15 Ways Business Leaders Can Find Sustained Success In 2021

Shaun H. Ruff

After all of the personal and professional challenges of 2020, business leaders around the world are looking at the year ahead for opportunities to improve themselves as well as the organizations they lead.

If you want to create the right conditions for a more positive and successful 2021, the members of Forbes Coaches Council can help. Below, they draw upon on their expert insight as leading coaches to share 15 things you can do to prepare for sustained success in the new year.

1. Review What Worked, What Didn’t And What You Want

I recommend using a three-step process at the end of every year: First, review what worked well for you this past year. Second, assess what could have gone better. Third, create a vision of what you want for the coming year. As simple as these three steps sound, uncovering high-quality, thoughtful answers will set you up for success. Creating a compelling vision for yourself is especially important for the new year. – Rob G. Greenly, The Greenly Group, LLC/Corporate Physician Leadership Center

2. Don’t Look Back At The ‘What Ifs’

Embrace the Japanese philosophy called “kaizen” (which means “change for the better”): Do not look back at the “what ifs”—look toward the “what will.” This never-ending pursuit of improvement and progress is the key to sustaining growth and success. If each day sees just a 1% improvement, you will experience greater success and growth in the long run. Rather than aiming for big changes, start with small micro-steps toward positive change. – Jedidiah Alex Koh, Coaching Changes Lives

3. Commit To Making One Impactful Change

Commit to making one change that will have a big impact. Whether you’re on a personal or professional growth path, identify one thing that has not served you well or facilitated your success this year. Determine what you’d like to do differently, why it’s important, how you’ll accomplish it and the results you wish to achieve. Focusing efforts on one big change versus many typically yields a greater return. – Amy Phillip, Career Certain

4. Set SMART Goals

That sounds obvious, except this time, the “A” doesn’t stand for “Achievable.” Turn the “A” into “Accountable.” Setting goals that are achievable is easy. Instead, create stretch goals that you can hold yourself accountable for meeting, but which will require you to push yourself. There is a real chance you will miss your goal; but if you’ve done it right, you’ll grow just by making the attempt. – Dhru Beeharilal, Nayan Leadership, LLC

 Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

5. Find Out How Your Customers’ Needs Have Changed

Evaluate the potential impact on your marketing strategy, product line and pricing via customer survey or other feedback mechanisms. Also, continually review past trends and future projections and monitor best practices as an aspect of creating an agile team. – Sandra Hill, New Horizen Coaching & Professional Growth Advancement

6. Develop Contingency Plans

Regardless of the year or the circumstances, the one thing that each of us can do to be successful is to always have contingencies in mind. Life often throws curves at us, and we need to learn how to navigate the curves or go off-road and avoid the curves. Being able to pivot your goals and direction is one sure way to be successful, regardless of what life throws at you. – Dan Ryan, ryan partners

7. Keep Your Skills Fresh

The world is moving at an exponential rate of growth and change. We have entered a new era of Industry 4.0 (the digital revolution of AI, decentralization, Internet of Things, etc.). Keep yourself fresh through books, training, mastermind groups and more. And keep up-to-date on ways to automate what you are doing so that you can multiply your time and efforts to innovate and have new thoughts. – Christy Geiger, Synergy Strategies Coaching & Training

8. Choose Three ‘Big Rocks’ To Focus On

Narrow your “big rocks” down to three. Never take on more than three larger projects or activities at a time. Once you complete one, you can replace it with a new one. With focused activities and a solid plan to reach goals, you can sustain success throughout the year. – Cory Swain, Advisors Excel

9. Reflect Without Self-Judgment

Reflect on what you’ve learned, any surprises, what didn’t work and successes. Don’t judge yourself. Processing what you’ve experienced helps you feel complete and revitalized to move forward. Use these insights to inspire your focus for 2021. This approach helps to let go of what doesn’t serve you and tune in to what motivates you now. You’ll feel more committed than ever to your efforts. – Rosie Guagliardo, InnerBrilliance Coaching

10. Take Time To Recharge And Reflect

To be successful does not mean that you have to work hard all of the time. You have to give yourself time to recharge your batteries and think about your life. Otherwise, you will burn out. Take time each week or month to look back at your behavior and see if it was good (or not so good) so that you can make positive changes. The most important question: What was good about the last year? – Cristian Hofmann, Empowering Executives | SUPERGROUP LTD

11. Write Off Your Losses

In a year such as 2020, everyone took some lumps. Great leaders don’t ignore their failures, but they do learn how to acknowledge them and then turn the page. The difference between a bad season and a bad cycle is the ability to fail forward. So don’t candy-coat failure; instead, say, “Wow, that really sucked!” Then, move forward. Nothing will be behind you until you do. – Bryan Rhinehart, Relevant Coaching

12. Commit To A High-Value Career Activity

Start off by committing to new training, certifications, professional networking or other high-value career activities. By diversifying your skills and making yourself valuable in different industries, you’ll be better positioned to handle unforeseen changes or leverage new growth trends. This is especially critical if you’re employed in an area of specialty that is susceptible to future downturns. – Laura Smith-Proulx, An Expert Resume

13. Plan The Next 10 Years

Take time right now to plan your long term (10 years), near term (three years, using a 3HAG, or three-year highly achievable goal) and next year! Align your daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly priorities with the big goals for the next year, three years and 10 years. This alignment will keep you focused on the direction you want to sustain and help you make better, faster decisions every day with the path forward in focus. – Shannon Byrne-Susko, Metronome United

14. Maintain Your Optimism

Keep up the hope and optimism. This is the advice I give most often to business leaders. Although we all need to be realistic, a positive outlook is critical to future success, particularly with your own employees and customers. Scenario planning is an interesting strategy not only to keep up hope for the future, but also to strategize regarding various paths that you can take in running your businesses. – Susan Madsen, Jon M. Huntsman School of Business

15. Get Past Your Fears

In these uncertain times, it is easy to feel scared and act from a place of scarcity and self-preservation. To set ourselves up for greatness, we need to get past our fears and open ourselves up to new opportunities. Think about how this situation can open the door to personal and business growth. – Rajeev Shroff, Cupela Consulting

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