Posted by: Bill von Achen | December 10, 2010

Seven Mistakes I Won’t Make in 2011

In advance of our Best Practices Boards peer group meetings last month, I asked each of our CEOs to write down and report on seven mistakes that they made in 2010 that they vowed not to repeat in 2011.  This now annual exercise gives each person an opportunity to reflect on their performance as leaders during the past year, and helps them to think about their professional and business goals for the year to come (which is the topic for our upcoming December meetings).

The results of these reflections are always enlightening and often somewhat surprising, as each CEO discusses their mistakes with remarkable candor and humility.  And so it seems to me that if our Best Practices group members can brave the scrutiny of their peers, I should be able to share with them (and with the rest of you as well!) my own collection of 2010 mistakes that I vow not to repeat.  So here’s the list:

1.  Failing to view new business development as an ongoing activity:  I made this mistake during the first few months of 2009, and made it again during the first part of 2010.  It wasn’t until I started regularly tracking the results of my business development efforts (not the activities themselves!) that I fully appreciated the need to make this a key focus each and every day!

2.  Having an overwhelming agenda for each day:  I’m a pretty productive guy (thanks in part to David Allen’s Getting Things Done!), but sometimes the number of things I have to do can  still be overwhelming.  Now, at the beginning of each day, I scan my list and make note of the 4-5 things that I absolutely must get done before the day is over.  It almost always works!

3.  Not getting out of my comfort zone (at least not often enough):  Amazing things happen when you’re willing to try new things.  Sure, most of the “experiments” don’t work out as planned, but the failures almost always generate useful information that will inform the next “outside-the-box” idea, and increase the odds of success.

4.  Overthinking each decision:  A companion mistake to #3 above.  A prime example is the Leadership Development workshop series I conducted this past Fall.  Although most of the work for the program was completed a year ago, I spent the first half of 2010 “planning” its launch.  Sometimes, 80% is good enough.         

5.  Underestimating the importance of regular communication:  I’ve learned more than once that, if you’re not regularly communicating with clients and prospects about all of your offerings, don’t be surprised if they go to another vendor for a product or service that you could have provided.  This weekly e-mail now serves to strengthen my brand and build awareness of my services.    

6.  Not taking the hint:  My clients have always been a tremendous source of information and ideas, but sometimes I’ve just been too slow to take the hint.  For example, I coached several different clients over the past year on how to establish a professional development program for high potential employees.  But it didn’t dawn on me until last month that I could set up just such a program on my own.  (Look for details in the coming weeks.)

7.  Not scheduling enough down time:  As we approach the winter holiday season, it seems like forever since I took time off (actually, it was Labor Day weekend!).  I learned a long time ago that you can’t really help others until you help yourself first, but I honestly haven’t done a very good job of that this past year.  I’ll be working hard not to repeat that mistake again in 2011!

What were your biggest mistakes in 2010?  If you didn’t make any (!), what did you learn about yourself during the year that will guide you in 2011?  Post your comments here.   Thanks!

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