A person’s business success has far less to do with one great decision than it does with sound day-to-day habits.
“Most people think that there is some silver bullet to being great,” says Pam Bilbrey, co-author with Brian Jones of the new book, Ordinary Greatness. “Greatness is really about doing the ordinary, everyday things consistently well.”
Here are a dozen habits to practice in your business (and personal) life:
1. Walk your talk. Is there an intersection between what you say and what you actually do? Nothing is more irritating than a hypocrite. It’s the opposite of greatness.
2. If you make a promise, keep it. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s rarer than you might think. The secret is to make only commitments that are manageable and realistic, and keep them—consistently. Saying you’ll deliver the big project first thing tomorrow sounds good, but your hero status will quickly fade if you can’t come through.
3. Do sweat the small stuff. (Or at least pay attention to it.) Pay close attention in meetings and interactions with others and keep thorough notes on things that will be important later.
Example: Does your client have a food allergy he mentioned in passing? Remembering this for future dinner meetings shows him you can be trusted with detail-intensive projects.
4. Plan for the worst. Even if things go according to plan 99% of the time, the other 1% can really get you into trouble. Carefully think through any obstacles that might arise and lay the groundwork for solutions, in advance.
5. Align yourself with the other “greats.” Cultivate relationships with them. Disassociate yourself from the not-so-greats around you.
6. Always act as if someone is watching you. It may sound like the same warning you give a child before school, but it applies to you, too. Even company owners should work as though they have a boss sitting in the room taking notes for the next evaluation. In other words, use your time wisely, meet deadlines, and don’t cut corners.
7. Surround yourself with people who don’t think like you. Challenge yourself to make friends and acquaintances with the people who are going to challenge you. Forming friendships with near-clones of you nurtures the person you are rather than cultivating the person you can become.
“There are many rich life lessons to be learned from people who are completely different from you,” says Jones.
8. Be known for your integrity. Your mother was right: Honesty is the best policy. Integrity may mean owning up to a mistake or admitting a failure, but it also means the people around you can depend on you for transparency. And that goes a long way in the business world.
9. Know when to ask for help. Being great doesn’t mean that you have all the answers all the time. A big part of greatness is recognizing it in others, and knowing when their expertise is more efficient than your own.
“Asking for help is not a sign of weakness,” says Jones. “It’s a sign of intelligence.”
10. Read at least six books a year. Start each year by making a list of books you want to read from all different genres and topics, including a few you wouldn’t normally think of choosing. By the end of the year you will have expanded your horizons.
“Books can help you remove the blinders you may not even know you are wearing and serve as conversation-starters for meeting new people,” says Bilbrey.
11. Keep your curious spirit. As children, we were curious about everything in the world around us: How do things work? Why do people act a certain way? Interest spurred the questions that grew into much of your business knowledge. The minute you think you know it all is the minute you close the door on your pursuit of greatness.
12. Be a risk-taker. Taking the easy route is safe and sure, but it rarely leads to greatness. Success isn’t going to come to you while you’re sitting idly. So go against the grain.
“Do the things that make your spine tingle and your heart race,” says Bilbrey. “Those are the things that are worth doing.”
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