate, to customer acquisition cost, to gross margins, marketing spend, there are many ways to measure financial performance.

But what about the less tangible? The things you feel day to day, whether in your startup culture, morale, or overall well being.

From a financial perspective, we had a great year with 55% growth. But it hasn’t all been easy, and there have definitely been other successes and failures.

Here are a few different ways to evaluate your 2017 success.

1. Creative (and risky) experiment outcomes

The only way your startup will ever really grow is through creative ideas, trying new things, and taking some risks. Sometimes, they go wrong. But sometimes, they lead to amazing things.

For my team, that meant a new product. In addition to our array of small business marketing products, we wanted to go one step further. To compete with the big players in the website space, we built a do-it-for-you website service. We hired copywriters and designers and invested product management hours into it.

But it’s been successful so far. We went from a one-man website show (literally, there was one guy doing it all) to a team of over 10 people supporting hundreds of customers.

We’re still working out a lot of kinks in our processes, and it’s far from perfect. But it’s been hugely rewarding to see a risky experiment work.

Did you launch a new product? Test a new channel? If you tried something new and saw results, that’s success.

2. Team morale

What’s the day-to-day like for you and your team? Do you work cohesively, or do you butt heads? Is your team excited to be in the office? Morale is one of the most important “intangibles” to reflect on at the end of the year.

Before 2017, I hadn’t had an employee quit in nearly three years. We were a tiny tight-knit team — more like a family than a company. But in 2017, five of my full-time employees quit. Two moved to new cities. Two wanted career changes. One had an unbearable commute.

I know they all left for specific reasons, but it’s been tough on me and the rest of my team. Reviewing resumes, interviewing, onboarding, and picking up the leftover slack has been exhausting for all of us. The rate of change has been a strain on morale.

One the flip side, our team is growing and we’ve brought in some great new hires. The website team I mentioned above (our largest team) has outstanding retention. And we’re positioned to have an exciting and inspiring 2018.

Remember to think about your team. 

3. Visible customer impact

Take a step back from retention numbers for a minute. Think about your customers as real people. Your business exists to solve a pain point for customers. Have you made their lives easier? If so, that’s a win.

We get online reviews about our products and services all the time. But with our do-it-for-you website package, we’re directly in touch with customers every day. We get emails and calls from delighted customers psyched about their new website. Our team actually prints out these emails and hangs them up on our fridge as an encouraging reminder.

One of my favorites is, “I will look more closely tomorrow, but I LOVE THE LOOK OF THE PAGE. You have done a GREAT JOB.” The capitalization cracks me up.

Are all of our reviews glowing? Of course not. We have our share of unhappy customers; all businesses do. But we’re making a direct impact on our customers and helping them launch their businesses.

If you’re delivering on your customer promise, that’s yet another form of success.

4. Mental and physical health

Last, but certainly not least, mental and physical health play a huge role in success. Are you keeping stress levels in check? Getting enough exercise? Allowing enough time to cook healthy meals? Staying connected to loved ones?

It’s amazing how easy it is to forget about health. Stress has occasionally made us a little testy with each other, and a cold went around like the plague this fall. But at the end of the day, we’ve seen no major illness — mental or physical — and we’re all in good health.

Because of our health, we’ve been able to make our best contributions to the company, driving our 55% growth.

But success in life is more than just business growth. When reviewing your year, think holistically and take into account how you and your team are feeling. After all, your team is what moves your business forward. 

3 Conversations You Need to Have With Your Best Employees Before the Year Ends

If you’re looking to get off to a fast start leading your troops heading into 2018, three crucial conversations must take place. But first, some context. 

Good listening skills in any conversation is the foundation for superb human communication. With technology, we are becoming less opportunistic in developing our listening skills, and less socially aware of their effect on business as a competitive advantage.

In their research published in the book Talk, Inc., Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind found that the most effective leaders employ the principles of “organizational conversation” — operating your business as if it were two people having a conversation. In a Harvard Business Review article, they stated:

Leaders who take organizational conversation seriously know when to stop talking and start listening. Few behaviors enhance conversational intimacy as much as attending to what people say. True attentiveness signals respect for people of all ranks and roles, a sense of curiosity, and even a degree of humility.

