As business leaders, we’d love to think that we’re perfect, but the truth is, nasty habits can creep into everyday life without our even noticing. These habits may be minor, but they might also be hampering your chances of success. Here are five habits you should stop right now:
1. Comparing your chapter one to someone else’s chapter 30.
Growing up in the shadow of a dauntingly successful sibling, I’ve always had trouble with the habit of comparing myself to others. Thinking, why can’t I be more like them? Or why am I not as successful as they are? Occasionally people seem to enjoy indulging in this pity-party mentality.
But if this thought process becomes a habit — where you look at yourself and think, Elon Musk, why am I not more like that guy? — it can start affecting a person’s well being. Whether you have one, two, or several amazing business leaders to look up to, it can be difficult to avoid comparing your business or even personal progress to theirs.
Have you heard yourself say something like, “How did Steve Jobs do it all?” or “Why isn’t my company growing as fast or as big as Facebook? He was a college dropout and I have an MBA.” (Yup, pity-party.) Here’s something to keep in mind when you find yourself in that detrimental quagmire: Age doesn’t always correlate to the chapter of life you are in.
Success may come quickly, or it may come slowly, but drawing comparisons to an industry leader will only hold you back. Unicorns are, by nature, hard to find, and very rare. If you find yourself wishing you had someone else’s swag and fancy cars, just remember: They had to pay a price to progress through the chapters, too. If you’re in the opening chapters of your success, don’t get bogged down comparing the later, more successful chapters of someone else’s life story.
2. Taking on too much.
As the CEO or manager of a company, especially in startup phase, it can be easy to put too much of anything and everything onto your plate. Entrepreneurs are often called upon to wear many hats, but everybody has a limit. Taking on too much can add up to big trouble. It may be as simple as adding just one more project over what you can actually handle that takes you out of the game.
But more than likely what knocks you off your game is adding one more job and one more job and one more job — until you’re simply overwhelmed. We’ve all fallen into these traps. Think early-on about how to delegate work to trusted individuals. Try people out on projects and roles so you truly know and understand who you can trust and turn to for help when it matters — because it will matter.
As a chronic perfectionist, I can personally attest to how difficult the delegation situation can be. Managers, business partners, employees: You hired them for a reason, now delegate. After that first hire, business can no longer be a one-man-band. You can’t do everything yourself, so don’t try. Piling yourself up with too many projects will exhaust you in the short run — and in the long run it can hurt your health, your business and your employees.
In the same vein of taking on too much, many leaders find themselves in the micromanaging-mire. Don’t get stuck there. Showing an interest in and even being the first managing position over the project team is fine, but nit-picking every minute detail isn’t good for you or your business.
Sometimes the hardest thing to recognize is that you aren’t the expert, whereas an employee might be. Not being the expert in everything doesn’t make you less of a leader, it just means you need good managers, team leads and employees, all doing their jobs to fill the gaps. Establish SMART or clear and reasonable goals. At first you may need to oversee the work as it progresses, but step back as soon as possible; let them do their jobs. Not uncommonly, they will exceed your expectations.
4. Underestimating the value of good health.
Many articles tell you the benefits of taking breaks, whether 15-minute walks, daily meditation or even vacations. Heed these articles. By focusing on these smaller details of health, one day at a time, you’ll see how the bigger picture of your health affects your business.
Personal health is paramount to business success. Have you ever noticed how many entrepreneurs go through ping-pong weight changes? Sometimes we get so focused on the next project that we neglect ourselves, and poor habits eventually catch up to us in a big way.
Right now, you are probably saying “I just don’t have the time for A,B, or C”. Trust me, you have 10 minutes to get the blood flowing. I started using Calm for meditation, with 15-minute walk-breaks periodically, and it seriously amped up my productivity. I can’t stress enough the necessity of taking care of yourself, because if you aren’t healthy — physically and mentally — neither is your business.
5. Dressing down.
Along with personal health comes the necessity to feel good about yourself. Self esteem, pass it on. It often seems that nothing achieves an ego boost quite as quickly as dressing yourself up. Even if you work from home; get up, get dressed, do your hair, look good, feel good. Do whatever you need to do to be ready for anything to truly get your day started. Slap a Nike sticker onto your mirror, Just do it.
Years ago I noticed an alarming trend at business conventions — dressing down. People walk around in shorts and t-shirts, looking more like they’re on vacation than garnering business information and professional relationships. Thankfully, the Millennials seem to be saving us from this downgrade in business attire. There is a difference between business casual and smart casual. I’m not saying your closet should consist of nothing but slacks and suits, but I know from personal experience that dressing with style boosts confidence. Short and sweet, dress well.
To be a mover and shaker you need to get ahead of the curve, but you can’t out front when you aren’t at the top of your game. Luckily, most of these habits can be changed without strain. If you have let some of them creep into your life, take control now. Your business, your startup, your employees, your family all depend on you. Only you can change these five bad habits.