As we plan for 2019, I suggest we need a reframe, not a revamp. Here are 5 simple but powerful pieces of wisdom to guide us, as captured in some of my most-engaged LinkedIn posts from the past year.
#1: CULTIVATE CONNECTIONS
Last year, Gallup published a report with a seemingly troubling finding: In 2017 the prevalence of negative emotions reached a record high worldwide. “Collectively,” the research found, “the world is more stressed, more sad and in more pain today than we have ever seen before.”
One actionable recommendation from psychologists to counteract the swirling negativity: Build social connections. This is the number one way to boost emotional resiliency. That’s right. The simple act of making time to build and maintain relationships is among the most important things we can do to maintain a positive outlook amidst the stress of daily life.
In my new city, I notice that it is easy to retreat to the familiarity of my home or hotel, my social media networks or digitally-mediated conversations with U.S.-based family and friends. However, I am always rewarded when I make an effort to build real-time connections with new neighbors or colleagues, even across cultural or language barriers. New connections help me learn new things, gain fresh perspective, and ultimately feel more deeply rooted within my new community.
My first simple path to success for the new year: Set aside time each week to engage others in meaningful moments of connection. Real-time connection. Really worth it connection.
2: BE A LIFELONG LEARNER
2018 brought the retirement of Indra Nooyi, a leader I am proud to call a mentor and a friend. In her goodbye letter to colleagues and employees, she offered several pearls of wisdom, including encouraging us to have a vision, bring people along with us (speaking of connections), and be mindful of a greater purpose.
Pointedly, she reminded us that the world is changing rapidly around us, and that we must become lifelong learners to keep up.
Nowhere is this truer than in China, where tech and digital innovation are driving change at warp speed. In my year here, I have had to embrace the dual role of leader and student, and it has reminded me that those two things are not opposites but always two sides of the same coin. I am grateful that it has never been easier to gain knowledge and perspective outside of formal education thanks to the vast network of resources like blogs, TED talks, books, podcasts, and other online resources.
Indra’s sage advice and a path for success in 2019: “Make ongoing education a priority.”
3: BE PASSIONATE
Upon arrival in Shanghai one of my first tasks was to articulate a strategic vision for PepsiCo’s Greater China Region. This gave me the occasion to think very intentionally about what really matters within an organization, and the process crystalized for me the importance of passion in the workplace.
In the months that followed, I spent a lot of time talking to my teams about the significance of doing what you love and loving what you do.
I truly believe that Steve Jobs got it right when he called loving what you do the “only way to do great work.”
A third approach for winning in the year ahead: let us make time to mindfully consider where our passions lie. If we call upon them, success will follow.
#4: PRACTICE EMPATHY
During my first year in Shanghai I’ve been confronted with so many different ways of doing, well, almost everything. Critical to my success here has been the ability to practice empathy by challenging my often Western-centric perspective and turning the tables to understand why things are done a certain way in China. For example, how Chinese consumer’s view the role of food in their long term health , their perceptions of color in communication etc.
It turns out the practice of empathy is not only a survival skill for expat CEOs, but a critical skill for the workplace of the future.
In 2018, MIT researchers reviewed the results of a global study of 1,000+ companies using or testing machine learning or AI. They found that the robot-enabled workplace of the future will require a new set of job roles including trainers, explainers and sustainers who will form a critical link between organizations and their AI. The most important skill for all of these uniquely human roles? You guessed it, a deep-rooted empathy, which will be a key predictor of success in the coming age of automation.
Practicing intentional empathy will open up a fourth path to success in the year ahead. Let us together strive always to understand unfamiliar and even uncomfortable points of view.
#5: EMBRACE NEW EXPERIENCES
This past year I attended two global gatherings that hadn’t been on my radar before moving East: The WEF’s annual Meeting of New Champions in Tianjin and the Boao Forum for Asia on the beautiful Chinese island of Hainan.
Both of these events expanded my horizons. New locales, new networks, new ways of thinking, even new ways of framing and approaching global challenges.
I came away from each feeling energized, with a renewed sense of the scale of our world and my role within it. Ultimately, each of these trips reminded me that stepping out of my comfort zone is not easy, but that embracing new opportunities and experiences is always rewarding.
A final path to success in the year ahead? Let’s nourish our innate curiosity and make time to discover new things. We’ll feel more connected, more alive, and be more prepared to thrive in the workplace of the future.
5 SIMPLE STEPS FOR A FRUITFUL YEAR AHEAD
Build connections, be a lifelong learner, be passionate, practice empathy, embrace new experiences.
This feels like a 2019 roadmap that is equal parts simple and powerful, and it is one that I will embrace in the year ahead.
However you choose to navigate what’s next, best wishes for a happy, healthy, and productive 2019.
Xin Nian Kuai Le! (Happy New Year!)