As business leaders, especially C-Suite executives, head into the final straight before the much-needed year-end break, some will be thinking about really personal issues: their bonuses and incentives that they might be hoping for but might not get. Others will just be wanting to switch off and get away to enjoy some much-needed downtime after another tough year in corporate frontline.
It’s all perfectly understandable. I’ll be doing much the same, but what I really intend to do is to use my downtime to reflect, after a year of chasing deadlines, pitching to clients and generally hustling. Everyone I know has had an incredibly tough year, on top of an even tougher time the year before. Covid-19 has disrupted life as we know it, the old normal has been consigned to the dustbin of history and we are only now starting to make our first tentative steps into a world where the pandemic is now endemic, something we have to live with as we start to discover what the new normal actually is.
But to properly begin to make sense of that, we would do well to remember former US president Theodore Roosevelt’s famous quote: “The more you understand the past, the better prepared you are for the future.” Reflection is vital. There’s a reason why it’s become the buzzword of business schools and executive coaches: it’s because when you take the time to think back on your life, you get off the insane treadmill and you get a bit of perspective that you might have lost when your nose was hard up against the grindstone.
I know that when I start my journey of reflection, the first thing I’ll do is list what I’ve learnt this year. My key lesson has been a story of two Ps; Patience and Personnel. I’ve had to be patient this year; with my team, with clients. My suppliers have learnt to be patient with me too. As I have practiced patience, I’ve learnt to become more resilient and also more hopeful. As for personnel, it’s an obvious one: I couldn’t have got to the end of the year without the people in my team.
Human capital is our biggest resource, and I’m not saying that because this is what our business does, but rather because without the people in my team, we wouldn’t have made it. You can have all the technology and the know-how, but at the end of the day, it's the people who have to implement your strategies and make the plans happen. I've learned too that the right people don’t just have the aptitude, they have the attitude too, showing up every day, pulling the wagon through the ford in the river, being there for the long haul.
We forget the difficult times when we get through them successfully. It’s human nature. This year I intend to focus on them to make sure I remember those tough times and just how we got out of them. When I do that, I’ll be remembering the members of staff who put their hands up and - at times – put me on their shoulders to carry me through.
If there was ever a time in my career when I was going to throw the towel in, then 2020 and 2021 would have been the time. But, as I think back, it was also the time when I grew the most as a person and a leader. It’s been a time of incredible creativity; it has also been a time of incredible achievement. In our line of work, we change people’s fortunes and help companies grow; finding the right person for the right job and knowing it’s going to be a great match is an indescribable feeling – and there have been plenty of those moments.
It’s important to reflect on that, the good and the bad. We need to reflect on what we have lived through and let those lessons permeate into our planning for the new year to ensure that we make the most of the opportunity. But there’s more than that. It’s one thing to reflect and acknowledge, in your head; it’s vital to show the people that in practice too by making a difference in their lives – even if it is just a simple acknowledgement to them personally of what their loyalty and commitment has meant for you.
Finally, as we straddle the past and the future, learning from one to plan for the future, it’s very important that we live in the present and don’t lose sight of that. This has been a tough year and we have all had to grind. Take the time; switch off and recharge. You owe it to your families; you owe it to yourself to take this opportunity to come back ready for whatever 2022 holds.
To all of you, I wish you a peaceful and blessed Christmas and a very prosperous and Happy New Year.