For returning CEOs, January will be about keeping energy levels high, ensuring goals and objectives are communicated clearly and paying close attention to the balance and make-up of the senior leadership team. As the year progresses, momentum is going to be everything as there is an increasing sense that the time has come for businesses to go on the attack.
A common refrain from executives is the need to have the right people around them. Matthew Dearden, Regional President for Eastern Europe, UK & Ireland at outdoor advertising company Clear Channel, explains: “My [New Year’s] resolution is to remember that it’s not about [me], it’s about the team; ultimately, the goal is to make sure that everybody in my team is in a place where they don’t really need me.”
Marnie Millard, Group CEO of soft drinks business Nichols Plc, comments: “The main thing I’ve got to focus on now is the development of our leadership team, because I’ve inherited [it]… and I’ve got people at very different levels. If myself and the FD had to step out of the business for a period of time, not only would I want it to be able to continue to function, but [I’d want] the development of the organisation and the business strategy to continue too.”
Likewise, Mark Wood, SVP and Managing Director of EMEA for US-based cosmetics firm Revlon, stresses the importance of engagement: “Create the right environment, where people see that they can make a contribution to improving the business… [because] giving people more rewarding jobs and careers should be [fulfilling] for leaders.”
For Jim Waller, who became Commercial Director at Italian food manufacturer Sacla last September, it’s a case of building on what’s already been put in place: “I’ve done a lot of graft in my first three months, setting people’s objectives for the year ahead and driving some common and consistent behaviours and ways of working. This will hopefully get people operating much more as a cross-functional team… so that every single person has consistency in their targets for the year.”
Communicating objectives and goals in a transparent way is vital. Paul McNamara, Managing Director of Insurance and Investments at Barclays, comments: “Make sure that the strategy is not forgotten in the New Year… [and] remind yourself of the key messages: what do we want to achieve and what does success look like?”
Don Elgie, CEO of insight and communications agency Creston, agrees: “Be clear, either in your own mind or by constantly referring to your business plan, about what you want to achieve… there’s no point having goals that you won’t be able to succeed in, otherwise it’s just wishful thinking.”
According to Martin Balaam, CEO at IT services concern Jigsaw24, staff will already be fired up because of the greater optimism about the economy. “The key thing will be to direct that positive energy in the right areas and prioritise the things that are going to add the most value [to the business],” he says.
Fundamentally, if performance is to be maintained, it comes back to CEOs having a team of people around them who are going to be able to provide insights, take on responsibility and challenge where appropriate.
Mark comments: “If I’m going off kilter, then I would expect the team to pick me up and say: ‘Where is this on the objectives? How does this fit into the three-year plan? Where are we going with this?’
“You’ve got to have those continuous feedback loops in place so that the leader doesn’t get carried away and lose the team. Actually, I think that’s the acid test for leadership: it’s whether you can continue to take the team with you.”
It’s a point that certainly rings true for Paul Walsh, advisor and former CEO at global drinks business Diageo: “You need great people around you and they will only be attracted and retained if there is a collegiate environment… [That’s why] you have to be prepared to listen and learn. A leader who thinks they have all the answers will very quickly come unstuck.”
I hope to see you soon.