Purpose and Trust; Why we need to listen. Why we need to act.

Today’s business environment is being profoundly disrupted. Volatile markets, rapid technological advances and unexpected sources of competition are ingredients in a boiling, roiling stew of threats and opportunities, and leaders the world over are struggling to navigate this shifting landscape. Transformation is not enough. Transcendence is the new game.

You can question does purpose and trust matter?

To answer that question in brief; it only matters if it is implemented in conjunction with clear, concise direction from top management and in such a way that the middle layer within the company is fully engaged within. Even after the company is fully aligned behind a compelling purpose, leaders must continue to reinforce it from the top. You can’t just adopt it. It has to be driven, operationally and in-depth, by the CEO and the top leadership team.

A discussion and running theme that seems to be on every leadership and executive director’s mind, is ‘what is required to be an effective leader in today’s totally disruptive business world’?

Businesses of all sizes in all regions of the world are responding to a vision and set of common values across purpose and trust. Companies have reported purpose and regaining trust as a new guiding star for a world in constant change, in an interconnected operating environment that businesses face.

To distil purpose more equally throughout the companies, many firms are considering hiring chief purpose officers. Shannon Schuyler, newly hired first chief purpose officer at PwC, defines the role as, “how you connect purpose to an individual so they know what they need to do in their roles and how do you help them see personally how they connect with values and behaviours.”

The timing could not be more urgent. The world is facing a complicated web of multidimensional interconnected systemic challenges continue to rise.

When you ask employees, what matters most to them, feeling respected by superiors often tops the list. “In a recent survey by Georgetown University’s Christine Porath of nearly 20,000 employees worldwide, respondents ranked respect as the most important leadership behaviour. Yet employees report more disrespectful and uncivil behaviour each year.

The challenge is finding the right balance between the two types of respects. Owed respect without earned respect can deflate employees, who will sense that their efforts won’t be recognized or rewarded, while a focus on teamwork may, however, warrant more owed respect as a bonding tool.

A survey carried out by DataPad for International Business and Executive Management as part of some research for one of my published books, Purposeful Discussions, shows that few of us trust our leaders.

Of those who responded to the question; “Do you trust and respect your CEO”, 30% responded, “not at all” and another 39% responded, “a little”.

The survey asked employees the same question on ‘trust and respect’ in relation to their Executive Leadership, Heads of Department and their immediate line managers. The closer the manager’s role was to the respondent, the more likely it was for the employee to answer positively.

Immediate managers were trusted “a lot” by 48% of those who responded and “a little” by 36%. 16% of immediate managers are not trusted at all.

We all live and work in an era of increasing connectivity and public scrutiny: a world where societies are being reshaped and businesses disrupted by powerful global trends.

The changes driven by these trends – both alone and acting together – bring major implications for trust.

PwC in their 23rd global CEO survey showed that CEOs are putting significant emphasis on their broader purpose and culture, as issues such as sustainability, diversity and wellbeing have become business-critical.

With skills a priority, it is essential CEOs promote a company culture that complements their recruitment and retention plans by helping them attract, retain and nurture the people they have and the talent they need.

UK CEOs show a commitment to issues such as diversity and inclusion and recognising the importance of wellbeing in the workplace. Addressing such issues not only demonstrates a commitment to workplace equality, but also reflects a growing recognition that greater diversity can improve decision-making.

However, it is surprising given the attention this matter has been getting that a significant proportion of businesses are yet to really focus on this issue.

To succeed in this fast-changing environment, businesses need to have a clear purpose that enables people to understand why a business does what it does. This purpose needs to look beyond the generation of financial returns to encapsulate how the business serves society.

Articulating – and embracing – such a purpose has never been more important. Why? Because today, in the wake of events that shook people’s trust in organisations of all types, attitudes and expectations of business are undergoing fundamental shifts. Having a shared recognition and understanding of why a business exists is key to bridging the trust deficit and shaping a new relationship between business and wider society.

When trust disappears, many things can change. Businesses can go on the defensive, and stop communicating, collaborating and innovating. And that’s just the start. Customer loyalty may diminish; it may get harder to attract, retain and motivate talented staff; regulation may increase, adding cost and effort for everyone; and businesses may lose their license to be listened to.

Together, all these factors can dampen growth, creating quantifiable impacts on share price, cost of capital and liquidity. The effects on morale innovation and behaviour are harder to measure but potentially even more damaging in the long-term.

Jason Lanier is one of the most celebrated pioneers of digital innovation in the world, and also one of the earliest and most prescient critics of its current trajectory. Jason is author of 2018’s ‘Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now’, which is as clear and definitive an account of the damage companies like Twitter and Facebook and Google do to society and to our individual psyches as you’ll ever read.

The book felt relevant again right now, I said, in a way that made my bones actually vibrate. Lanier had been early to the idea that these platforms were addictive and even harmful—that their algorithms made people feel bad, divided them against one another, and actually changed who they were, in an insidious and threatening manner. That because of this, social media was in some ways “worse than cigarettes,” as Lanier put it at one point, “in that cigarettes don’t degrade you. They kill you, but you’re still you.”

His most dispiriting observations are those about what social media does to politics – biased, “not towards the left or right, but downwards”. If triggering emotions is the highest prize, and negative emotions are easier to trigger, how could social media not make you sad?

If your consumption of content is tailored by near limitless observations harvested about people like you, how could your universe not collapse into the partial depiction of reality that people like you also enjoy? How could empathy and respect for difference thrive in this environment? Where’s the incentive to stamp out fake accounts, fake news, paid troll armies, dyspeptic bots?

Right now, Lanier said, most of the systems on the internet are set up to exploit us, to harvest our creative ideas and our data without compensation. That the prevailing attitude in Silicon Valley is basically: “There’s no reason for you to know what your data means, how it might be used, you can’t contribute, we don’t know who you are, we don’t want to know you, you’re worthless, you’re not going to get paid, it’s only valuable once we aggregate it but you know nothing, you will know nothing, you’re in the dark, you’re useless, you’re hopeless, you’re nothing.

