5 successful CEOs explain how they’ll set goals for the new year

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Oneshift founder Gen George. Photo: Supplied.

It’s that time of the year again.

As we transition into the new year and move into the holiday season, it marks the perfect time for businesses to reflect on the biggest lessons and challenges of 2015 and to set new professional goals and milestones for the coming year.

We reached out to five CEOs to see how they are setting themselves up for a successful year, and asked about the strategies they have in mind to get ahead of the game in 2016.

From planning in segments, creating a list of people to meet in the new year, approaching goals like a business strategy through to giving themselves a time-out period, here are the goal-setting strategies that these successful CEOs have in place.

Review, review, review.

Jo Burston. Photo: supplied.

Before planning for any new year goal, the most important part is to step back and reflect on the bigger picture of your business run in 2015. What worked well? What didn’t turn out as expected? How did your team measure up?

“In preparation for the New Year I will be reviewing the last 12 months and focusing on what worked and what didn’t work,” says Gen George, CEO of Oneshift.

“I feel it’s important to assess the lessons we’ve learnt from where we’ve attempted something but it hasn’t worked out. We already have regular team meetings where we admit to stuff-ups, lay everything on the table and come up with solutions to anything holding us back. And we learn something every time, which means we can constantly improve our services.

“This will help me create the vision for what we want to achieve next year. To achieve this I will be working out a 30/60/90 plan based off of what worked and what we learnt from last year.”

Similarly, CEO of Rare Birds Jo Burston, tackles her new goals by looking back at the biggest moments of the past year.

“I plan to first write down all of the highlights, milestones and achievements for the past year, and then write down all of the bad decisions, disappointments and the negative aspects from 2015. I will then tear up the negative, keep the positive and reset new milestones for the coming year.

“I also always create a list of people I aim to meet in the next year. Usually a list of 20, which means I have to be very thoughtful about who, why and the value exchange for them and myself in that meeting. Last year Elon Musk was in that list — I’m still working on that one! Remaining focused on the goal enables me to visualise it and then make it a reality.”

Timing is key.

Nick Austin, founder and CEO of Divvy Parking. Photo: Supplied.

While some people prefer to hold their review process in December or soon as the new year settles in, CEO of Divvy Parking Nick Austin says it is more realistic to determine your objectives and KPIs when everyone has returned from the holiday season so that his team, partners and stakeholders can approach everything with “fresh eyes” to take on the new year.

“A great piece of advice I received is to set goals from February forward, rather than January. I originally applied this to personal goals — getting more exercise, better work balance, seeing more live music, whatever you want out of the next year — but I’ve found it really applicable to managing a business as well. It makes I’m being realistic and also kicking off 2016 with a bang, rather than shuffling into it in early January,” he says.

“I’ll be using January as planning time, but setting new objectives and KPIs where possible from February. This is especially useful if, as many Australians do, you have a lot of your employees taking extended leave in January. It ensures everyone approaches the opportunities and challenges of 2016 as a team, motivated and with their head in the game.”

Be original in your planning.

CEO of Sendle. Photo: Supplied.

While New Year’s resolutions can seem mundane and a part of your diary you want to keep tucked away until after the holiday season, there are certain ways you can get creative during the planning stages of your 2016 milestone.

Sendle CEO and co-founder James Moody says he always tries to choose “an inspiring location to meet where we can take some time out and reflect. This year we are all going to visit Puerto Rico, to visit the largest radio telescope in the world at Arecibo. For me as an electrical engineer this is like nerd-heaven (and the kids are excited too)”.

If you want your team to be excited for the next year, try thinking outside the box and organising a social event or team activity that reflects the culture of your business — rather than opting for the traditional office work meeting to conduct your yearly review.

Work as a team.

While your business goals may be strictly professional, it is important to remember that businesses rely on the support of a whole team, external partners and stakeholders and even family.

As Moody says, the “balanced scorecard” of life includes “family, friends, career, purpose, growth” and that gathering colleagues and close ones together can generate more opportunity for discussion and feedback on how the year went and what they saw as learning curves for the new year.

Moody says that he and a close groups of friends who he met through the United National Space Generation Advisory Council make it a routine to catch up every New Year’s Eve to not only set out their new goals for the new year but to enjoy each other’s company.

“The great thing about meeting with the same group of people each is that we can actually support each other, and also hold each other to account. We all try to leave with some tangible resolutions, and we keep track of them each year.”

Founder and CEO of Stylerunner Julie Stevanja also makes the point of turning to her support system, “whether it be my husband, mentor, friend or someone I work closely with, who keep me in check. Accountability partners are ideal for staying on the path, as well as integrating morning rituals and gently reflecting before each day.”

Give time to yourself.

Founder and CEO of Stylerunner, Julie Stevanja. Photo: Supplied.

Business goals are as just as much professional as they are personal.

It is important that your work goals are planned in accordance with your own lifestyle — and that you dedicate time to yourself.

“The way I approach goals in the New Year is similar to the way I would approach any business strategy – I’m a big believer in planning and taking the time out to think through goals methodically. This means setting aside a chunk of time for myself, be it a day, a few hours or even a weekend to not do anything else but focus on the task at hand. I completely unplug!” says Stevanja.

Burston also knows the importance of a good holiday: “I take a week in January every year to travel on my own — usually to an island or somewhere very remote and isolated. This is how I rejuvenate and think clearly,” she says.

“As an introvert, I find that I need to be away from ‘the noise and volume’ of my day-to-day routine, in order to create a mental zone that is both stimulating and creative. In 2016 I will be travelling back to an island I have visited before. It’s a really special place, where there are only a few staff, no cars and very close to nature.”

But at the end of the day, goals are not the be all and end all.

“I don’t make resolutions as such, as I try to live life and do the things that I want to achieve, in the moment. I would like more holidays though!”