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It’s that time of year when your boss will judge whether you’re likely to hit or miss your annual goals, and undoubtedly you’re being pushed to commit to even more ambitious plans for next year. Before you dive in, consider these questions from Warren Buffett, Richard Branson and the world’s top executive coaches that could make all the difference in your career.
Why Are You Here? Before you bury yourself in all the minutiae of planning for the business year ahead, ask an existential question about why you’re doing this. Just three years after arriving at eBay EBAY -0.28%, Devin Wenig has been promoted to CEO to lead a historic new chapter for that company. His advice for those facing big transformations this year: “As you plunge into all the important issues of administration, capital and systems necessary to keep your business running, you have to stay grounded in the only major reason you and your company exist: To deliver better experiences for your customers than your competitors!” Wenig smiled and leaned on the conference table in his scrappy Silicon Valley office. “You have to start and finish every day focused on how you’re creating greater engagement in a world where people have endless choices and distractions.”
What Are You Passionate About? It’s common for aspiring managers to seek Warren Buffett’s advice as a career coach rather than an investment guru whenever I’ve met with him during our trips to Omaha from Stanford University. The CEO of Berkshire Hathaway , famous for his claim that he “tap dances to work,” told us that the difference between becoming a good leader and a great one is a matter of finding your mojo. Everyone around you can tell if you’re “happy where you’re working,” Buffett smirked. “I always worry about people who say, ‘I’m going to do this for 10 years and I don’t like it very well.’” How does that make everyone around you feel? The legendary investor thinks that your sour attitude is not only bad for the culture, it undermines your creative energy and enthusiasm. Putting off your passions is “a little like saving up sex for your old age. Not a good idea!”
How Can You Add More Value? Tony Robbins and his wife, Sage, strolled the beach at sunset past their West Palm Beach home, where over a dozen sea turtles were nesting a few yards from their patio and pool. “It’s hard, unglamorous work digging day and night, watching for predators and other risks, and managing your nest egg every day,” Robbins observed metaphorically. “But that’s exactly the kind of grit every one of the world’s greatest investors has demonstrated to get where they are today.” Robbins was referring to his newly released book, Money: Master the Game, which Steve Forbes called “a goldmine of moneymaking information.” Robbins said that if you want to build your wealth overall, or just get paid more in the coming year, “you have to learn what other people value before expecting to be valued by them.” At age 17, he realized “the secret to success is to do more for others than anyone else does,” Robbins boomed in this trademark baritone, then whispered as a turtle scurried past. “Author Jim Rohn taught me that life’s biggest secret is to add more value than anyone else no matter what it takes.”
Do You Have the Right Team? The irrepressible Sir Richard Branson has enjoyed many successes with more than 300 companies in the Virgin Group, but he recently endured his most painful setback. Following the explosion of SpaceShipTwo, Branson’s first instinct was to show support for Virgin Galactic and his partners, drawing his team closer to each other to “get to the bottom of the disaster, and to keep everyone constructively engaged in the long-term mission,” he said. “You have to surround yourself with people who really care about people…who own the vision as much as you do.” When the going gets tough, do you have the right team?
What Will You Stop Doing? Companies spend “too much time helping leaders learn what to do and not enough time helping them learn what to stop,” according to executive coach Marshall Goldsmith. During my interview with the “world’s best coaches” for the American Management Association, Goldsmith insisted that it’s typical for successful executives to be excessively competitive even when it doesn’t serve their best interests. “If something is important, you want to win. If it’s meaningful, you want to win. If it’s trivial and unimportant, you still want to win anyway!” Goldsmith slapped his hand on the marble countertop in his stylish Hell’s Kitchen Manhattan apartment. “Winners love winning for its own sake,” he laughed. “It’s incredibly difficult for smart successful people to go through life not winning.” He suggests that you pick fewer battles in the new year. “Here’s a classic case in point: You have a hard day at work. You go home to your husband, wife or partner who says, ‘I had such a hard day;’ and we reply, ‘You had a hard day? Do you have any idea what I had to put up with today?’ We are so competitive we have to prove that we are more miserable than the people we live with,” he guffawed. Goldsmith shared that example in his class at Dartmouth’s Tuck School and “a young man in back raised his hand and said, ‘I did that last week.’ I asked him, ‘What happened?’ He said his wife replied, ‘Honey you just think you had a hard day. It’s not over!’ The next time you try to win, take a deep breath and ask yourself: What am I trying to win and what’s the point?”
Is It Worth It? Stuart Crainer & Des Dearlove conduct the highly regarded Thinkers50 survey every other year to identify and celebrate the latest global influencers of our day. Crainer once escorted Peter Drucker, the father of management science, after an interview in London, where Drucker shared an ethos that has echoed among thought leaders at the T50 conference ever since: “The book you should want to write” during your career, he said, is “How to Make a Million and Still Go to Heaven,” Drucker told him. You should ask yourself, is what you’re doing worth it over the long haul? Are you climbing the career ladder with a conscience? Ultimately, life isn’t about “competing with anyone else; the only person you are competing with is yourself.”
Mark is a NYTimes bestselling author and among the world’s only executive coaches who’ve partnered with Charles Schwab, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and other innovators.