Leaders today are constantly in the spotlight and are often called upon to earn authority without control. Economic and social change demands leadership by consent rather than by control. What we perceive as good leadership tends to be created by leaders, followers, and the context and purpose of the organisation, thus it is a collective rather than individual responsibility.

Trust is a key ingredient of successful leadership. Trusted leaders are the guardians of the values of the organisation. Trust can release the energy of people and enlarge the human and intellectual capital of employees. In a trusting environment when we are committed to our shared purpose we play active roles both as leaders and as followers.

We talk a lot about trust these days because it tends to be a precious and scarce resource.

You could question the word empathetic leadership. Leaders with empathetic leadership listen attentively to what you’re telling them, putting their complete focus on the person in front of them and not getting easily distracted. They spend more time listening than talking because they want to understand the difficulties others face, all of which helps to give those around them the feeling of being heard and recognized.

Empathetic executives and managers realize that the bottom line of any business is only reached through and with people. Therefore, they have an attitude of openness towards and understanding of the feelings and emotions of their team members.

When we listen to the emerging needs of the workplace we step into the most relevant and useful roles and make relevant and valuable contributions both when leading and when following. Members of organisations who are sensitive to people’s reactions trust themselves and each other. They build and nurture trusting relationships and allow the future to emerge organically.

No heroic leader can resolve the complex challenges we face today. To address the important issues of our time we need a fundamental change of perspective. We need to start questioning many of our taken for granted assumptions about our business and social environments.

Leaders serve as role models for their followers and demonstrate the behavioural boundaries set within an organisation. The appropriate and desired behaviour is enhanced through culture and socialisation process of the newcomers. Employees learn about values from watching leaders in action. The more the leader “walks the talk”, by translating internalized values into action, the higher level of trust and respect he generates from followers.

Final thought, to help bridge the trust gap we recognise that organisations need to work with each other and with wider society to identify practicable, actionable steps that businesses can take to shape a new relationship with wider society: a new ‘settlement’ based on mutual understanding and a shared recognition of the positive role that business plays in people’s lives.

To create such a settlement, businesses need to see themselves as part of a diverse, interconnected and interdependent ecosystem – one that involves government, regulators, individual citizens and more. Trust within and across this ecosystem is key to its long-term sustainability and survival. That’s why trust needs to be restored to the heart of the business world.

As Stephen M.R. Covey once said:

“Contrary to what most people believe, trust is not some soft, illusive quality that you either have or you don’t; rather, trust is a pragmatic, tangible, actionable asset that you can create.”

Why a Resilient Organisation is… Team Leadership

There are just a few elemental forces that hold our world together. The one that’s the glue of society is called trust. Its presence cements relationships by allowing people to live and work together, feel safe and belong to a group.

Trust in a leader allows organisations and communities to flourish, while the absence of trust can cause fragmentation, conflict and even war. That’s why we need to trust our leaders, our family members, our friends and our co-workers, albeit in different ways.

In 2020, resilient leadership has been tested in the extreme, and the challenges continue. As I write this, many countries around the globe are contending with the resurgence of COVID-19 and the prospect of continued, new, and extended lockdowns—against a backdrop of social, political, and economic upheaval that makes the terrain even harder to navigate.

Challenges for leaders won’t end with a COVID-19 vaccine. Underlying societal issues that have long been simmering below the surface are raising questions and imperatives that will last long after the pandemic ends. The implicit social contract between institutions and stakeholders is rightfully being questioned.

We are in an unprecedented era of the need for leadership to step up. Rapid, disruptive change is today’s normal. To cope, leaders need to be agile and resilient. For years, the focus has been on speed and agility. But globalisation, technology and social-political changes are disruptive. They require resilient leaders, emotionally intelligent people able to absorb complex change and help others move forward to achieve success.

Resilient organisations have sound leadership at all levels and strong cultures founded on trust, accountability, and agility. They have a foundation of meaningful core values that all members of the team believe deeply in and a sense of team unity beyond what you find in many organizations. They also have a tendency to show consistent and better-than-average profitability year after year.

Resilient leaders are well-prepared for change. Regardless of the type or magnitude of the transformation an organisation is facing, one of the ultimate goals is to prepare the company for long-term strength and agility – a core function of leadership and management in the 21st century. The goal is not to simply navigate today’s needed changes but also to create a resilient organization poised for more change. A team that is ready for the next battle – whenever that may be.

In a previous life, I spent time with Navy Seal’s team 3 and 6, their mantra is clear ‘I serve with honour on and off the battlefield. The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from other men. Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honour are steadfast. My word is my bond.

I am not saying all business leaders need to be trained by special forces, but the learnings for survival have transferable learnings in business. Below I have listed the ultimate Navy SEAL guide to exceptional success and achievement – combining the key advice from some of the most storied and prolific members of this elite force. Learn their lessons, follow their lead – and you’ll find you’re more likely to succeed.

1. Develop mental toughness.
Roughly 75 percent of people who make it into the initial six-month SEAL training course, known as Basic Underwater Demolitions/Seal Training (BUDS), wind up washing out. In his book, Navy Seal Training Guide: Mental Toughness, author Lars Draeger says there four pillars of mental toughness: goal-setting, mental visualization, positive self-talk, and arousal control. We’ll tackle them in turn.

2. Set (and achieve) micro-goals.
SEALs, according to Draeger, learn to focus on one thing at a time, avoiding all distractions. They do that by determining the overall objective, breaking it down into smaller pieces, and repeating as needed until they get to minute-by-minute pieces. That’s the kind of planning that allowed Navy SEALs to capture and kill Bin Laden and also the same kind of strategy that can help you achieve your goals.

3. Visualize success (and overcoming failure).
During SEALs training, there’s an exercise in which students are required to accomplish a series of difficult tasks…
underwater…
while wearing SCUBA gear…
while instructors attack them and try to destroy their equipment and keep them from breathing.

