by Paul Fleming, Partner, TS Grale Executive

It’s the start of 2018, the beginning of a new chapter, and this year you’re going to do things differently. At least, that’s what you say. It’s certainly what I say.

For many people, January is a time to reflect on the past and think about how things could improve in the year ahead. Unsurprisingly, according to a YouGov poll, the top resolutions of 2018 are to be healthier, wealthier, and happier.

This improvement often incorporates career appraisal, and the reason executive search and recruitment companies like ours are so busy at this time of year!

Evaluation, reflection, and strategic planning are no bad thing, and yet statistically nearly 80% of New Year’s resolutions are said to be left floundering and unloved by only the second week of February. Why is this?

A recurrent theme cited by psychologists and scholars alike is simply this: that a resolution must be achievable (or be broken up into smaller, feasible steps) for success – essentially using the same principals as SMART goal setting.

Personally, I think there is a lot to be taken from the New Year’s resolutions set by many global leaders. These CEOs, Directors, and Business Leader have years of experience in attainable goal-setting, self-efficacy, and practical strategies for changing and challenging behaviours:

Make society better

Last year Stephen Kaufer, Co-founder and CEO of TripAdvisor LLC, vowed to use the power and influence of TripAdvisor’s brand to aid in the humanitarian refugee crisis in many parts of the world.

This year, Mark Zuckerberg posted that his New Year’s resolution for 2018 is to fix Facebook’s impact on society. He wrote:

“The world feels anxious and divided, and Facebook has a lot of work to do — whether it’s protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent […] My personal challenge for 2018 is to focus on fixing these important issues.”

Achievable and measurable? I’m not sure, although if any executive has an army of elite staff to help make this happen, it’s him! The critical point, however, is that corporate social responsibility does make a real difference. If we see that something in society is broken, we can and should all commit to making a tangible difference.

Focus on wellbeing

Much like social conscience, wellbeing is something that thankfully more and more executive senior leaders are recognising as being integral to life inside and outside of the workplace.  Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, sensationally announced on the first day of 2018:

“Just finished a 10-day silent meditation. Wow, what a reset! Fortunate & grateful I was able to take the time. Happy New Year! #Vipassana — jack (@jack) January 1, 2018.

That’s more than most of us would be willing to do to achieve personal balance, but an excellent example of how even the busiest of senior leaders can take time out to refocus on one’s self.

Write it down

Although Richard Branson’s New Year’s resolution is like something from a sci-fi novel – to “get unbelievable fit so I’m ready for a trip into space” – his 1 January blog goes on to give more solid advice:

“Some of Virgin’s most successful companies have been born from random moments. If I hadn’t opened my notebook and written them down immediately, I would have forgotten about them. No matter how big, small, simple or complex your idea is, get it in writing. It doesn’t matter if you use a pen and notebook or your iPhone – if you have a record of it, you’re more likely to make it happen.” 

Small can be impactful

Co-founder of the personal finance comparison website, Fred Schebesta, has had the same resolution for the past ten years: to make one tiny improvement every day. He said:

“Being small, it [the New Year’s resolution] has been easy to stick to but pivotal in my personal development and the growth of my business […] The changes you can make in a year through one small improvement are huge.”

Apparently, Schebesta starts every day by making one small change and claims this has helped him grow business and improve company culture.

Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has a similarly modest approach. In the past, she has said that instead of setting a resolution, she picks a single word to look to for direction over the next year. In 2016, that word was “gentle.”

Or don’t bother!

Lastly, and perhaps the realist’s approach, just don’t do it! As President Barack Obama said in his recent interview with Prince Harry on the BBC:

“I’m not sure I believe in New Year’s resolutions – typically people break them!”

So what would you add to this list of top New Year’s resolutions?

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