The easy daily habits 24 executives say give them an edge

What Makes a Leader?
What Makes a Leader?

You might be surprised at the routines these high achievers swear by.

The most successful people I know share some common traits. They're confident, hard-working, astute with money, and health conscious. They also stick to certain routines proved over time to work. Check out these quotes from 24 successful executives who credit simple daily habits for helping them get ahead in business and life.

1. Get a head-start at home.

"The most effective thing that I've learned over the years is to get the top two or three 'must do today' emails or phone calls out of the way before I leave the house. Getting these crossed off my list first thing allows me to focus my full attention on everyone I come in contact with once I arrive at the office. Even the briefest interactions, when purposeful and heartfelt, have the potential to leave team members feeling inspired, appreciated, and supported. Conversely, if I'm distracted by a nagging need to make a call or send an email, someone can personalize a lack of focused attention and become demoralized or confused by the interaction. Learning to manage what has a tendency to distract you from being present and in the moment helps you give full focus to the most important asset any company has--its people."

--Niki Leondakis, CEO of Commune Hotels + Resorts.

2. No phones during family time.

"Spending time with my wife and kids invariably is the most rewarding part of my day but it's also critical to maintaining a sense of balance and perspective that ultimately benefits my role as a leader. My wife enforces pretty strict no-phone-time around dinner and bedtime for the kids, which I was resistant to at first but I've really come to appreciate. I walk my 6-year-old daughter to school every day and we talk about what she's learning and thinking about. Talking to 6-year-olds is great therapy."

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--Xander Oxman, CEO and co-founder of wine company Winc (formerly Club W), which sells directly to consumers through a personalized wine club experience and to select restaurants and retailers.

3. Floss every night.

"It has been proven that there is a direct link between flossing and one's overall health. And the healthier you are, the more productive you are in both your personal and professional life. It is one of the easiest things you can do to maintain a healthy lifestyle."

--Damon Brown, CEO of Dentovations, the makers of Luster Premium White, a Boston-based oral beauty brand.

4. Say "hello" to everyone and take interest in what they are working on.

"On a daily basis I try to be visible in the hotel and remain approachable to people. It is so important that you understand the inner workings of your operation and that you can genuinely appreciate what people do. Creating and fostering a successful business is a collaborative effort and involves your entire team so it is extremely important to thank the people that surround you every day."

--Rebecca Hubbard, general manager of the historic Lotte New York Palace in New York City.

5. Build relationships with face-to-face time.

"Short meetings with key partners can do wonders for a business relationship. If it's a quick coffee or something else, you can grab a quick perceptive 'thin slice' of the health of the relationship and make adjustments. Phone, email, text, and other means of connecting are the foundation of daily business, but a quick face to face can be magic and open other opportunities you've never thought about."

--David Sutton, CEO of Physician's Technology, creator of the Willow Curve digital operating system for pain.

6. Stand for 15 minutes out of each hour.

"Recent research has shown that sitting all day can be bad for health. To keep your energy moving, set a timer on your PDA to go off once an hour and stand while your work for at least 15 minutes. Instead of sitting for a meeting, take a walk what that person, stand up while speaking on the phone, and have short meetings upright, rather then sitting."

--Karen Leland, founder of Sterling Marketing Group, and bestselling author of nine books, including The Brand Mapping Strategy

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7. Make the right enemies.

"I quickly learned that clients fell in two general categories: Those who want to hear what they want to hear and want me to do things the way they are comfortable with, and those who want results. It is easy to make a living coddling those in the first group. It is also very easy to piss them off. Like many consultants, my reputation has an enormous impact on why people hire me and pay the fees I charge. Early on, I learned a valuable lesson when I naively gave critical feedback to a highly insecure parent who had a huge presence in the community where I was trying to build my practice. She immediately fired me and began bad mouthing me to anyone who would listen. A few weeks later I got a call from a mom who hired me because she was impressed at my willingness to criticize this person who many in the community secretly disliked. That one contact helped launch my practice. Over the years I have very deliberately ensured I make the right enemies, and let their venom become some of my best PR."

--Jeffrey Leiken, CEO of Evolution Mentoring & HeroPath Life Coaching, who works with teens, families, and organizations on four continents.