Become flustered, and you fail. So, the successful ones learn not to visualize ahead of time how they’ll handle each calamity. As the folks at Examined Existence wrote:

Navy psychologists discovered that those who did well and passed the exercise the first time used mental imagery to prepare them for the exercise. They imagine themselves going through the various corrective actions and they imagine doing it while being attacked. Once the exercise (and the attack) happens, the mind is ready and the [SEAL] is in full control of their physical and mental faculties.

4. Convince yourself you can do it.
As entrepreneurs, how many times do we hear that you should fake it until you make it? That’s part of how you get through SEALs training, apparently. The folks from Examined Existence summed it thusly:
Those who graduate from BUDS block all negative self-talk … and … constantly motivate themselves to keep going. … They remind themselves that should be able to pass no problem because they are more physically fit than their predecessors. They remind themselves to go on and not quit, no matter what.

5. Control your arousal.
Arousal. Heh-heh. We’re talking here about all kinds of sensual distractions – thinking about the lost love back home, or the things they could be doing besides training, or even the warm bed they had to leave in order to go through the day’s training.

Once more, Examined Existence:
When our bodies feel overwhelmed or in danger, [we] release … cortisol and endorphins. These chemicals … cause our palms to sweat, our minds to race, our hearts to pound, and our bodily functions to malfunction. This is the body’s natural response to stress, developed over millions of years of human evolution. But SEALS learn to control this natural response to arousal so that they are poised even under the most stressful of circumstances.

6. Be aware.
The next two are pretty basic, but I guess if you’re a Navy SEAL, it’s why they work. If you want to be in a position to overcome danger, be aware of your surroundings.

So, few other people pay attention to their surroundings anymore. In fact, I should take a photo of the slow-moving people I see on the subway each morning, immediately and obliviously checking their devices as they get off the train.

“Get your head out of your phone. … Just look up,” former Navy SEAL Dom Raso told TheBlaze . “It’s just a very, very simple thing to do and no one does it anymore, and it’s really scary.”

7. Avoid bad stuff.
This one also is obvious – so much so that former Navy SEAL Raso seems pretty upset about that others don’t do it. And it goes against the uninitiated, who might believe that a Navy SEAL’s first reaction is always to fight.

“Avoid, avoid, avoid,” he said. “I want to avoid any [bad] situation before it happens.”

8. Practice humility.
Given that last bit of advice, the next one makes sense. Success as a Navy SEAL leader means recognizing that you’re not the solution to every problem. Fail to recognize that, and you’re likely to flat-out fail.

“What it has to do with is the fact that the person is not humble enough to accept responsibility when things go wrong, accept that there might be better ways to do things, and they just have a closed mind,” says Jocko Willink, coauthor of Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. “They can’t change, and that’s what makes a person fail as a leader.”

As his co-author, Leif Babin added: “No leader has it all figured out. You can’t rely on yourself. You’ve got to rely on other people, so you’ve got to ask for help, you’ve got to empower the team, and you’ve got to accept constructive criticism.”

9. Find your three mentors.
Tim Ferriss, author of ‘The Four-Hour Work Week’ among other giant mega-bestsellers, interviewed General Stanley McChrystal, along with McChrystal’s aide, former Navy SEAL officer Chris Fussell, who offered him some key advice:

You should always have three people that you’re paying attention to within your organization:
– Someone senior who you would like to emulate
– A peer who you think is better at the job than you are
– A subordinate who is doing your previous job better than you did

“If you just have those three individuals that you’re constantly measuring yourself off of and who you’re constantly learning from,” Fussell said, “you’re gonna be exponentially better than you are.”

10. Do small things right.
The last items on this list come from a speech that Admiral William McRaven, a Navy SEAL commander who was in charge of the raid that killed Bin Laden, gave in Texas last year.
His first commandment – a fairly famous one, in fact – is that you should make your bed in the morning.

Why? Because if you do that, “it will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”

11. Be smart about assessing others.
Next up: Don’t adopt others’ knee-jerk assessments. McRaven talked about being in SEAL training and reflecting on a crew of physically small classmates, none of whom was more than five-feet-five.
“The big men in the other boat crews would always make good-natured fun of the tiny little flippers the munchkins put on their tiny little feet prior to every swim,” he said. “But somehow these little guys, from every corner of the Nation and the world, always had the last laugh – swimming faster than everyone and reaching the shore long before the rest of us. SEAL training was a great equalizer.”

12. Suck it up.
This is probably the part of military training that people who’ve never gone through military training think of–the part they’ve seen in the movies where sadistic drill instructors put you through hell. McRaven talks about a punishment during SEAL training known as a “sugar cookie.”

The student had to run, fully clothed into the surf zone and then, wet from head to toe, roll around on the beach until every part of your body was covered with sand. … You stayed in that uniform the rest of the day – cold, wet and sandy.

The point of that training? To learn that when you’re uncomfortable and discouraged, sometimes you just have to suck it up and get through it.

13. Sometimes, go head first.
Another McRaven story. The record for going through the SEAL obstacle course in the fastest time had stood for years. One of the trickiest parts was to maneuver yourself safely but quickly into a rope obstacle known as the slide for life.

The record seemed unbeatable, until one day, a student decided to go down the slide for life–head first. Instead of swinging his body underneath the rope and inching his way down, he bravely mounted the TOP of the rope and thrust himself forward.

It was a dangerous move–seemingly foolish, and fraught with risk. Failure could mean injury and being dropped from the training. Without hesitation–the student slid down the rope–perilously fast, instead of several minutes, it only took him half that time and by the end of the course, he had broken the record.

The point? It’s the same in business and in any facet of life. Sometimes if you want to excel, you simply have to accept the risks and dive in anyway.

14. Take on the sharks.
Long before the television show, Navy SEALs learned to be afraid of sharks. There’s a part of their training when they have to swim in the waters off of San Clemente, California, which they are told is a breeding ground for sharks.

