12 tips to make 2017 your best year yet

Want to achieve more in your life in 2017? London Business School faculty share insights to help you power off the professional blocks

Want to achieve more in your life in 2017? London Business School faculty share insights to help you power off the professional blocks

This article is provided by the Leadership Institute


If you want to really get ahead over the course of 2017, you need to start by looking at yourself. Here are 12 tips for personal and career growth from London Business School’s experts.

1. Develop your judgement – Professor Sir Andrew Likierman, Dean

Focus on improving your personal judgement in your ability to manage and lead. Judgement is key in who you work with, who you hire and the way you approach decisions. When we rely on team members and colleagues, we are relying on the quality of their judgement. Improving your own judgement means recognising where your weaknesses lie. You need to understand the following elements: whether you really absorb the information you are given and if you’re able to understand and assess the arguments put to you. Beyond this, do you understand who is giving the advice and why? Can you link relevant experience and knowledge to the situation? Are you able to take a clear view, aware of your own biases and emotional responses? Are you aware of all the options, not just those presented to you? Beyond this, there’s a need to understand the risks and appreciate the reality of what implementation involves. Finally, are you able to conclude and make a judgement at a speed relevant to the situation and the cultural context?

2. Grow meaningful friendships – Dominic Houlder, Adjunct Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship

In the end, success for me is all about growing meaningful, engaged friendships. The meaning and engagement come from something that we can create together – a great conversation, an insightful experience, a project that might move the world even a little towards a better place. The beauty of LBS is that it provides so many opportunities for friendships of that kind. My 2017 success resolution is to make much more of those opportunities and that’s what I’d urge others to do as well.

3. Step up your creativity – Richard Hytner, Adjunct Professor of Marketing and founder of beta baboon

Leaders, you need to exhibit Darwinian creativity. Under fire from political, economic and trading uncertainty, tighter regulation and heightened stakeholder expectations, creativity will be your business’ bulletproof vest. Encourage your people's contagious curiosity. Embrace their desire to find meaning in everything your business does. Invite their child-like self to show up every day. Equip them with a liberating purpose to catalyse enhanced propositions for customers. Have the courage to concede that your products and services may suffer from sameness. And, if you are serious about driving enduring distinction for your customers, unleash your people's creativity. In 2017, only the most creative leaders will survive.

4. Leave blame behind – Randall S Peterson, Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Academic Director, Leadership Institute

Start focusing on coordination in your workplace. Even with the best will in the world, sometimes we just don’t understand each other. When that happens, the tendency for all of us is to blame the other person for not understanding you. But who is really responsible? It could be them for not listening carefully, it could be you for not being clear, but most likely the problem is poor coordination – you lack common ground to understand each other. Neither party is to blame and both of you need to take responsibility to create shared understanding and space to communicate more clearly in the future. How much better would work be if we spent more time effectively communicating with each other and less time blaming each other?

5. Use your time wisely – Lisa Shu, Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour

Take inventory of your time: in what ways do you spend your time that leads to the maximum increase in long-term satisfaction? Make sure you prioritise and carve out time in your daily, weekly, and monthly schedule accordingly: often the least urgent matters are the top drivers of overall life satisfaction. So be intentional about prioritising matters of importance over matters of urgency.

6. Get out more – David Arnold, Adjunct Professor of Marketing

It’s well known that the higher you climb up an organisation, the less time you spend with customers and the more time you spend negotiating targets and results internally and externally. Every senior manager should spend several days a year on site with their customers, using their own products or services. Why? First, customers are the source of cash flows – there is no excuse for not being close to them. Second, we now know that arm's-length surveys, i.e. asking customers what they think, often produces poor information. Best practice is direct observation of customers and putting yourself through the customer experience. Everyone, from junior managers to shareholders, will be impressed when you talk about your experience – and of course you will learn a lot. So be bold and get out of the office.

7. Learn to see both sides – Gillian Ku, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour

As we’ve seen from Brexit and the US Presidential elections, we’re looking at a world in which half of people believe strongly in their own perspective and the other half believe just as strongly in the polar opposite. 2017 is going to involve a lot of conflict unless people learn to see things from others’ points of view. In business too, the most successful managers and leaders need to acquire this skill in order to navigate their organisational worlds effectively, motivate their customers and employees, manage diversity and prevent and resolve disputes. Are you able to imagine the world from someone else’s vantage point, picture yourself in their shoes? It means investing effort to understand another person’s visual viewpoint, thoughts, motivations, intentions and emotions. There are risks to this perspective-taking but it will be a key skill for the year ahead.

