We did an interview with Andrey Sergeyev – an entrepreneur, speaker, author, and leadership consultant, helping leaders to execute on their highest priorities, achieve goals and build competitive businesses in the Digital Age.
His latest bestselling book „Have a meaningful workday“ talks about ways everyone can simplify their workday to get more done and achieve a higher level of success. Or as Andrey said: “This book is not just a step by step guide to achieving outstanding results at work with less stress and fewer hours, it’s about helping people achieve goals and dreams in life.“
In Weekdone we have a very similar view on SMART goals, e-mail usage at work and productivity. All of these topics will be covered as you continue reading.
What are the key factors for a good internal environment in an organization?
There are many factors, but from my own experience I would say there are three key factors that are crucial in creating a good internal environment.
First of all, focus and clarity. If people know why they are doing what they are doing, where the company is going, what the highest priorities are, and how they can contribute to reaching these highest priorities on a daily basis – then engagement skyrockets and confidence grows.
Secondly – integrity. The way we treat our people, our customers and our partners, the way we operate our business, can either build trust or destroy it.
We know that trust is the foundation of long-term relationships, and things happen much faster when there is a high level of trust between the parties involved. But trust is a byproduct of acting with integrity and character – doing the right thing even when nobody is watching.
Finally – building on people’s strengths.
We all have unique gifts, talents, and strengths. If we focus on developing people’s strengths, and staff for roles based on the person’s strengths and personality, we are not only setting up the person for success, we achieve greater results as an organization. People will naturally succeed at what they are best at already.
Having worked with a lot of companies, what do you think: what sort of mistakes are common among new leaders and managers, and what sort of mistakes do experienced leaders make most often?
I still remember the mistakes I made when I first became a CEO in my early twenties.
So, I think many young leaders today experience something close to what I did. They’re ambitious, ready to change the world, but they forget it’s not all about them. It’s about helping their people to become the best they can be, and take a good care of them.
Also, lack of focus and clarity is common – they have too many goals, or their goals are unclear, and too many things seem to be great opportunities to take, made urgent by the fear that this may be the last chance.
Sometimes, there is a tendency to micro-manage, since young leaders often fail to understand the difference between leading and managing. Lack of focus and clarity is also common among experienced leaders – knowing what the highest priorities are and how to transform them into the daily actions of everyone in the organization.
I’ve witnessed it in my own life and it’s true for most leaders I’ve met around the world. Another one is not having the right people on the team.
You wrote the book, Have a Meaningful Workday. For those who haven't read it yet, can you give a few reasons why people should read it?
We all have to work on a regular basis, and it represents a large portion of our lives.
That’s why I believe that all of us have a deep desire to have more meaningful workdays – to enjoy what we do at work and to achieve great results, so those 9-10 hours we spend each day are worth something, that they’re not wasted.
This book is not just a step by step guide to achieving outstanding results at work with less stress and fewer hours, it’s about helping people achieve goals and dreams in life, to have more time for relationships and other things that truly matter, by having a workday filled with meaning, clarity, and results.
The book is highly practical, full of detailed instructions, assignments, real life examples and easy to implement tools. Almost everything in this book has been personally tested by me, based on many years of experience as an executive and entrepreneur, from startups to helping build multi-million dollar businesses.
I am certain that these principles and tools do work.
In the book, you talk about setting goals and SMART goals (that we use in Weekdone as well). What is the difference between having goals and having SMART goals?
For me the difference is about focus. How can we achieve a goal if we don’t know exactly what we want to achieve, and when?
We need a clear plan of action. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant to deeper values, and time bound, which means we know exactly what we need to achieve and when, and also we can easily measure our progress towards the goal.
Compare this generic goal: “Increase sales of product A” – with this SMART goal: “Increase sales of Product A in the youth segment (18-25 year olds) from 5,000 to 10,000 by the end of this quarter.” We will all experience a higher level of performance and engagement with the second goal, because once we start to concentrate on a specific goal, our efforts become focused and aligned with the goal.
This means we don’t waste time on unimportant activities that don’t contribute to exactly what we want to achieve. It also helps other team members understand expectations and have clear measurement criteria, which reduces the possibility of personal interpretations.
What are your thoughts on using e-mail? In the book you talk about how to manage e-mail effectively while considering technological advancements. How long do you think it will be around as a business tool?
I think the death of email as a business tool is overstated. Email is universal in the business world and is still essential for external communication.
So, in spite of the rise of social media, instant messengers, internal social networks, etc., people will continue to use email at work, because the nature of email communication often cannot be duplicated by those other tools. Yes, the role of email will evolve with time, but I see it more as a complementary tool to newer technology, rather than the new things becoming a complete substitute for it.
I make the point in the book that it’s not about the technology or tool we use, but the reason we use it, and how. When organizations are overwhelmed by the volume of emails, they need to identify the root causes and deal with them.
Their people need to understand when to use email and when to reach for other tools (or nothing at all), based on the situation and what the employees need to know and accomplish.
One of the topics you talk about is what an entrepreneur can learn from failures. What is the most important thing you've learned?
The entrepreneurial journey is not an easy one, that’s for sure. There are many things that I’ve learned from my successes, but mostly from failures, of course – they are our best teachers, if we’re willing to learn.
Maybe the most important lesson I’ve learned is to take action when the time is right, even if I don’t know all the details and steps, or even if I feel insecure at the moment. In some instances I’ve missed good opportunities that could have been built upon, simply because of thinking too much, for too long.
What do you think will be the main challenges to running a company in 2020?
I would highlight two main challenges for leaders in the near future.
First of all is the growing digitalization of businesses. The future of business is digital, and to succeed in this new reality, we need a new mindset, a different business strategy, and a new set of skills that are still consistent with timeless principles of effectiveness.
Focus and simplicity will become paramount, and businesses will also need to have a better differentiation strategy, in order to stand out from the competition.
Secondly, the future workplace will be flexible. Our employees' expectations about the work environment is changing, because they already live in this new reality.
Within the next decade, Millennials and Generation Z will constitute the majority of the workforce. They think differently, behave differently, and have different expectations about work. These challenges are not really new, they just have a different face and speed now that has to be recognized.