But you are also taught that if a shark begins to circle your position–stand your ground. Do not swim away. Do not act afraid. And if the shark, hungry for a midnight snack, darts towards you–then summons up all your strength and punch him in the snout and he will turn and swim away.

This is the story of life. Bandits and bullies are all around. Usually, the only way to beat them is to take them head-on.

15. Identify the moment that matters.
One of the keys to success is consistency – but of course, we all know that there are some moments that simply matter more than others. One of the toughest during SEAL training involves training to attack an enemy ship – by swimming two miles alone underwater and, in the dark, approaching it from below.

“The steel structure of the ship blocks the moonlight – it blocks the surrounding street lamps – it blocks all ambient light,” McRaven explained. “To be successful in your mission, you have to swim under the ship and find the keel – the centre line and the deepest part of the ship.”

The “darkest part of the mission” is the hardest – and the most important. We all have them in our lives.

16. Be happy.
Truth to tell, SEAL training sounds flat-out sadistic at some points. During his training, McRaven talked about his entire team being forced to stand in freezing water up to their necks, while their instructors told them they wouldn’t let them out until five trainees gave up – and quit the entire course.

Their reply? They started to sing.

“The chattering teeth and shivering moans of the trainees were so loud it was hard to hear anything and then, one voice began to echo through the night – one voice raised in song,” he said. “The song was terribly out of tune, but sung with great enthusiasm. One voice became two and two became three and before long everyone in the class was singing. We knew that if one man could rise above the misery, then others could as well.”

Standing in the surf and mud and freezing cold still sucked, but it sucked a little less McRaven said, and that’s how they made it through – because they gave each other hope.

17. Persevere – don’t ring the bell.
One way that SEAL training is a lot like the rest of the world is that there is an easy way to quit. You can simply give up, ring a brass bell in the middle of the compound in front of all of your peers, and walk away.

All you have to do to quit – is ring the bell. Ring the bell and you no longer have to wake up at 5 o’clock. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the freezing cold swims. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the runs, the obstacle course, the PT – and you no longer have to endure the hardships of training. Just ring the bell.

The vast majority of trainees ring the bell. The very few who don’t become U.S. Navy SEALs. They face even greater challenges, and someday people write about their example.

“If you want to change the world,” McRaven says, “don’t ever, ever ring the bell.”

This YouTube video translates the focus, How Navy SEAL Hell Week builds indestructible teams – Brent Gleeson


Elite Navy Seal teams demand very high levels of performance, but in assembling their teams, team members value trust even more highly than pure performance. A trustworthy person will be selected to join a Seal team, even if that means giving up a little bit of performance. On the other hand, individuals who are extraordinarily high performers but not trustworthy, diminish the team’s chances for success. Untrustworthy individual high performers are toxic to team performance, and not selected.

Therefore, re-establishing trust is even more critical now. Far from being a static, unchanging force, trust is dynamic and flows in multiple directions. The characteristics of being trusting and being trustworthy require us to make choices to invest in relationships that result in mutual value. Trust is a tangible exchange of value; it is actionable and human across many dimensions.

Let’s examine how we can invest in, rebuild, and renew trust.

Trust is personal: A call for leaders
In the words of British writer George Eliot, “Those who trust us, educate us.” Truly building trust with our stakeholders—understanding their concerns and their priorities—involves a willingness to listen, to learn, and to hear. Building trust requires leaders to make conscious daily choices, and especially to act on those choices.

Through mutual trust. When we as leaders trust our stakeholders, we enter an exchange that engenders opportunity: We prove our trustworthiness, and stakeholders empower our strategic choices and innovations. In essence, mutual trust creates a followership that allows us to break new ground, to traverse the seismic changes taking place and emerge, thriving, on the other side of crisis.

With vulnerability and honesty. Business leaders who are willing to acknowledge what they don’t know are more likely to create trust with their stakeholders than those leaders who mistakenly believe their greatest source of influence is knowledge—or at least acting as though they know. A similar paradox exists for organizations responding to a one-time breach of trust. Stakeholders are likely to regain—and even strengthen—trust in the organization when leaders admit the mistake, are apologetic, and are transparent in how they move forward.

Authentically, and where it matters most to your stakeholders. Intent connects the leader to their humanity and the importance of acting with transparency. But at the end of the day, intent is just a promise; leaders must be able to act on that promise, and do so competently, reliably, and capably. And they must be able to do so in the areas—whether physical, emotional, digital, or financial—that matter most to their stakeholders at that given time.

By connecting as humans. Leaders who aspire to be trusted by their stakeholders take responsible actions that consider and, where possible, acknowledge the needs of each of those stakeholders. This requires an understanding of what is important to different stakeholders, and an ability to walk alongside them rather than an attempt to “walk in their shoes.”

At an institutional level, value-creation discoveries, mindset shifts, collective agility bring together resilient organisations and their ecosystems into an interconnected web of resiliency and strength.

At an individual level, five of the most common traits in resilient leaders are adaptability, preparedness, collaboration, responsibility, and ethics to meet today’s challenges; preparedness connects tomorrow’s resources to potential future scenarios; collaboration connects the whole system; and both responsibility and ethics connect individuals, organizations, institutions, and society.

Final thought, trust-based leadership should also be understood through the lens of its influence over other leadership theories. Being trusted is a core part of other leadership styles and a strong trust foundation is required for styles such as transformational and charismatic leadership.

While the strong trust outlook is required for these leadership theories, trust leadership places the biggest emphasis on implementing trust values to every aspect of leadership.

Can a company be successful and competitive on the market and at the same time trusted?

Eric Greitens, a former Navy Seal and Naval Officer once said on resilience:

“We all have battles to fight. And it’s often in those battles that we are most alive: it’s on the frontlines of our lives that we earn wisdom, create joy, forge friendships, discover happiness, find love, and do purposeful work.”

