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Where did this year go? Is it just me, or did it go by super fast? I’ve been spending time the past couple of weeks with my journal thinking about next year — my goals, how I want to feel and who I need to become. I’m also giving a lot of thought to this year — what I accomplished, what I learned and what I want to let go of.

The two words that keep coming up are elegant success.

More white space.
Joie de vivre.

But, none of these are my word of the year.

The way I often discover my word is to ask this question:

Who do I need to become to create what I want to create?

Y’all, the first word that popped into my head is not Sexy. At. All.

Where was something more similar to my prior “words of the year?”

Words like enchanted, artist or Hermes?

I fought with this word for an hour.

But, I kept hearing loud and clear, “Tonya, this is who you need to become.”

Then, I thought about my love of Shark Tank.

I imagined myself embodying this word in my own unique, feminine and stylish way, and suddenly, it made perfect sense.

I envisioned how it would help me cultivate a feeling of elegant success that I’m craving.

Suddenly, it made perfect sense.

So, my dear friends …

My word of the year is CEO.

Now, I know that we often think of a CEO being an older, white man in a suit and tie running a Fortune 500 company, but there are many faces to strong feminine leaders. especially feminine ones.

Women such as Sheryl Sandberg, Oprah, Anna Wintour, Diane von Furstenberg come to mind.

For me, it doesn’t stop there. I think about Madame Clement who ran her home impeccably or my grandmother who knew her values was convicted by her beliefs and lived her life with grace and grit.

As I picture my dreams and goals for 2019, I want to step more fully into being a CEO — of my mind,my life and my business.

I must think in ways I’ve never thought.
I must focus in ways I’ve never focused.
I must be strategic as well as flexible.
I must lead in ways I’ve never led.
And, I must make decisions that I’ve never made.

So, as I was starting to relax around my WOY, I decided I would do some investigation on what qualities the most successful CEOs possess.

What I discovered will also benefit you if you want to become a better leader of your own life (and who doesn’t want that?)

Let’s explore the traits of amazing CEOs.

1. Passion

Passion is contagious. It keeps people engaged. It’s the fuel to create movements, inspire others and build momentum in our lives.

It’s what often can get the “yes.”
It’s what helps us do hard things.
It’s what gets up out of bed.
It’s what keeps us showing up even when things are hard.

And, passion is not something that falls from the heavens into your soul; it’s something you create by how you think.

A great leader often comes across as intense, maybe even a little obsessed mad to some, but it’s that inner fire that fuels her vision.

I’ve been practicing passion for a long time. This one is my default. I easily become obsessed with my ideas and vision.

Rating: 8

2. A Strong Vision

Whether we’re talking about your life or your company, you must have a vision for how you want it to look and feel. You must know where you’re heading.

Your vision guides your decisions and actions. It also tells you exactly how you need to think and feel. A CEO is clear on her vision and communicates it effectively.

It’s important to note that your vision is the “what.” A great leader doesn’t get caught up in the “how” to the point that it discourages and stops her. There are many “how’s” but you must know your “what.”

For me, I have a vision. I know where I’m heading, but I don’t know all the details. The analogy I often use is that I know my destination is Malibu, California but I can’t see it yet, but the closer I get, the more clear I become.

When it comes to my vision, I know that I could improve upon communicating it more effectively to others.

Rating: 7

3. Self-Discipline

I know that this is an “ugly” word for some. I used to feel the same.

All those years of beating myself up and dieting as a lifestyle made me rebel the idea of living a disciplined life. I wanted to be footloose and fancy-free. But, the reality is that those years were just as painful.

What I’ve come to realize is that self-discipline is a form of self-love. It’s delaying instant gratification for long-term gain. It’s loving yourself enough to show up for what you deemed as important.

I have seen the fruits of living a more disciplined life, and yet I know there’s still room for improvement, mostly around my health.

I eat so healthy and clean, but the area that I really want to focus on this year is exercise. I want to get FIT! And, this will only make me a better CEO, because the best leaders know that their self-care is a top priority.

Rating: 6

4. Time Management

Can y’all imagine if Oprah was spending hours perusing Facebook? We wouldn’t have Super Soul Sunday. Or, if Steve Jobs had been so busy playing Candy Crush that he didn’t have the time to create the iPhone?

So many women talk about how they are too busy or don’t have enough time, but the truth of it is: there’s always enough time.

And, if you really get honest with yourself, you’ll probably discover that you waste a lot of time (and energy) on things that don’t support your vision.

The best leaders plan well and use their time wisely to execute their plan.

It’s not about hustling and working hard (because we know a lot of people who work their butts off and are staying stagnant). It’s about focused work, smart work, inspired work, and effective work, all of which requires that you manage your time effectively.

As someone who used to be so unfocused and wasted time, I have been practicing being a better manager of my time, and I continue to blow away at what I’m able to create in such short amounts of time when I’m clear, focused and committed.

Rating: 7

5. Focus on Your Strengths

To be a better leader, we often think that we must improve our weaknesses, but the greatest leaders know that you’re much more effective when you focus on our strengths.

Dan Sullivan says, “If you spend too much time working on your weaknesses, all you end up with is a lot of strong weaknesses.”

Unfortunately, a lot of women have this idea that they must be it all and do it all. And, as someone who used to think the same, what I now know is that this holds you back from being the leader in your life.

I know I’m terrible at managing people and dealing with the details (unless we’re talking about a great accessory or fine china).

So, to grow, I must surround myself with people who are good at the things I’m terrible at.