8. Break bad habits by focusing on one behaviour – Vyla Rollins, Executive Director, Leadership Institute

It takes an average of 66 days to create a habit. Yet we know bad habits are harder to break. Choose just one behaviour to focus your energy on over the next 10 weeks to make or break a habit. You don’t have to think like a psychologist to identify behavioural changes that could have a positive impact on others. Think, for example, about asking questions before giving your opinion. Perhaps you could share what was effective about a situation rather than starting with what could have been done better. Maybe it’s not about giving feedback but rather being open to receiving it. Once you’ve honed in on the behaviour, practise the change with others. Select one or two development support buddies to offer feedback on your progress. Broaden out your supporters to a small group, who can tell you how you’ve done at the end of the 10-week period. Finally, ensure you choose the right one-to-one situations – small project or direct report meetings – to practise the behaviour you want to develop. If you really want to make a change this year and you’re up to the challenge, why not choose a behaviour you really don't want to work on, but absolutely know you should.

9. Try to be a more equal partner – Eliot Sherman, Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour


If you’re in a dual-earner family, take a moment to reflect on the division of labour at home. Who does the lion’s share of household chores? Who provides the childcare and when? If you’re like most couples, you struggle to balance the competing demands of work and home on a regular basis. This makes it easy to fall into a routine where one person ends up shouldering more responsibilities than the other. Unfortunately, over the long run this can negatively affect that person’s career success and personal happiness. A more equal partnership is possible, but it requires flexibility and adaptability: Knowing when your work projects ebb and flow and stepping up at home accordingly. It also requires unwinding some deeply ingrained habits – learning to say no to non-essential requests and reducing facetime activities more than you may like. This can certainly be a challenging adjustment in the short term, but the ultimate payoff is substantial and unequivocal.

10. Explain your hiring decisions – Isabel Fernandez-Mateo, Adecco Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship

People handle rejection badly if they’re not offered a narrative to help them make sense of it. What they need is clear communication and a perception that the other party was genuine. When people engage in a selection process, they presume recruiters will be upfront about why they weren’t offered the role, but that’s often not the case. Yet giving reasons for our behaviour is a crucial aspect of negotiating our social lives – it helps confirm, strengthen or deny social relations. So organisations need to learn the art of good rejection. For example, venture capital firms routinely reject most of the business plans they receive, but this doesn’t mean a future investment is out of the question if it leads to learning about the other party. Likewise, organisations should work to understand how managing hiring rejections can shape future relationships, in order to avoid discouraging talented individuals who might be the right fit for a future role.

11. Ask others how they feel – Michael Parke, Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour

Emotions and feelings are typically the “soft side” of work that do not get much attention from managers. Leaders often forget to check in with how their team members are feeling, either because they don’t have time or because they find such conversations uncomfortable. However, teams with leaders who help members feel safe and encouraged to share their genuine feelings with one another often produce more creative outcomes and desire to work together well into the future than teams whose members tend to suppress or hide their feelings. Next chance you get, then, you may want to consider asking your team members “how are you feeling?” It might just spark a creative insight or help build a stronger relationship.

12. Be yourself in a job interview – Dan Cable, Professor of Organisational Behaviour

For job applicants, it’s always a question of how much of your real self to show and how much to just be yourself. A recent study shows that when you really are a good fit for a company and a job, authentic self-presentation is far more likely to land you the job offer. This evidence suggests that recruiters have a taste for authenticity when it comes to deciding amongst a set of strong contenders. However, the data also show that lower-quality candidates will disadvantage themselves in the short term with authentic self-presentation. If securing a specific job offer in the short run is your highest priority, you might consider more caution about revealing your true self. Yet over the longer term, research shows that a poor-fitting applicant who presents him or her self inauthentically in order to acquire a job will likely perform poorly, be less satisfied, and more likely to leave. So, if your ultimate goal is to not only land a job but find a situation where you fit, authentic self-presentation might be better for both higher- and lower-quality applicants.

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