Predictions for the start of 2021

The phrases used to describe the events of 2020 have now become a little cliché – but there’s no doubt it has been a very challenging year for every individual and every business on a global scale. From a deadly pandemic to a global movement for racial justice, the year 2020 has certainly experienced its fair share of world-shifting events.

Let’s take a look at some of the major events that took place in 2020

Australian bushfires; The country faced one of its most devastating wildfire seasons as the blazes continued from December 2019 into the new year and burned a record 47 million acres, displaced thousands of people and killed at least 34 people.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle quit royal life; The Duke and Duchess of Sussex shocked both sides of the pond on Jan. 8 when they announced they were stepping down as “senior” royals.

COVID-19 pandemic; The World Health Organization announced Jan. 9 that a deadly coronavirus had emerged in Wuhan, China. In a matter of months, the virus has spread across the globe to more than 20 million people, resulting in at least 751,000 deaths.

Stock market crash; The coronavirus pandemic triggered a global recession as numerous countries went into lockdown. The Dow Jones industrial average suffered its worst single-day point drop ever on March 9.

Black lives matter protest; The police-involved killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor this year sparked a wave of peaceful — and sometimes violent — demonstrations and riots across the world to demand an end to police brutality and racial injustice. More protests erupted in August when 29-year-old Jacob Blake was shot by a Kenosha, Wisconsin, cop and paralyzed from the waist down.

Kim Jong Un death rumours; The North Korean supreme leader fueled speculation that he was either gravely ill or dead after he missed events commemorating his grandfather Kim Il-sung on April 15. He re-emerged 20 days later in photos released by state media at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The despot, however, faced a new wave of scepticism over his health in August when a South Korean official claimed all of the appearances were faked and he was in a vegetative state.

Beirut explosion; A massive explosion at a Beirut port, sparked Aug. 4 by the accidental detonation of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, killed at least 190 people and injured thousands of others

West Coast wildfires; Deadly wildfires erupted from California to Washington state, burning millions of acres and displacing hundreds of thousands of people since mid-August.

Joe Biden becomes President-elect; Joe Biden became the 46th president of the United States on Nov. 7, defeating President Trump with a critical assist from his birth state, Pennsylvania, which delivered the votes to propel him to victory and end one of the most contentious elections in recent memory.

COVID-19 in the UK: The UK becomes the first country to approve the new Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. 800,000 doses are planned for arrival in the coming days, with a further 40 million in 2021, enough to vaccinate 20 million people. The BBC reports that the jab is “the fastest vaccine to go from concept to reality, taking only 10 months to follow the same steps that normally span 10 years.

Around the world, we see many examples of resourceful responses to the world events in 2020, with companies changing their strategy to produce hand-sanitizers, protective gear, gowns and other supplies for hospitals, staff retrained to help out in hospitals, ventilators and life-saving medical devices, the list goes on.

The crisis created opportunities for businesses to become more innovative. Facing external pressures, some business leaders are stepping out of their routines and comfort zones to become creative problem-solvers. Along the way, they rediscovered their entrepreneurial spirit.

Beyond existing firms, some sectors of the economy are likely to grow. New technologies can offer numerous opportunities as the crisis transforms the products or services they can offer. Service businesses in particular are likely to see a lot of innovation in how services are created, packaged and sold.

Recent trends in China offer a glimpse of what is feasible for businesses. For example, online shopping and entertainment received a major boost during the coronavirus shutdown via online platforms like Alibaba, WeChat and their associated ecosystems.

In the health-care sector, health-related smartphone apps are proliferating. Artificial intelligence is helping hospital emergency rooms, while virtual reality has moved from an entertainment tool to a valuable resource for technical training and maintenance.

Companies that become competent and move quickly in these areas during the crisis will have a strategic advantage over their competitors in the post-pandemic economy.
In 2021, we will face challenges both familiar and unforeseen—but we will also see shoots of rejuvenation as the world thaws from lockdown. Here are some predictions of how the next year will play out.

Remote work will persist through 2021 and beyond
One of the most significant shifts for many workers in 2020 was the swift adoption of remote work. While some companies expected newly remote workers to return to the office, this is no longer a reality. Many businesses will not expect workers to come to the office five days a week, if at all, and companies will shrink or reconfigure office spaces accordingly.

“The reality is, employees will not be returning to the same office they left behind,” a 2020 remote-work study by PwC indicates. “There will be fewer people, restricted collaboration spaces and rotating shifts — all of which will require teams to find new ways to connect and collaborate. More than anything else, this need for connections is likely to shape what the office is going to represent.”

Salaries could be adjusted for remote workers

Along with the adoption of remote work during the pandemic, many employees took this opportunity to relocate. Some companies have already indicated that they will likely cut salaries to match cost-of-living expenses, which could be a significant corporate initiative in 2021.

“We predict a tidal wave of comp adjustments in 2021 as many tech and professional services workers go remote and move away from company HQs,” Glassdoor Chief Economist Andrew Chamberlain notes in the Glassdoor Workplace Trends 2021 report. “Once the dust settles on millions of employee relocations, we expect a wave of pay adjustments in 2021 for fully remote workers, whether or not they move to new cities.

Once local labor markets have adjusted to a wave of newly remote workers, the equilibrium pay for workers who’ve left expensive, congested metros like San Francisco and New York for smaller cities will almost certainly adjust downward.”

Some employers might require vaccination to come back in person

As the pandemic continues, some hope is on the horizon with promising vaccines from Pfizer and other companies. These vaccines could help employees safely come back to work in-person, and some companies are considering making the vaccine mandatory.

“A couple of my corporate clients are leaning toward making the COVID vaccine mandatory,” Rogge Dunn, a Dallas labor and employment attorney, told CNBC. “Under the law, an employer can force an employee to get vaccinated, and if they don’t take it, fire them.

Companies will reduce virtual activities and meetings

While businesses adopted virtual meetings fervently in 2020 as a way to help keep teams connected, they may not be so tied to them in 2021. As remote work becomes more of a norm, business owners could reduce these instances in order to give employees more time back to work.

