Atif Sheikh of Business 3.0 offers seven new year's resolutions for all chief executives

 
Atif Sheikh
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The key to success is adaptation. Leaders can’t keep pretending they have all the answers and they need to learn from the front. (Source: Getty)

Last year was tough on chief executives, who were forced to dodge arrows from every direction.

Among the hubbub of unexpected events, it was easy to lose track of the fundamental principles of just running your business. But in the spirit of 2017, here are seven New Year’s Resolutions that UK chief executives should adopt if their organisations are to come out ahead.

Change leadership process, not just leadership style

Chief executives must put more focus on their leadership process. It’s incredible how many senior leaders allow poor basics to get in the way of good performance, such as badly managed and wildly inefficient meetings or poor goal-setting that leave staff unclear or demotivated. When the basics are right, people will spend more time thinking and less time navigating dysfunction.

Take time to tackle the big questions

Leaders are frantically busy, horribly so. This means they’re not doing the things that only they can do, such as debating, looking at the bigger picture and creating the conditions for success. While it’s hard to carve out time for a leadership team to tackle the big questions properly, there will be no prizes for failing to do so.

Make the tough people decisions now, not later

Not everyone will be able to navigate the multiple disruptions faced by big business. Employees with the openness to accept a challenge and the execution muscle to be able to put new ways of operating quickly into action are vital for a business, especially at a senior level. Others may get there, or they may not, but businesses don’t have time to wait and see. The time to put the right team in place is now.

Talk with, not at

Leaders in 2017 will face extremely tricky challenges and will need two things – total commitment to the cause and smart ideas. Leaders must give people space to question, debate, and disagree to get the full weight of their employees’ intellectual energy.

Optics aren’t everything

The world has become fully transparent and the era of managing optics is dead. Of course leaders can’t hold a lavish leadership conference at the same time as telling everyone else to stay in the Travelodge, but continuing to keep a fleet of leadership limos won’t cut the mustard either. People will be energised by the sacrifices leaders make. So take the tube. Or cycle.

Role-model the need to learn, not just do

In a world of change, with the continued growth of the internet of things and artificial intelligence, nobody, not even a chief executive, has all the answers.

The key to success is adaptation. Leaders can’t keep pretending they have all the answers and they need to learn from the front.

Check my half before I prod others about theirs

Finally, and most importantly, things will go wrong and people will fail. When this happens the chief executive shouldn't jump to forensically analysing their shortcomings or firing these people (that might come later). A chief executive is ultimately accountable for everything. The first thing they must do is ask whether they did everything in their power to set their people up for success.

While 2016 felt pretty turbulent, 2017 is only likely to bring more uncertainty to the world of big business. These seven New Year’s Resolutions will help businesses weather the storm.

Atif Sheikh is chief executive at business 3.0.

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