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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

You’ll never reach perfection, but here’s how you can get closer

Continuous improvement and discipline are the keys to developing a world-class organization.

You’ll never reach perfection, but here’s how you can get closer
[oatawa/AdobeStock] [sodawhiskey/AdobeStock]

My management philosophy is simple: There’s always room for improvement. No matter what you’ve achieved, no matter where you are in your journey, you can always take it to another level. Continuous improvement and discipline are the keys to developing a world-class organization.

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NEVER STOP LEARNING

Learning is a lifelong process, whether you’re the CEO of a Fortune 50 company or a stay-at-home dad. Ask any leader in any field and they’ll tell you they’re always looking for ways to increase their knowledge base. Very early in my life, my father instilled in me the idea that you should constantly be adding new skills, seeking out new learning opportunities and finding new challenges. Education doesn’t stop when you leave school. It’s something you can make a part of your day-to-day life. Learning how to learn is the must-have skill of the 21st century. You just have to make the time investment and make it a priority.

Obviously, you’re going to focus on your chosen area of expertise or industry when it comes to furthering your education. But I encourage my colleagues to widen that focus, learn from others, and seek out fresh, broader perspectives too. You will be surprised how much you can learn from other sources that might not be obvious. You never know where that next lightning bolt of inspiration is going to come from. It could be from that novel on your bedside table. It could be from a video on YouTube. It could be from long conversations with family and friends. Even if the topic you’re learning about is seemingly unrelated to your work life, it can provide the key to a door you’ve been struggling to unlock.

KEEP YOUR MANAGER’S HAT ON

As a leader, you’re always thinking about the “big picture.” But you’ve got to be able to see how each piece of your company’s puzzle fits together, from app development to human resources. At the heart of it all is your team. The team comes first. None of us is as smart as all of us. My role is to uncover how I can help my team achieve the very best. There is no competition between us internally; we win and lose as a team.

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To maintain a clear, bird’s-eye view of your team, it’s essential that you always have your manager’s hat on. Your manager has more scope and has to think more broadly than you. When you put your manager’s hat on, you are essentially doing the same. It makes your perspective wider and more strategic. Be fully aware of the various roles each team member plays and understand how those roles harmonize with each other. With that knowledge in hand, you’ll be fully prepared to make the quick, informed decisions that are often necessary. That’s how you make better end-to-end decisions, and by extension grow your own career.

BUILD GOOD HABITS

You’ve heard it said before many times: Humans are creatures of habit. But I’ve always believed we’re not necessarily slaves to our habits. We can work to build good habits that can sustain us through difficult times. When I was younger, I suffered from serious burnout. I was working too many long hours and I was going out every night with my friends. Work/life balance wasn’t a concept I really had grasped yet. Soon, it became very clear I needed to build better habits.

Now, that didn’t mean I started slacking off at work or stopped seeing my friends. Instead, it meant finding time for myself—making wellness into a habit. I started meditating and working out every day—both practices improved my mindset immeasurably. Burnout is real, there’s no doubt about that. It happens to everyone. But good habits can be a powerful defense.

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FEEDBACK—GETTING AND GIVING—IS ESSENTIAL

I thrive on constructive feedback, both giving and getting. Everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes are part of any process. But the important thing is not to make the same mistake twice. Honest and clear feedback allows us to correct ourselves quickly and efficiently. We openly talk about when we fall short, and we share the lessons we’ve learned from those experiences. That’s how we get better. And I expect feedback to be a two-way street. I want my colleagues to tell me what I can do to improve and how I can best help them achieve their goals.

Giving feedback isn’t easy. It takes practice for it to become part of your routine. But by working it into the daily processes in the office, you can enhance and elevate your corporate culture. A feedback loop will reinforce positive behavior, correct bad habits, and ensure a strong overall team dynamic.


Sunil Rajasekar is President & CTO of Mindbody 
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