“The Zoom happy hour has hit its expiration date, [with] too many long days of virtual meetings for months,” Nani Vishwanath, people team manager at Limeade, told TechRepublic. “[Employers will] gift employees with time back in 2021, such as cancelling recurring meetings or blocking a day for ‘no meetings’ and encouraging your team to recharge.”

Employees expect more diversity and company culture

Following major social and racial justice movements in 2020, companies should expect more scrutiny from employees and partners when it comes to diversity. For example, large asset manager BlackRock said it intends to push companies it has invested in for greater ethnic and gender diversity. This scrutiny will happen at the employee level as well.

“[Companies are] looking at what their policies say about company culture, what they’re willing to tolerate, what that does to employee morale, attrition and retention of employees, their reputation and ability to attract new talent and also their public perception,” Jennifer Schelfer, partner at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP, told the Atlanta Business Chronicle. “Employees are really expecting to see these initiatives in place and to see genuine support, especially from upper-level management.”

Business travel will be significantly reduced

As the pandemic continues into 2021, don’t expect travel for U.S. businesses to make a massive comeback in 2021. At the recent New York Times’ Dealbook conference, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates predicted a significant drop in business travel, and for there to be a “very high threshold” for companies that can conduct meetings from home.

“My prediction would be that over 50% of business travel and over 30% of days in the office will go away,” Gates said at Dealbook conference. “Some companies will be extreme on one end or the other. … We will go to the office somewhat [and] we’ll do some business travel, but dramatically less.” Companies will reduce virtual activities and meetings

While businesses adopted virtual meetings fervently in 2020 as a way to help keep teams connected, they may not be so tied to them in 2021. As remote work becomes more of a norm, business owners could reduce these instances in order to give employees more time back to work.

“The Zoom happy hour has hit its expiration date, [with] too many long days of virtual meetings for months,” Nani Vishwanath, people team manager at Limeade, told TechRepublic. “[Employers will] gift employees with time back in 2021, such as cancelling recurring meetings or blocking a day for ‘no meetings’ and encouraging your team to recharge.”

Economic growth could return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021

For businesses that have made it through 2020, many are wondering if the economy will come back in the next year. A December 2020 survey of the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) suggests the economy very well could roar back in the second half of 2021.

“73% percent of panellists believe that the economy will have returned to pre-pandemic GDP levels by the second half of 2021,” reports the NABE. “The 73% is a dramatic improvement from the October survey in which 38% of panellists believed that a full recovery would occur before 2022.”

Retraining and reskilling workers will be a 2021 priority
As the pandemic has put pressure on companies to lay off lower-skilled workers that can be replaced by automation or technology, some companies will also work to retrain and reskill employees.

“Cost-effective options — such as retraining, reskilling and redeployment — will continue to grow in popularity next year,” Michelle Anthony, chief revenue officer at LHH, told BenefitsPro. “Employers will be more committed to building a workforce of the future by helping employees acquire new skills so the companies can absorb downturns and market shifts without having to resort to the costly fire-and-hire cycle.”

Finally, it’s clear the post-pandemic future will be different. What’s happened during the crisis will have a lasting impact on society. Current signs of entrepreneurial initiative and goodwill give us some cause for optimism. The future I envision post-COVID is one where people and businesses are prepared and enabled through technology.

Whether it is to continue business operations or maintain access to essential needs, the digital economy will play a crucial role in all aspects of our lives. This is the brave new world we will have to create together, and now is the time to empower and work with entrepreneurs to help build it.

As Brian A. Wong – Vice President, Alibaba quoted by saying:

“SMEs are the backbone of any society for job creation and economic contribution. They are the pathfinders during the journey to economic recovery.”

A True Christmas and New Year Message

Following a turbulent 2020, Christmas this year is going to feel a little different to what we have previously known. The pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives, and the new habits we have formed will shape our behaviour over the festive season.

We would like to say a very special thank you to all of the organisations and individuals who have supported the courage and strength of our NHS, in a period of dramatic uncertainty and loss for many.

May peace fill all the empty spaces around you, your family and your friends and your colleagues at this special time of year, and in you, may contentment answer all your wishes.

Raise a toast to yesterday’s achievements and tomorrow’s brighter future.

May comfort be yours, warm and soft like a sigh.

And may the coming year show you that every day is really a first day and a new year.

Let abundance be your constant companion so that you have much to share.

May mirth be near you always, like a lamp shining brightly on the many paths you travel.

Work with the best of your abilities in 2021 and show to the world your power to create wonderful and superior things.

New Year 2021 may turn out to be a year when you are put on the road to everlasting success and prosperity.

Be the change that you wish to see at your workplace and take initiatives to make things better.

Wish your tomorrow is more prosperous, happy and successful than yesterday and today.

Looking forward to another year with hunger and passion to exceed at work and you are sure to meet with success.

Let new beginnings signify new chapter filled with pages of success and happiness, written by the ink of hard work and intelligence.

May the New Year bring us more wonderful opportunities for success.

HERE’S WISHING YOU THE GIFT OF PEACE, GOOD HEALTH AND PROSPERITY THROUGHOUT 2021

Why complex and difficult conversations by business leaders can be trusted

I recently posted an article on one of the social media channels, which provoked discussion across leadership and importantly the difficult discussions that leaders try to avoid.

All leaders need to have difficult conversations at some point in time, whether it’s telling an employee they aren’t getting a raise or a promotion, disciplining poor performance, or even firing someone.

It is truly quite unbelievable why people put off these conversations? How does this then affect them psychologically?

At one level the answer is quite simple: human beings don’t like conflict and take great steps to avoid it at all cost. In businesses that we advise we observe far too many managers fail to address difficult conversations, putting them off for 15 months, rather than having a 15-minute challenging interaction.