Even in my home, I know that my strengths are throwing dinner parties, cooking meals and decorating. The domestic chores? Not so much. Fortunately, Glenn is great at those things, and when the day comes that he’s tired of doing it, I’ll hire a housekeeper.

To be a great leader, I must live in my zone of genius.

Still, I find myself trying to do things that I’m good at, but not great. For example, graphic design. It’s not where I should be spending my time.

Also, copy editing. I always miss a misspelled word no matter how many times I go through it, so recently we’ve brought a graphic designer and a copy editor on board to help with bigger projects.

Rating: 6

6. Raise Standards

Great leaders strive for excellence for themselves and those around them. For the people who possess a “growth” mindset, it’s a wonderful thing.

However, for those who are content to stay where they are, great leaders are frustrating. They wonder, “Why isn’t this enough?”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I know many of you seek contentment. And, I believe that you can be grateful for where you are AND strive for more.

I told a client one time that I always stay a little hungry for life — for what’s possible, for new experiences, for my own growth.

And, because of this, I’m constantly raising my own standards.

I want to see what’s possible in this lifetime. I want to be an example to my daughter and women of what’s possible. I want to be proud of myself.

This only happens when you’re willing to keep raising the bar.

And, I’ve come to understand that you don’t have to raise it because it’s not good enough now; you can choose to raise your standards because life is an exciting adventure.

I like what Jen Sincero says in her latest, You are a Badass book.

Why choose fine when fabulous is also on the menu?

To choose fabulously, you must raise your standards.

Rating: 6

7. Ask Quality Questions

The quality of your questions determines the quality of your life. If you don’t like the answers you’re receiving, you need to examine the questions you’re asking.

A great leader doesn’t waste her time on questions such as;

Why isn’t this working?
Why can’t I get it together?
Why don’t I have enough money?

Instead, she asks questions like:

How will we make this work?
How am I going to improve?
How will I create more money?

I’m getting better at catching myself when I’m asking poor quality questions. Just this morning, I caught myself asking, “Why is it so hard to keep this kitchen clean?” Not a good question. Immediately, I turned it around to “How great it is that I have a kitchen and people in my life who love to mess it up.”

Now, this is more of a statement, but in the moment, it helped me go from frustrated to joyful.

Rating: 7

8. Self-Confidence

Some of you are waiting for confidence to happen to you, but confidence is something you create with the thoughts you think. To be a great leader, you must believe in your abilities. This doesn’t mean that must know how to do everything, but she does believe in her ability to figure things out.

As Virginia Woolf said, “Without confidence, we’re mere babes in a cradle.”

When I think about the things I’m doing today, I had no idea how to do them when I first started out. I couldn’t’ even read a P&L statement. But, I surrounded myself with the right people and figured it out. That’s confidence.

To be a CEO, you must build your self-confidence day by day by thinking “confident” thoughts and taking “confident” action and learning along the way.

Rating: 9

9. Embody the Culture

Great leaders decide the culture of their worlds and embody it on a daily basis. She leads by example of what’s expected of those around her.

Your culture includes your values, your environment, your mission and how you want your world to feel.

For me, I know I want to be surrounded by people who focus on possibilities, not problems, who love to have fun, who celebrate instead of complaining, who challenge each other to be better humans and who love what they do, and who do live in their own unique style.

I practice each day embodying the culture of French Kiss Life and its culture. Yet, like with everything, I know I can improve (aka raise my own standards).

Rating: 8

10. Decide with Speed and Conviction.

Great leaders don’t sit around in confusion and indecisiveness. They know that good things happen when you’re taking action. Action requires decisions to be made.

In coaching women, I see how we stop the momentum in our lives because we’re afraid to decide. Being afraid to make the wrong decision creates no decision at all.

To be a great CEO, you must practice making decisions quickly and with conviction.

In researching traits of successful CEOs, I came across an article in the Harvard Business Review:

“We discovered that high-performing CEOs do not necessarily stand out for making great decisions all the time; rather, they stand out for being more decisive. They make decisions earlier, faster, and with greater conviction. They do so consistently–even amid ambiguity, with incomplete information, and in unfamiliar domains. High-performing CEOs understand that a wrong decision is often better than no decision at all.”

Think about what decision you need to make to move your life forward. What if there wasn’t a wrong decision? Just a decision that you’ll learn from and offer you more clarity?

I’ve started giving myself deadlines on decisions, and wow! It really keeps things moving.

However, because I’ve been not moving forward on a decision about artwork (even though I gave myself a deadline), I know there’s room for improvement on this one.


Rating: 5

So, in practicing my Word of the Year, I’ve decided it will be CEO.

No looking back.

No second guessing.

I’ve decided and moving on.

However, I must admit that this decision excites me.

I am excited to be a better CEO of my mind, my home, and my company.

I’m excited to create Elegant Success, as a result.

I know that this word will challenge me (as your word of the year should).

I know that it will expand and grow me.

It will make me a better human and leader.

It will help me reach my goals for 2019.

And, y’all better believe that I’m going to make the word as sexy and fun as I possibly can.

(Imagine to-die-for suits and Champagne at all meetings … after 5PM, of course!).

And, I’m sure you will see me fail, get back up and do it again because that’s what being a CEO looks like.

But, you know what? I’m going to have fun doing it.

So, thank you for letting me share my word of the year.

And, thank you for being such a wonderful part of my 2018.

Seriously … you’re the best.

Now, I must know yours.

What word are you choosing for 2019?

Let me know in the comments.

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