...I've actually had more than 20 thoughts in 2 decades but here are the ones that have come back the most often as friendly reminders and occasionally, to haunt me. Enjoy.
1. If you don't have a plan, you don't know where you are going. Have, and share a vision, make sure people can repeat it, understand it and believe it. Have goals that resonate with your employees or clients. And communicate your progress against them, often and through multiple means. Remember, plans can change. Just communicate the new plan and why a different one was necessary.
2. Hope is not a strategy. Plan for the worst, hope for the best. Have a back-up plan. Hoping for good times won’t make the bad times go away. Be prepared to get through them.
3. Most business problems are like a jigsaw puzzle, you have to find the right pieces and put them in the right sequence. I used to be very emotional about things that happened in the business: an employee leaving, an unhappy client, etc. Take the emotion out and visualize each situation as part of one big puzzle. Lastly, watch out for those puzzle pieces that look like they fit but don’t. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
4. There are always 3 sides to every story. Yours, theirs and some where in between. Learn to operate in between. There are infinitely more shades of gray than just black and white. Most things in life and business are not black and white. Learn to live with gray.
5. Know what you don’t know. Whether you are 30 or 80, there is always something that you don’t know. Humility is an endearing quality: if you don’t know something go research it. If you cant find the answer, ask someone, or just make it up.
6. It’s not about you. It’s about everyone else. Leave your ego at the door. When making tough decisions, you can’t think about what you want. It’s what’s the best for your team or client. Making the right decision may be very unpopular in the short run, but may be what is right for the company in the long run.
7. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. If you want a raise, justify it, and ask for it. If you want to win a piece of new business, tell the client you want it. Why not? Most people spend their lives not saying what they really want or believe in and they end up unfulfilled. Ask. The worst is you get a “no” and some new-found respect for your courage.
8. Your integrity is all you have. Life is too short to compromise your values or that of your colleagues. Life is also too short to work with jerks. Get rid of them. There are plenty of fish in the sea.
9. Leadership is a lot about listening and talking about the things that people want to say but don’t. If people would just stop talking so much, they might hear what is really going on. It’s really hard to listen to things you don’t want to hear, but if you want to be a leader, you have to learn to listen. Then, gently, address those things others are afraid to say.
10. It’s not over till the check clears the bank. I don’t care if it’s in the mail. I don’t care if Joe is giving me “his word”. It’s just not over till the check clears the bank.
11. “No.” There are some things that are just not feasible, or realistic. Don’t feel like you have to say yes to everything to please someone. Be honest. Say, “No, I can’t do that now, but I can do it later…” Or give some parameters around what might be possible.
12. Don’t look at what’s there, look for what’s missing. When devising a strategy for a client, or writing a document, assess it after you feel you have finished. What is missing that would really make a difference? Also called exception management, look for those things that are not present, not just the checkmarks in each box.
13. Take the high road, even when it REALLY hurts. You don’t need to have the last word. You don’t need to make the other person feel bad. Deep inside they know anyway. Some day, you’ll meet them again. Why make it awkward? Who knows, you might need them at some point.
14. Positive. Energy. There are two kinds of people in this world: people with positive energy and everybody else. Nothing will get done with a negative attitude. If you think life sucks it will. So join the team, and dream along. If you don’t believe, leave.
15. If something feels wrong, it is. Trust your gut, always, always. There is something to that intuition. Learn to trust it, and listen to it.
16. Life is not about achieving balance. It is about the choices you make. You can schedule your day full of meetings, be late to all of them and come home exhausted with nothing left for your family or friends. Remember, it’ll all be there for you tomorrow. You’re not in a race. And also, decide between what is important and what is urgent. Not everything is urgent. Take care of what is important first.
17. Admit mistakes. Learn from them. Try hard not to make them again. Almost 50% of the time we learn by adding new information to our brains. The other 50% we learn from making mistakes and understanding how to not make them again. Be honest about them.
18. Be smart. Be kind. Be generous. Be curious. And never, EVER, let anyone or anything get in your way. Especially for women in business– there will be obstacles in your lives and careers. But nothing is insurmountable. You can always find a way to work around something, or get around someone. There is nothing that can stop you unless you let it.
19. If you are not happy with the way things are, go out and change them. Whining is the worst. Complaining even worse. Make your time doing any task worthwhile… and make a positive impact.
20. Know when to put the toe tag on it. When you’ve explored all options and tried all avenues, cut your losses and move on. You’ll never win if you try and fit a square peg in a round hole. And you’ll lose precious time fixating on something that will never work.