Top 5 Business Leadership Resolutions to win in 2019

Top 5 resolutions all leaders should make if they want to win in 2019

This year is going to be the best ever… or at least, it might be, if you commit to a few powerful habits that will have a giant impact on your business’ results.

We’ve discussed before why change, although it can feel impossible, is in fact one of humanity’s in-built superpowers. Work with, rather than against, your innate talent for adaptation and you really can transform your team (and even enjoy the process).

The key is to understand how the human brain is wired.

When you combine evolutionary biology, behavioural economics and the latest neuroscience with data from a range of leading businesses, you start to get a very clear picture of which behaviours drive the sort of cultural transformation that lasts.

We’ve distilled our insights down to five resolutions that you can start putting into action tomorrow.

Here’s your shortlist:

  1. Stop believing that tech will save you
  2. Get your story straight
  3. Clear the path
  4. Find your positive deviants
  5. Show up

Stop believing that tech will save you

In 2016, a landmark study by Korn Ferry found that 67% of CEOs believe technology will create greater value in the future than people – even though the actual economic data shows that ‘human capital’ (people, knowledge, skills) is worth 2.33x as much.

This “intangibility bias” towards prioritising dead stuff (that can be easily quantified) over human stuff (that is more nebulous) helps explain why business leaders are so bad at improving their culture, even if they claim it’s a top priority.

Now, that’s not to say that tech isn’t important. It’s essential to keep making fast, smart, iterative upgrades to all your systems and processes. But none of that digital transformation will stick unless you’re also investing in the minds that are using it.

Talk to your leadership team and agree that for every pound you spend on technology, you should allocate at least the same amount in your people. Growth mindsets, flexible behaviours and cutting-edge conversation skills are the only tools that can truly future-proof your business.

Get your story straight

As a species, we are creatures of purpose and meaning.

For thousands of years we’ve been using stories – from the Greek gods to Doctor Who – to fill in the terrifying blanks in the universe. Most importantly, these stories have allowed us to understand and even influence the thoughts, beliefs and behaviours of groups of people, so that we can live and work together. They’re the glue that binds everything from religions to FMCG conglomorates.

When companies are very small, you often find an abundance of stories intended to shape beliefs and behaviours. Think of mission-driven start-ups or companies like Zappos.

As organisations grow and scale, those stories tend to devolve into gossip and rumour and alternative narratives about what’s ‘okay’. In response, rather than changing the story, business leaders tend to put in rules and frameworks and metrics in an attempt to exert control.

Don’t start by thinking about how you can force your people to perform better this year. Instead, think about what stories are being told in your business, what the story is that you want everyone to tell, and how you can close the gap.

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Clear the path


Before you get caught up in the endless demands of your to-do list, take a moment to step back and examine your team’s day-to-day with fresh eyes.

What small tweaks can you make to ‘clear the path’ so they can deliver on their priority outcomes?

In other words, how can you get rid of the administrative white noise that distracts them from their real work?

Perhaps you could:
– ask everyone to turn off push notifications on their phones.
– Institute walking meetings with enforced time limits.
– Allocate a once-a-month admin day.

One of our clients, a large energy provider, used to spend a lot of time producing 196 reports. Only six of them were ever really used, so we helped their leaders go on a push to clear the path, and 190 were ditched.

Find your positive deviants


Everybody has got a ‘Helen’ in their company.

She’s the sort of person who rocks up on time every day, knocks her KPIs out the park, has the highest NPS score or sales figures or new business rate. Everybody loves Helen.

Leaders always think they’ve got to hire more Helens.

They’re wrong.

As a business leader, a much more effective strategy is to work out exactly what it is that Helen is doing that allows her to outperform the rest. Then find a way to spread those behaviours throughout your whole workforce. That way, your top 10% can raise everyone’s game.

Throughout human history, most of our progress has occurred because a small number of outliers tapped into a new way of doing something that catalysed a wider collective shift.

If you watch a gathering of chimps trying to get termites out of a hole in the wall, at some point, one of the chimps will work out that poking a stick into the hole gets the termites out quicker.

That chimp is what is known as the ‘positive deviant.’ Your company has positive deviants and you’ll already know who they are.

Write a list and figure out what they’re doing with that stick.

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Show up


Showing up is perhaps the simplest but most powerful leadership resolution of all.

Study of our closest relatives shows the need for leaders to be present every day and visibly show commitment to their troop. Alpha chimps show up on a daily basis: grooming others, interacting with females and youngsters, even feeding the sick and weak first and caring for those that have been injured in fights.

Resolve to find three small ways in which you can visibly ‘show up’ for your troop. That could mean taking half an hour a day to wander round the office and ask random people if they need help.

As a leader, it could mean getting on the phones for an hour when it’s really busy or starting a meeting by mentioning something really positive  one of your team  members has been doing.

You don’t have to pick ticks out of your people’s hair, but you do have to show up.

These top 5 leadership resolutions will make a big difference, but they’re just the start of the journey. If you want to develop a truly human-first climate, just drop us a line.

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Blue Sky - Experts in People Change. All rights reserved 2019.