High achievers don't get to the top by handling themselves like everyone else. One thing they typically have in common: Consistently doing the right things, every single day. Here's what nearly two dozen successful executives say are their secrets to getting ahead in business and life.
1. Catch someone doing something right.
"Make sure to recognize them and thank them in front of their peers."
--Ed Jankowski, CEO of XpresSpa, a luxury travel spa business, serving almost one million air travelers each year at its 53 stores across 22 airports in the United States, Amsterdam and Dubai
2. Set a goal.
"Before breakfast, I often start my day by setting goals for myself and for the company, before sharing out a set of benchmarks with the executive team for daily inspiration and motivation. In an effort to ensure these benchmarks are consistently being met, I have a running check list in which I update on a regular basis to ensure the company's goals are on track. I think it's important to set standards not only for yourself, but for your staff as well to keep the team morale up and ensure continued success day in and day out."
--Carl Wolf, CEO at Mama Mancini's, which sells many varieties of meatballs, meatloaf and Italian sauce
3. Automate things that happen over and over again.
"If something recurs 80 percent or more, automate it. When I notice that I'm doing or ordering the same things over and over, I try to automate it. I have things on auto-order: Supplements, meal kit delivery, clothing, wine, coffee, diapers for my son, etc. It allows me to focus on what's more important, and it's something that I ask my team to consider when looking at their to-do lists, as well."
--Michael McDevitt, CEO of Terra's Kitchen, the leading healthy meal kit delivery service offering quality, sustainably sourced ingredients that are prepped, portioned and delivered in a climate-controlled, reusable vessel
4. Take three minutes to re-boot.
"When mid-afternoon hits and the day is at its most hectic, I find myself having a hard time concentrating. At that time I close my office door, take a breath and take three minutes to re-boot my brain with a music break. Most songs last about three minutes, so I put on my headphones, listen to whatever song I'm obsessing over while and dance around the room. The movement helps me get all that nervous energy out, and the music helps my brain relax and re-boot. When the song is over, I take a long cleansing breath, open the door and tackle the rest of the day with renewed energy."
--Monica Klausner, cofounder and CMO of plant-based meal delivery service Veestro
5. Break things.
"Admittedly, I'm not one of those touchy-feely people who carves out time for overthinking and pie in the sky daydreaming. Every morning, I wake up to get some quiet time a while the rest of the house sleeps. A strong cup of coffee serves as my catalyst for figuring out what I need to break today and how much fun we can have doing it. Of course, I don't mean to literally break things. It's a matter of asking myself, 'What norm or barriers can we stretch or shatter?' I'm not envisioning the impossible; I'm simply trying to figure out where we can press performance or push creativity while we have more fun than anyone else."
--Russell Barnett, CMO at My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream
6. Develop new hobbies.
"As an entrepreneur, it's often difficult to carve out time for hobbies or things on your bucket list. However, doing so can reap rewards in your business life too. You'll get a sense of perspective in the process while you disconnect from work, even if briefly. In my case, I signed up for a stand-up comedy course at the Comedy Cellar and then did a couple of public sets. As a result, I'm more observant, more comfortable speaking, and brought back better story-telling skills to the business."
--Lux Narayan, CEO of Unmetric, a company that provides AI-powered insights to brand marketers and digital agencies
7. Resolve people issues right away.
"It's easy to avoid issue-clearing conversations, but when done right, it can be cathartic for both people. I make a point every day to resolve any lingering people issues constructively and follow a simple process. First, state the facts without judgment. Tell the other person about the story you're telling yourself. Share how it makes you feel. Admit your role in sustaining or amplifying the issue. Be clear about the specific thing you'd like to see changed. This framework is incredibly effective. It has had a profound impact on the quality and authenticity of my relationships."
--Vivek Sharma, CEO of Movable Ink, a software company that provides brands the ability to send personalized emails at the moment of open
8. Complete at least one non-urgent task.
"One of my favorite quotes is from Dwight Eisenhower: 'What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.' Days are too often filled with extremely urgent but not at all important activities like email replies, specific meetings, etc. I make it a rule to try to accomplish one non-urgent activity or task per day and spend 10 percent of my time doing the work that is not at all urgent but critically important to long term goals in life or business."
-- Zac Smith, CEO of Packet, a company that automates bare metal server hardware for developers
9. Spend time with the people you love.
"It's a simple statement for sure, but I strive to spend as much time as possible with my wife and one-year-old son. It helps to reset from the madness of work life and bring needed balance day in and day out."
-- Todd Barrish, founder and president of Indicate Media, a digital public relations agency
10. Manage your to-do list.
"Create an annual, quarterly, weekly, and daily to-do list and manage them all. What does not get done in a day, gets done in a week. What does not get done in a week gets done in a quarter."
--Rob Bernshteyn, CEO of Coupa, a cloud platform for business spend
11. Think gratitude to be more present.
"After long, stressful days in the office, it's easy to go home stuck in work mode. I now spend the last 10 minutes of my drive home intentionally thinking about something I'm grateful for. The result is me arriving home happier, refreshed, and mentally present for my wife, friends, and any additional work I need to tackle."
