2011 has been a tumultuous year. The world has been rocked by events both natural and man-made. Japan suffered a tsunami while the Middle East was home to numerous popular uprisings collectively dubbed the Arab Spring. Meanwhile the world’s economies, even the strong ones like Germany, found themselves in the midst of yet another storm. You could be forgiven for feeling trepidation as you stand on the brink of 2012. But here at the Inspired Leaders Network (ILN), we think you should think differently and look ahead with confidence.
During the year ILN has played host to a variety of leaders from business and beyond. One of the common threads in many of their messages was that difficult times bring opportunities to those who are resourceful, positive and prepared for hard work. There’s a major shake-out taking place and usually this results in the fittest and the most agile companies coming out of it all stronger than ever before. It would be easy to dismiss such optimism if we hadn’t been shown so much evidence by our speakers and hosts of businesses successfully swimming against the tide. They demonstrated clearly that businesses with the right corporate cultures can still go forward and get increasingly better results, despite harder times.
Here’s ten great tips for success taken from the year’s ILN event speakers and Learning Journey hosts:
ILN Event speakers:
“A measure of success is a work force that really wants to be at work and is performing to the best of their ability.”
Alison Saunders, Chief Crown Prosecutor of London
“I’ve never seen a company that focuses only on the bottom line, and not its people, do really well.”
Steve Auckland, former MD of Metro Newspapers
“It doesn’t matter what you think of Social Media, it’s there and we have to use it.”
Errol Damelin, CEO Wonga
“Focus on the customer, make them your fan and they’ll bring more customers to you.”
Craig Donaldson, CEO Metro Bank
“People define a business. Start with your people and they will look after everything else. Don’t ever start with numbers.”
John Pearson, former CEO Virgin Radio.
Learning Journey hosts:
“Work hard on driving customer satisfaction. Train current staff to refocus on the customer and only select new hires who fit this attitude.”
“Apple is honest but it is also always unshakeable in its own convictions.”
“Look after your people because happier employees can hit even higher targets.”
“A Powerful brand like Chelsea FC can be used to promote positive change wherever it is respected.”
Chelsea Football Club
“Put the right people in the right jobs, don’t try to bend the wrong people into the wrong jobs.”
The Royal Marines
In tough times people naturally look for strong leadership to guide them through. We need people of principle and conviction to inspire us – whereas during the good times we felt more comfortable without them. As I wrote in a recent blog post:
“We’re living in an age of uncertainty that is crying out for strong, confident and decisive leadership.”
Unfortunately, it appears there are still some areas where this leadership is lacking. However, even with strong people in key positions we cannot abandon our own responsibility to do our bit to help us get the economy back on track.
How’s your corporate culture? Is it conducive to doing better business? Are you looking after your employees and customers properly? You can be sure someone will and, in such a tough and competitive environment, that may be all the edge they need. What about your leadership capability? Are you and your key people properly equipped to make the right decisions and take the winning opportunities? This is not the time to take an entrenched position and make rash restructures that may mean you can no longer compete efficiently. We all need to keep a close eye on the numbers in tough times, as we should even in the good times but not at the cost of ability and attitude. Don’t scrimp on development, your people need to be well equipped to fight this battle. Be very careful you don’t risk downgrading your customer’s experience this is no time to be shedding customers to rivals.
Choosing the right team is vitally important. When the going gets extra tough, the quality of those people and their ability to interact is going to be crucial to your survival. Again, our interactions via the ILN events and Learning Journeys have provided both validation and practical examples of how to put the right team in place. The slogan, “hire for attitude and train for skill” was repeated time and time again by our speakers and hosts. Although the reality of needing the right skills in certain instances, such as doctors and airline pilots, was not lost on any of them but they still went for the right attitude but with skills paramount! However, the main thrust of the argument remains true: If you have the wrong people with the wrong attitude then no amount of training is going to get them to do things the way you want them done.
People are at the heart of your corporate culture, they are the ones who have to live and breathe it and make it happen on the ground. Culture is ‘the way we get things done around here’ and you need to get that ‘way of getting things done’ absolutely right to have any hope of your strategies delivering the desired results. Taking care of your people was consistently at the top of all of our speakers’ and hosts’ checklists. Nothing gets done with the wrong people. But don’t be too quick to show existing people the door, even in a failing business. We were given many great examples of where the current employees were able to adapt successfully to cultural changes and help transform even the most broken of organisations. It needed the right and inspired leadership. They need something to believe in and that’s why vision is so important.
2012 is ahead of us. We can’t be certain of what it might bring to our doors but we can be sure of our own response to whatever does come. We need to stay focussed, dedicated, positive and motivated – this is no time for failure of nerve.
All of us here at Inspired Leaders Network hope that you have had a great 2011 and are looking forward to an inspiring and successful 2012.