8. Exercise.

"Entrepreneurs typically focus on business first, kids second, spouse third, and leave little energy for themselves. By saving time every day to exercise, and encouraging my team to do the same, we are more capable of performing at peak levels for longer periods of time. Employees will eventually take the time they need, and often at the wrong time, if we do not help them plan ahead to take care of themselves and ultimately take care of the various roles they have in life."

--Matt Stewart, co-founder and co-CEO of College Works Painting.

9. Use the "bassackward" agenda.

"When planning a meeting, start from the end. The most effective way to do that is to prepare based on outcomes: When we finish, what will we have changed? These should be quantitative, such as 'We will have a clearly understood budget for the third quarter of FY 2016.' They should also be qualitative, such as 'The noisy people will talk less, the quiet people more.' From there, draw up a loose schedule to leave time for the unexpected. If everyone is on board with the outcomes, the timetable will take care of itself."

--Mac Bogert, president of AzaLearning, which serves 200 organizations nationwide, and author of Learning Chaos: How Disorder Can Save Education.

10. Do something daily to expand your network.

"The primary driver of growth in our business is referrals, and networking is an absolute critical piece of that equation. Having a solid network of connected professionals has done wonders for our business, and I have made it a habit to do at least one thing every day to expand my network. Whether it's looking for someone to connect with on social media, reaching out to a local center of influence, or asking for introductions from my existing network, I always make sure to do this at least once a day."

--Lou Desepoli, president and CEO of Desepoli Wealth Management, which provides fee-based financial strategies and advisory services and was recently named an MD Preferred Physician Services provider for excellence in service to the medical community.

11. Take a five-minute time out for personal reflection.

"It's easy to get caught up in intense production mode, especially when you love what you do. I easily fall into a flow state where I'm creating nonstop for hours on end with no concept of time or space, sometimes at the expense of eating and exercise. High achievers are generally poor at taking time for an inventory of what they've created, which is why I now carve out five minutes at the end of the day to acknowledge even the smallest little stepping stones. I express gratitude for the gift of creation and ask for inspired thoughts that our clients and listeners will find shareable."

--Pamela Herrmann, co-creator and chief storyteller for the small-business marketing training hub CREATE Buzz and co-host of The Morning Would Show.

12. Don't do the things you are good at.

"For years we have been told to focus on the things you are good at and surround yourself with people to do the other things. I have learned that just because I can add value to a conversation or project doesn't mean it is the best use of my time. Instead of focusing on what I am good at, I focus on doing the things that only I am good at."

--Mark Young, chairman and CEO of Jekyll and Hyde Advertising, which has successfully launched or built over 30 consumer brands.

13. Give yourself time.

"Allowing yourself to relax, breathe, and meditate for as little as 30 minutes can make an improvement in your daily activities. This can be done early morning and/or before you go to bed."

--Peter Bombara, CEO of PCB Financial Advisory Group, which guides families to and through retirement.

14. Create a prioritized daily to-do list.

"When you wake up each morning, prepare a daily list of all the things you need to accomplish by the end of the work day, and prioritize each item by order of importance with 'A' being the most important and 'D' being the least important. Too often people tend to shoot from the hip and work on items as they arise during the day, rather than accomplishing priority items that will make their business more successful. Having a to-do list to work from makes it easier to focus on the important things."

--Brett King, SVP of investments of Elite Financial Associates, has been in the financial services industry for nearly 35 years.

15. Pray and give thanks every morning before your feet hit the ground running.

"Devoting your first five or 10 minutes of every day to being grateful for the new day in front of you and the abilities, gifts, and talents that you have been blessed with to create your own destiny and wealth truly makes a difference in long-term success. It's a true statement that it's not happy people who are grateful, but grateful people who are happy. Happiness is part of success and if you're happy, you will be much more productive and it will be contagious to those who work with you and are helping you to achieve your goals in your business. Yes, you can have it all, financial wealth, happiness, a balanced life, and a grateful heart."

--Aurea McGarry, Emmy Award-winning TV show host, producer, and director as well as CEO and founder of Live Your Legacy Summits, and president and founder of Legacy Maker Entrepreneur coaching systems, which has trained more than a million entrepreneurs nationwide.