--Bill Clerico, cofounder and CEO of platform payments provider WePay
12. Create a fun culture.
"Create a work environment, daily, where employees feel free and encouraged to openly express themselves without rigid confines so they can do better work and make good, impactful decisions. How can you create a fun culture? You can start by being passionate, aligning everyone on the company's goals, encouraging team members, and having an overall sense of fun in the workplace. It takes an engaged, motivated and committed workforce to develop a successful, game-changing product."
--Nick Candito, cofounder and CEO of Progressly, which helps businesses streamline their operations by unifying how their employees, partners and suppliers coordinate and report on business outcomes
13. Leave it at the door.
"As the CEO of a fast-growing startup and a father of four, I practice the habit of leaving it at the door. In both cases, I'm always on, but at the same time my 'teams' have expectations of me when I walk through the front door. In order to deliver in a focused way for both, I need to leave the other team behind for that moment when I walk through the front door. My work team is greeted with singular focus, and my home team is greeted with love and no distractions."
--Chris Hale, founder and CEO at Kountable, a platform connecting investors and entrepreneurs
14. Empower your team.
"The key is to building a successful business starts with a strong foundation comprised of competent team members who are empowered and can operate autonomously. Pull, don't push. Micromanaging stunts productivity and can act as a cancer within an organization. Employee morale matters, everyone wants to know they are appreciated and it's not always about the money. Treat your employees well and they will treat the company well."
--Jarrett Gorlin, CEO of Medovex, a developer of medical technology products
15. Be deliberate.
"In every company, there are always moments that require a quick decision or response. Yet, even in those moments, I make it a practice to be deliberate. The opportunity to pause, really process the question being asked or topic that's being addressed, and evaluate if I have the right information to respond helps to ensure that I am being thoughtful in my response."
--David Thomas, CEO of Evident ID, a cybersecurity solution for managing and sharing personal data
16. Accept your messiness.
"We are all a brilliant mix of beautiful and messy. When we unapologetically own and love all parts of ourselves, we become fearless. We become free to define ourselves on our own terms. It is from this place that we learn to trust ourselves, and we discover that we already have all of the answers that we seek."
17. Set daily targets.
"Measure what's difficult to measure, and set targets. Often times the strongest motivator for success is the simple presence of a scoreboard. Knowing where you're excelling and where you're falling behind is crucial to determine how to invest your time and effort. Some things are difficult to measure quantitatively, but those cases are usually where it's most important to try because you can cut through a lot of ambiguity and save yourself time in the long run."
--Andrew Blachman, COO of Tophatter, a mobile discovery shopping marketplace where millions of shoppers compete in 90 second auctions
18. Team up with a complementary partner.
"There is a debate of which is better: compensation or capitalization. That is, compensating for your weaknesses and working on them or capitalizing upon your strengths. I have found it is ideal to find a partner who compensates for shortcomings and allows you to capitalize upon your strengths. May Wang, with whom I cofounded our company, has a strong academic background with a luminary career as a scientist and academic in IoT. We met during our Ph.D. program at Stanford. I realized that my strength was in understanding how to bring ideas to market and turned toward private industry. We have been friends for many years and when she wanted to start ZingBox, she saw a great partnership to capitalize on my business strengths, while she could also capitalize on her tremendous smarts in IoT."
--Xu Zou, cofounder and CEO of IoT solutions provider ZingBox
19. Seek counsel from every level.
"Ask others for their opinion on important items and listen to what they have to say. Engage with them and dig deeper on why they think the way they do. This gives you a chance to shed light on your own decision making path. Too often this may not make sense to people a few levels down from you due to not having the same information, or priorities, that you have. Making the time to ask people what they think about something, or how to do it, goes a long way towards building that bond between employees and employers that helps everyone get through the inevitable ups and downs of working together. Most companies do not operate as democracies, but voices need to be heard. For CEOs: don't expect compliments. Recognizing a job well done is part of managing people, but no one is really managing you, in that context. Therefore, that kind of recognition may not be verbalized by others. Success is your compliment. A satisfied team is your compliment. A returning client is your compliment."
--Greg Reber, CEO at security consulting company AsTech
20. Find your sense of purpose and focus.
"Oftentimes we get on a hamster wheel of running from one conversation or meeting to the next. The result is a lack of work-life balance and, more detrimentally, a lack of focus. Inevitably, this leads to meeting fatigue. To stop this in its tracks, ask yourself what your contribution is to this meeting or this conversation. Plan gaps between meetings. This practice limits fatigue and contributes to your sense of purpose and focus. Take time out to reset. Remember, busy and productive are not synonymous. Busyness is simply a bad attitude."
--PK Agarwal, regional dean and CEO of Northeastern University-Silicon Valley and former CTO for California under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
21. Practice non-reactive listening.
"While I'd like to think of myself as someone who has always been very calm, that simply isn't the case. There is a lot of joy in reacting spontaneously in meetings, but this may not serve your long term goals well. Currently, I practice going to meetings with an open mind and spending more time listening to people's points of view without quick reactions. Doing this has made me a far better leader."
--Peter Arvai, cofounder and CEO of Prezi, a cloud-based presentation software company