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While working in the media industry, I taught myself how to code to build a platform that connects women and minorities to professional opportunities. I worked at my day job and then coded at night — night after night, week after week, month after month. The commitment to my purpose became a habit, which then provided the momentum to scale my company, Mogul, to what it is today.
I believe that what makes certain businesses struggle and others thrive is the difference between the daily commitments and small habits that leaders create in order to help others move toward their greatest potential. Here are five daily habits that will help your business thrive.
Commit to listening
Listening is a superpower. I can’t stress enough how important it is to develop your active listening abilities, especially when you lead a team of individuals. Everybody on your team is unique, and their communication preferences are as well. Some people like to be cheered on with positive affirmations. Others prefer straight talk and getting right down to the point.
As leaders, part of our job is to listen and learn how our team members communicate, and to adapt our communication style to match theirs (more on communication below). It’s our responsibility to listen, uncover what makes each individual tick and elevate their passion that empowers them to produce inspired work.
Commit to communication
The way we speak to our team matters. Especially because you’re in a position of influence, your words hold more weight than others. Any sign of talking down to a team member can ultimately erode a working relationship — and it can happen fast. When providing feedback, it’s important always to be mindful of your messaging.
My suggestion is to first aim to validate. For example, we once had a situation where our team continued pushing back the delivery date for a project, so I decided to step in and provide support. Instead of just expressing frustration, I made sure to share what I did like and precisely why. I then offered my notes for edits and focused on framing everything in the positive. Our primary goal with the way we communicate is to lift our team, help them grow in their role and support their career advancement.
Commit to learning
Taking time to deepen your expertise should be a mandatory practice. Information is ubiquitous, and it’s never been easier to further our education and develop a deeper understanding of our field. I’m continually reading about current events, industry trends, following other peers and thought-leaders and finding ways to continue uncovering strategies that help me be a better leader.
Like many of us, I wish there were more hours in the day, so I schedule time once or twice a week specifically for learning and upskilling. If something doesn’t get on my calendar it doesn’t exist. I give myself a certain topic to focus on throughout the week, and I dedicate the scheduled time to focused learning.
Commit to systems
Now more than ever, speed wins. And the essential way to be more effective with your decision-making ability as a leader is to create flexible systems. The more you tangibly understand the mechanisms that make your business run, the better it allows you to iterate on your systems. From how you hire, share internal communication and deploy external messaging, to how you structure your entire organization, nearly everything within your business should be put to a system and continually optimized.
By having a process in place, you can better track and locate inefficiencies. Systems can empower you to think long-term more effectively because they stack on top of each other, which will then enable you to make more informed decisions. The best leaders I’ve known are the ones who continually commit to creating more efficient systems.
Commit to yourself
You can’t lead a team of people and grow a business if you don’t care for yourself. Forgive me for what may seem like stereotypical advice, but we all need to make sure we’re doing the foundational things well. Find your optimal amount of sleep, eat breakfast in the morning, mind your posture at your desk throughout the day and take breaks for your physical and mental health. As often as I can, I stop scheduling meetings at a certain time of the day to help me end the workday at a reasonable hour and stave off burnout.
The best way I’ve found to keep my mental and physical health at the forefront of my mind is to schedule my day as detailed as possible. I even plan my short breaks to stretch or take a walk. I periodically put 20-minute breaks in my calendar and use them to unplug from work-life and reconnect with real life.
The little commitments matter, and the habits will compound over time. If you want to be an effective leader, it starts with leading yourself. So take care of yourself and live to work another day.