In their own minds, and this is where the real problem begins, many line managers and leaders, knowing they have a challenging conversation in the future, start to play a continuous disaster movie over and over in their heads.

Every possible negative ‘what-if’-scenario plays out in their imagination and consequently, they start to feel under threat before any actual interaction has even taken place. This imaginary narrative increases the strain on an already difficult situation. If we assume that all parties involved are of a similar mindset, then the potential for failure in this conversation is always probable to be high and generally, the conversation will start and end badly.

It is an understatement to say that we are living in times of great turmoil, polarization, and change. It is a time when unresolved conflicts permeate our lives, our home/office workplaces, our politics, our community. Very few systems are immune to the tension conflict generates.

We watch helpless, as countries use war as a strategy for settling disagreements.
Our news sources are glutted with escalating reports of physical violence used as a method to mediate disputes.
Our schools have become battlegrounds as students grapple with ways to handle conflicting emotions and divergent points of view.
Our airlines sometimes get diverted due to a passenger who does not have the skills to deal with their anger. And tragically sometimes our workplaces break out in violence.

Most of the time, conflicts come to light when the people involved are so reactive that they generate strong emotions in everyone involved, even those witnessing the conflict. Whether those emotions are hot and violent or simply the cold chill of disconnected relationships, most of us shy away from conflict because we don’t know how to get beyond the fight-or-flight response our brains are hardwired for.

Some of us can’t imagine another way. We’re not comfortable witnessing conflict, or experiencing it, nor is it our first impulse to dive in and address it. And for those of us who are drawn to conflict, we still may feel that we lack the skills to handle conflict effectively.

Generally, our associations with conflict aren’t positive and we either stuff our reactions or overreact and complicate matters. But conflict can actually, have an upside, whether it’s in a personal or professional setting. Properly worked with, conflict can spur innovation, creativity, and a better understanding of issues and people.

Having the capacity to deal with conflict is the key to maximizing its upside. Whether the focus is delivering a difficult message, diffusing a tense situation, giving tough performance feedback, or confronting insensitive behaviour, most of us feel some reluctance when faced with having challenging conversations that have the potential to escalate into conflict.

People often have misconceptions about components of handling conflict:

The best thing is to be objective and stick to the facts. While objectivity and facts are important, many times during a challenging conversation, our feelings surface whether we want them to or not. Feelings are a component of any situation whether it’s personal or professional.

Simply sticking to the facts can block the opportunity to deal with both thoughts and emotions. Recent research shows that people often harden their position when only dealing with the facts anyway. To effectively deal with a difficult situation we need to talk about our feelings and reactions in a healthy way and without blaming the other person.

If you show empathy, it means you agree with the other person’s point of view. There is a difference between empathy and agreement. It’s good to let the other person know that we understand what they are saying and to acknowledge that we understand their position is true for them.

But acknowledging that is simply respecting the person, not implying that you agree. Using phrases such as “I understand what you’re feeling, but I have a different perspective than you,” allows you to honor the person’s point of view without yielding to it. While it is difficult to acknowledge the other person’s point of view when you are angry or hurt, there are communication tools that can allow you to keep your cool, even in the most emotionally charged situations including detaching personally from what’s being said to minimize defensiveness and optimize empathy in a way that inspires trust.

8 tips for managing difficult conversations:

Be direct.

When having a difficult conversation, be direct and get to the point quickly. This is not the time for feedback sandwiches or an excess of compliments. Both of these feedback techniques will mask the point of the conversation and lessen its impact. Difficult conversations become even more difficult when the delivery is muddled. While it might seem like you’re being too harsh diving right into the critique, you’re actually doing the other person a favor. Most of the time, the person you’re talking to knows that a critique is coming, so rather than dancing around the subject, just get to it.

Be specific.

Be honest and thorough with your feedback, and fully clarify why you’re having the conversation. Offer as many concrete examples as possible so the person understands you’re not just pulling things out of thin air. The more clarity you can provide, the better the critique will be received.

Plan out the conversation.

This is not a conversation you want to have in the spur of the moment. You want to think of what you’re going to say, as well as anticipate how the other person might react. Think of the questions they might ask and have answers prepared. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be to stay even-tempered and not get flustered and therefore deliver a more solid critique.

Watch your language.

The actual words you use during the conversation matter. You must outline the critique and the reason you’re having the conversation, but don’t stop there. You’ll also want to talk about the outcome you’d like to see. If you’re disciplining an employee for poor team performance, explain that to them and also talk about what it would look like when team relations are strong. Illustrating what a positive outcome looks like gives the employee something solid to work towards, and helps them understand why they’re being disciplined.

Offer a solution.

Nothing is worse than delivering a critique and leaving it just at that. You’ll want to clearly explain the reason for the conversation, the specific critique, and then offer suggestions to improve. If you’re telling an employee that they aren’t getting a raise, explain why and let them know what they need to work on to make that raise a possibility. Even if the conversation is to fire an employee, you should still offer a suggestion that will help them improve in their next job.

Manage your emotions.

You want to have the conversation in an even tone and keep it professional. Don’t let your emotions dictate your delivery. If you get emotional, so will the other person. This is especially important when the conversation is with an employee who you care greatly for or work closely with.
In this situation, take a step back and remove the relationship from the equation. It can help if you simply look at things from a fact-based standpoint, and focus solely on that. When emotions start to take over, remind yourself that the more in control you are of your emotions, the better you’ll be able to deliver the message.

Be empathetic.

While your delivery of the message should be stoic, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t empathize. Think of how the other person will feel during the conversation, and allow them to process their emotions.
If you see they’re really struggling with what you’ve said, pause for a minute while they collect themselves. Clearly explain why you’re having the conversation to help them fully understand where you’re coming from. If they’re really taking the news poorly, remind them that you’re delivering this critique to make them better, and you want to see them succeed.

Allow the other person to ask questions.

Questions serve a double purpose. Asking questions helps the other person process what’s happened, and it allows you to clarify and solidify details of the conversation. If you aren’t sure that the other person fully comprehended the conversation, ask clarifying questions to check their understanding.