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16. Drink more water.

"The body is made up of water and needs ample hydration to perform at elite levels. In the chaotic life of an entrepreneur or high level executive, it's sometimes difficult to remember to do this habit daily, especially when traveling. Strive for eight glasses a day, or daily volumes proportioned to your weight. The combination of healthy water intake and exercise keeps you on top of not only your physical goals, but your business goals as well."

--John Rizzo, managing partner of Globe on Demand, which has helped thousands of publishers and brands build their online authority.

17. Think of projects as white-water rafting.

"You know where you want to end up, but the journey can be choppy and full of obstacles. This view helps with decision making and being flexible enough to make changes quickly to ensure that you achieve your objectives."

--V. Michael Santoro, co-founder and managing partner of InVidz, which developed an interactive inbound video marketing system called Vaetas.

18. Celebrate every employee.

"I personally send out a signed birthday card to each of the 450 employees in my company. I want them to know they are appreciated on one of the most important days of their life."

--Frank Granara, CEO of Boston-based General Insulation Company, provider of insulation, and author of Beyond the Executive Comfort Zone: Outrageous Tactics to Ignite Individual Performance.

19. Find a way to notice and recognize at least one employee a day.

"Search out and acknowledge someone for what he or she has said or done in support of what your company believes in and stands for. Personal recognition from you can be more impactful than most any other accolade bestowed on employees. People are usually surprised to be noticed and they remember the acknowledgement for a very long time. This is one way to foster a culture of gratitude."

--Bethany Andell, president of Savage Brands, MBA graduate from Rice University's Jones School of Management, a regular speaker, and author of several articles recently published in The Houston Business Journal.

20. Connect with people on a personal level.

"People work to live, not to live to work. Equally, people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Family businesses perform well because of trusting personal relationships. Develop sincere relationships with your suppliers, customers and fellow employees and improvement in your business and life will follow."

--Henry Hutcheson, president of Family Business USA, part of the Olan Mills family, and author of Dirty Little Secrets of Family Business.

21. Read positivity every day.

"I try to read something positive each day--an article, book chapter, internal communication. It sets a positive tone that carries me through the day. And I try to control the bookends of each day. How I start my morning and how I end my day are critical elements of success in my business and all aspects of my life."

--Cody Foster, co-founder of insurance marketing organization Advisors Excel.

22. Never assume that you know what matters most to your customer.

"Make it a habit to always listen before talking with your customer or client. Even if you understand what they care most about and what's top of mind today, its cathartic for them to tell you, and you will invariably learn something that you didn't know. And don't make the mistake of asking them about their priorities and success criteria only when it's time for them to buy something, and there's a potential opportunity on the table. Some of the most effective selling occurs when the customer isn't buying, yet. If you show interest only when you're trying to sell something, they invariably see right through it."

--Steve Andersen, president and founder of Performance Methods, a leading sales performance consultancy, and co-author of Beyond the Sales Process: 12 Proven Strategies for a Customer-Driven World.

23. Keep your focus on moving forward.

"There will be as many ups as there will be downs when starting and running a business. I deal with fire drills as they come up, and then move on without looking back. Dwelling on a mistake or mishap will only slow you down. If a fire comes up, work it out as best you can with your team and learn from it. Letting it drag you down will only waste valuable time and likely lead to other mistakes. Deal with it and move on to the next thing."

--Ido Leffler, serial social impact entrepreneur who recently starred in Oxygen's Quit Your Day Job, and co-founder and CEO of Yoobi, a school, office, and home supplies brand that matches customer purchases with donations to classrooms.

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24. Hang out with employees.

"It's important to me to foster a great company culture and create an open environment. Every day I wake up with the intention to inspire our team members to serve as cultural ambassadors. I want everyone to feel comfortable and empowered to voice their thoughts on how to make the company operate at its best and that is why there are no separate offices at the Destination Hotels headquarters--only cubicles. I make it my mission to engage with team members on a regular basis, by hosting breakfasts, lunches, and happy hours in our company kitchen. This provides an open space for sharing and getting to know one another on a personal level, and it's a way for me listen to everyone's input on how to keep improving the company."

--Jamie Sabatier, president and COO of Destination Hotels.

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