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Ways to Make a Difference at Work: CEOs and Strategists Explain

Regardless of your job title, your role can make a difference. It comes down to leadership and understanding how to champion ideas and build trust. Read on for advice from 12 CEOs, founders, presidents and thought leaders to learn how you maximize every opportunity to make an impact at work. Be transparent. Honesty and vulnerability are key characteristics great leaders share, says Jeremy Bloom, a former professional athlete and founder of marketing platform Integrate. He says employees remember leaders who are accountable to their mistakes and to the team. "Fall on the sword and be self-aware enough to acknowledge your blind spots -- the right people will lean into that kind of leadership and want to follow."

No excuses. Behavior science expert James Clear acknowledges how easily carefully planned schedules can be thrown off course. He says consistent leaders mitigate risk and account for the unexpected, and find ways to deliver on what’s promised regardless of what gets in the way. "When life gets busy and chaos starts to happen, that’s when we start to come up with excuses. Phrases like 'I wasn’t expecting X to happen…' start creeping into your life and you end up pushing off the goals that you said were important."

Give them space To best develop talent, encourage and provide space for your colleagues to be able to step outside their job description and find inspiration in unlikely places, says Heather Huhman, a hiring manager and the President of Come Recommended, a PR consultancy that specializes in job search and HR technologies. "Give them the resources and training they need, then set them free, letting them know the team believes in their capabilities."

Ask for feedback Staff aren’t the only people who need performance reviews. Make your review process a two-way street, suggests Andre Lavoie, the CEO of talent management platform ClearCompany to learn what’s working and how to make the business more successful. "Asking for feedback shows employees that leaders are approachable and willing to listen to constructive criticism. It also shows they take what employees think seriously and are willing to make changes, which makes for a more open work environment."

Let failure fuel you. Everyone fails, but it’s how failure changes you that’s important, says Daniel Lubetzky, CEO and Founder of KIND. "Trying to forget or hide your mistakes is a huge error. Rather, hold them near and dear to your heart… I can trace every one of my accomplishments to earlier failures that I learned from," he says. Think long term. Don’t get so lost in day-to-day crises that you lose sight of the bigger picture, says Les McKeown, CEO of organizational platform Predictable Success. "In an age that lauds a get-rich-quick mentality, coming up with a great new app or business model and flipping it for millions (or billions) is a viable career option. However, for those interested in building something that lasts, mastery -- and the patience, focus and dedication required to attain it -- is the key to success." Find what’s missing. It’s not enough to merely fulfill a need or solve a problem you yourself is facing, says Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. He says that successful leaders step outside themselves to find opportunity. "Think of an idea that is rooted in a perspective that everyone else is missing because they don't see the potential today,” he says. Protect your options. Don’t give an undue power to someone – such as an investor -- without your company’s best interests at heart, says Sally Outlaw, the CEO of crowdfunding platform peerbackers. Don’t trade control of your company for an idea that might not materialize. "Some entrepreneurs have the mistaken impression that all it takes is a good idea and a venture capitalist will write them a check, with no groundwork having been laid," she says. Start slow. Dan Price is currently the CEO of credit card processing company Gravity Payments. But in high school, he was just a guy in a band, organizing the financial system for the coffeeshop where he played his gigs as a favor. This gave him the entrepreneurship bug and from there he ran a service-based business that gave him capital to grow he couldn’t have gotten otherwise.

Embrace competition. Jason Saltzman, CEO and Co-founder co-working hub AlleyNYC believes that competition is the lifeblood of entrepreneurship – and if someone hasn't already taken a stab at your idea, it may not be as worthy as you think. Good leaders know that competition is what will keep them on their toes. "You think that you are the only one to think of that brilliant idea? Think again. Anything that’s worth doing has a form of it around already. The more competition, the more opportunity. I'm not saying that you have not figured out a way to do it better," says Saltzman. Remember: Your strength is in your staff. While making clients happy is important, Matt Straz, the CEO of HR software platform Namely reminds us that investing in employees can truly help your company grow. This means ensuring you retain staffers and helping them develop into leaders that evolve with your business. "Customers might be the reason the lights stay on, but those customers wouldn’t exist without the hard work and dedication put forth by employees," he says.

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