Looking Forward to 2017- The Year of Opportunity and Challenge

Back in January 2016, I suggested that in the coming year business leaders would need to search for ways of being more competitive whilst delivering quality and value for money. I suggested that increasing productivity and developing team harmony would probably be key as leaders will need to be perceived as inspirational and motivational if they are to obtain the best from their workforce and team members.

What a year of immense change, the latter half of this year is beginning to be perceived on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean as potentially a year of immense change like no other in living memory. With change comes threats and opportunity. Here in the UK old traditional ideas have been discarded as we no longer want to be strongly influenced by Europe and want to return to standing on our own two feet. Similarly, in the US, Donald Trump has campaigned for putting ‘USA First’ and serving the interests of Americans.

For several years, the view by many has seen that trade is as important to economics as it is to peace and where trade barriers were reduced they often resulted in prosperity and growth. Trade can also be seen as a token of peace between trading nations.

The settled arrangements we have been accustomed to for over 25 years, or more, are being shaken; the resulting cocktail is not yet clear (or at least not clear to me).

Donald Trump has signalled that the US will withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. In the UK the majority have voted to ‘take back control’ of the UK. The next two years, or possibly a little longer, will be interesting as we all prepare for immense change. The divided UK (as some have described the present) will have to become united once more if we are to achieve the success we all seek.

Lord King, the ex-Governor of the Bank of England, has recently said that Brexit will bring ‘real opportunities’. He went on to explain that there are real opportunities for economic reform where new trade agreements could mean Brexit would be a success. He added that we should be confident about leaving the EU. Talking on Radio 4 he tempered his optimistic view by saying that the challenges will not be a bed of roses and equally we should not see the future as the end of the world. As Winston Churchill once said “I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else”.

Summing up his views, Lord King said, “Britain would be better off economically completely out of the EU single market and that there were “question marks” about staying in the customs union as that may constrain the government’s ability to sign trade deals with countries outside the European Union”.

Regardless of the political and economic pictures, business leaders will still need to be innovative and creative whilst remaining focused as they steer their businesses through muddy waters and across choppy seas.

Improving productivity, reducing wastage, (in materials, costs and, in particular, time) and with better employee engagement will allow a purposeful look at reducing costs and increasing competitiveness. Successful leaders look for and exploit the differentiation factor and never give up in the pursuit of those key goals which will take the business on the road to success.

There are but three days we should be aware of: yesterday, today and tomorrow. We should see yesterday as merely what happened and accept that it is history; perhaps recalling the journey from then to now and to help plan the way forward. Today is ‘now’ and what we do now will impact on tomorrow; that includes planning or rather the consequences of not planning properly. Something I learnt many years ago (seems like yesterday, just where did all those years go?) was that Proper Planning Prevents Pretty Poor Performance and of course you only get one chance to make a first impression.

There is a highly regarded view which I share that states that if leaders focused more on the people aspects of work rather than just the technical part they will quickly realise that employee engagement, collaboration and teamwork will significantly improve results. Today, perhaps more than ever, effective leadership is about the interface with people, if we communicate mindful of others our relationships with people will improve along with outcomes and results. In the sales environment it is often accepted that ‘people buy from people they like and trust’, it is also suggested that ‘people work best for the people they like and trust’.

As we all look ahead and visualise how things might be during 2017 we might like to consider how changing or modifying our leadership style might positively impact on team harmony, trust, commitment and indeed results.

2017, here we come, good luck!

Alan Fletcher

31 December 2016