If you’re like me, the first few days of the new year start with a lot of powering through food comas, picking up project threads from December, and thinking, “How am I going to make an impact this year?” And then you start reading the advice blogs. And what you find often aren’t the game-changing revelations that they promise to be, but clickbait that’s all but devoid of substance.
In general, my skeptical lens has grown thicker and thicker each year as I see the same advice and concepts regurgitated. The success of a few Stephen Coveys inspired countless others to try dispersing business advice, most often without his business acumen or savvy. So, if you’ll forgive my own shameless clickbait title, I’d like to deliver something a bit more substantial.
Last month, I wrote about picking one thing to focus on above all others. And while I stand by that for organizational leaders, it’s not necessarily the best advice for personal development. For that, I’ve got a few ideas on what you can do to work on yourself and, by extension, your organization in 2022.
If you want to make a change this year, try taking an active interest in someone who doesn’t directly report to you. And if you already do that, maybe consider if there’s a better way to do it.
When I attempted to mentor individuals, I won’t mix words—I sucked at it. I was too focused on organizational goals and our sales metrics to focus on the individuals around me long enough to give them a leg up.
So, to get better at giving back some of that support I received, I thought about what I needed to change in my mentoring practice, and I think this advice could help anyone.
The biggest change that you need to make is this: Work on developing your mentee without any regard for the returns it’ll have for you. If you’re too focused on an organizational sales goal, you’ll miss the opportunity to meaningfully mentor a developing professional.
Your investment doesn’t need to be huge; some lunches, coffees, or even phone calls are all more than acceptable. What matters is that you’re taking an interest in another person’s success and doing what you can to help them develop in their career. You don’t need to be an executive, either—if you’re reading this, you’ve probably achieved something in your career, and that means that you have some amount of skill or know-how to give back.
Want to learn more about your business this year? Pick a platform that your business uses that’s a little opaque to you right now, then work on that (just a bit every day) until you have a solid, workable understanding of it.
Back when websites were new, our company was launching a new site. To better understand the new platform that we were using, I started taking deep dives into Google Analytics, back before that platform became nearly as all-encompassing and ubiquitous as we know it today.
Every morning, I would spend 15 minutes poking around in it, getting comfortable with the interface and learning what it was tracking and why. And at least twice a week I’d end up emailing our web director asking about the things I couldn’t figure out myself, until eventually, finally, I understood it. He hated me for this, but it was good for me and our organization.
Some business platforms may be more complicated today than they were then, but the decision to learn about something you don’t know is exactly the same. Most of these platforms have free training programs, so there’s no reason that you shouldn’t have a functional understanding of Mailchimp, SEMRush, or whatever the new, vexing program is at your company.
I, like many of you, have piles of business books espousing the same core concepts: do more with less, get maximum return on your time, all successful leaders do X—you’ve read them, you get it.
And while these books are certainly not without value, the most that I find myself getting out of them is usually a reminder to do something that I learned a long time ago. But that’s not as valuable as finding something that really challenges the way that I think about managing or operating an organization.
In 2022, try to find books that don’t just tell you what you already know. Look for new ideas, especially ones that go against what you already know about running a business. That’s going to look different for everyone, but a good place to start is 4000 Hours by Oliver Burkeman, which flipped on its head my thinking about organizational productivity.
Last year I said to pick one thing to change to improve your organization. Now I’m saying pick three to develop yourself. I know it may not be quite as grabby as a top 15 list, but it’s my hope and belief that making these changes can enrich your life, enhance your business acumen, make you a better leader, and do all the other things that the pundits keep promising.