3 Conversations to Have Before the Year Ends

As a leader, building up your active listening skills is crucial for solving problems, building trust, and winning the hearts and minds of people. This is what you need to bring to three crucial conversations before 2018 gets up and running.

1. A conversation about what is expected of them at work.

Clarity of expectations — perhaps the most basic of needs for any employee to get off to a good start — is crucial for high performance. Great leaders will start off the year by defining the right outcomes; they set goals for each individual member of the tribe, and will define both the job expectations clearly as well as what success on the job looks like. 

2. A conversation to discover whether their skills and strengths are being used to its full potential.

You may find that this employee has specific strengths that weren’t being utilized in 2017, so be prepared to have this conversation in order to tap into the wide range of feelings (perhaps surprising to you) you may get to problem solve together how best to engage this individual so his or her gifts, skills, and strengths are fully being utilized at work. Perhaps two follow-up questions can be:

  • Were your talents, skills, and knowledge aligned to our biggest projects?
  • Do you feel you could contribute to future work in different ways than you were being asked to?

3. A conversation to really understand if your best people are getting enough praise.

Start off the conversation with one simple question: “Do you feel you get properly recognized for your work, contributions, or achievements?” You may hit a nerve, so exercise those active listening skills well. This is an important conversation to have because praise and recognition for accomplishments has been repeatedly linked to higher employee retention.

What’s Your New Year’s Dream?

Steven Christodoulou is the founder, president and CEO of multi-award-winning ICC Property Management, and is a leading voice in promoting positive transformation in Toronto’s property management industry. We asked him to explain why a great culture is a key to business success. Here’s what he shared. 

Workplace culture is important to the long-term success of your business. It is key to attracting top talent. And, when everyone is aligned with the company’s core values, your company is bound to succeed. I, for one, am only successful because of my employees.

The goal of good company culture is to create the same feeling someone might get when coming home from school or work after a long day. There are many things you can do to nurture this feeling among employees. Going out for drinks on a Friday night, throwing barbecues in front of your office, or simply providing company-wide recognition for your staff are all effective ways to foster a welcoming company culture. Yet, using something that drives me personally, I’ve discovered a more novel way to both give back to my employees and to get to know their wants and needs.

I believe in the power of dreams; people should dream a lot more, in technicolor, because we never know what is going to come our way. As a goal-oriented person, I think that goals are dreams unless they’re written down. So, every year right before New Year’s Eve, I write my goals for the next year down and send them out into the universe. And, that’s what led me to developing my company’s unique approach to fostering a good company culture.

I started our company’s Dream Foundation because I wanted to encourage my staff to start believing that anything is possible. I wanted them to realize that dreams can, in fact, come true and become a reality if we set our minds to making them happen.

So, I invite my staff members to send me emails that describe their dreams. It’s that simple. I read through their dreams and choose one that I’ll make come true. For example, one of my employees revealed that her dream was for her terminally-ill mother-in-law to see the Grand Canyon, something she had always wanted. I called my travel agent and arranged for her entire family to share that experience.

Launching your own Dream Foundation can bring your organization several benefits.

While team building and social events are important, taking the time to understand your employees’ dreams does wonders for engagement and morale.

2. You get to know your employees better.

Our Dream Foundation helps my management team get to know our staff and what they’re looking for in highly relatable ways, so that we can, in turn, provide them with better support.

3. You’ll start to discern patterns and themes.

When reading my staff’s dreams, I discovered a common theme was a desire to lose weight. As a result, I started a Weight Watchers program that had outstanding staff participation and buy-in.

4. You show employees that dreams can come true.

Dreams go hand-in-hand with goals. By encouraging your staff to dream, you encourage them to become more goal-oriented. The impossible suddenly becomes possible in their eyes which will, inevitably, lead to company gains.

5. You’ll stay focused on maintaining a great culture.

By continually learning what makes your staff tick, their happiness stays at the top of your mind. Your workplace will be a happier environment that’s both more fun and more productive, making it easier to retain your talent.

Making dreams come true doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money. I’m not a bank and my funds are limited. However, I’ve become much more enlightened about what drives my employees. By starting your own Dream Foundation, you’ll find many opportunities to make dreams come true that are completely within reason. Investing in your staff, and ultimately your own success, is worth it.