Final thought, one of the greatest skills managers and individuals can build is the art of listening well — to listen to themselves and their instincts about difficult situations and to the other person in order to really understand their point of view and perspective.

For managers willing to step up to the challenge, the results can be far-reaching, including quicker resolution of performance issues, better work relationships, fewer grievances, reduced tension, and fewer corporate crises.

We really must build the capacity to have the challenging conversations we have often avoided. “In these challenging times, the more we can master and model for others how to have challenging conversations the better our workplaces, our families, and our society will be. The choice seems really clear: do we build the capacity to deal with each other in healthy ways, or do we see the world we care about to deteriorate in unresolved conflicts and violence?”

As a famous American psychologist, George Kohl, once said:

“A hallmark of high-performance leaders is the ability to influence others through all levels and types of communication, from simple interactions to difficult conversations and more complex conflicts, in order to achieve greater team and organizational alignment. High performing leaders are able to unite diverse team members by building common goals and even shared emotions by engaging in powerful and effective dialogue.”

Why Trust and Respect is the Glue in our Client Relationships

The world of data is constantly changing and evolving. New technologies, legislations and policies pressure companies to re-examine the way they deal with data.

Developing a strategy to boost customer trust to your brand is critical to your business’s long-term success.

Due to COVID-19, every business today is in a competition for customer trust. The concept of trust is deeply hardwired in our brains. More specifically, trusting someone is associated with many positive emotions and is an amazingly persuasive force. Conversely, distrusting someone is associated with negative emotions.

How do you build trust with customers?

You earn customer trust by repeat good behaviour, and providing value to customers they can’t get anywhere else. Rather than create new customers right now, you can work on maintaining your relationships with your past customers. Today companies can do this by knowing their customers and finding ways to make customers’ lives easier and better. Like any relationship, exploit it and customers will run from the building.

In a post-coronavirus world, it could be a long haul back to business as usual. This is the time to think about your relationships and how to keep them healthy.

Customers tend to be people of habit, and many enjoy the benefits that come from being loyal to a brand. Loyalty programs used to just be for airlines and grocery stores, but now brands across all industries offer programs to reward customers for their loyalty.

Leading companies that develop a people-first approach will win in today’s digital economy, according to the latest global technology trends report from Accenture (NYSE: ACN).

As technology advancements accelerate at an unprecedented rate – dramatically disrupting the workforce – companies that equip employees, partners and consumers with new skills can fully capitalize on innovations. Those that do will have unmatched capabilities to create fresh ideas, develop cutting-edge products and services, and disrupt the status quo.

Although perceived value is a strong driver to encourage shoppers to return for future products, it has been shown by many retailers to not be the only driver and influences based around customer service, product range, stock availability and the shopping environment also have a key role in the shopper’s decision to return.

Research by HarvardBusinessReview shows that “increasing customer retention by five percent” can result in a “25-95 percent” increase in company profits.

This is unsurprising as Bain and Company found a direct correlation between the amount of time a customer has been with a retailer and the amount that customer spends. Their research revealed that “apparel shoppers purchase 67% more per order after shopping with a company for 30 months than they spent on their initial purchase”

I said back in the early 2000 era, we were all looking to deploy strategies across customer lifetime value – brand satisfaction and brand loyalty played a key part in our business survival toolbox. In today’s world customers staying loyal to companies for long periods are numbered.

The amount of trust consumers put in brands is decreasing all the time, and a typical consumer will now switch brands without hesitation if they get a better offer. The famous rule of 20% of customers accounting for 80% of the turnover has turned into more like 60/40 rule (40% of the customers generate 60% of the turnover) and it is slowly evolving towards a 50/50 rule where loyal and disloyal customers generate the same amount of income.

The conventional wisdom about competitive advantage is that successful companies pick a position, target a set of consumers, and configure activities to serve them better. The goal is to make customers repeat their purchases by matching the value proposition to their needs.

By fending off competitors through ever-evolving uniqueness and personalization, the company can achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.

But the idea that purchase decisions arise from conscious choice flies in the face of much research in behavioural psychology.

The brain, it turns out, is not so much an analytical machine as a gap-filling machine: it takes noisy, incomplete information from the world and quickly fills in the missing pieces on the basis of past experience. Intuition, thoughts, opinions, and preferences that come to mind quickly and without reflection, but are strong enough to act on, is the product of this process.

This behavioural shift is putting some fundamental, established marketing tactics in doubt, but are we as marketers powerless to stop it?

Loyalty programs are an often-overlooked aspect of customer experience, but they can be vital in building relationships and loyalty with customers — when they’re done well.

So exactly what is the solution?

According to popular theory, there are two ways to escape the commodity market. On the one hand, a company can work more efficiently, making it possible to sell its products cheaper. On the other hand, you can offer a unique added value, thereby re-establishing differentiation so you can charge higher prices again.

If we look at history and look at people behaviour, historically people engaged in brand loyalty, but how do you get customers to become loyal to your brand in the first place? Here are a few suggestions:

Build targeted messages

With social media being the centre of many people’s day-to-day lives, consumers want to see that brands care about them. Consumers are constantly bombarded with ads, so yours can easily get overlooked.

How do you stand out? Try targeting your ads, using campaigns that appeal to your audience’s specific interests, and customizing your messages with a personal touch.

Develop a loyalty programme

Customer loyalty programmes are a huge factor in retaining loyal customers. 44% of customers have between 2-4 loyalty cards, and 25% have between 5-9 loyalty cards.

43% join loyalty programmes to earn rewards, and 45% say it’s a primary driver for purchasing from a brand. As you can see, loyalty programmes are a huge deal with customers, and it pays by getting them to come back to your brand whenever they decide to shop.

However, be aware that you’re more likely to retain customers through a free rewards programme. The majority of people (52%) aren’t willing to pay a membership fee.

Adopt a mobile strategy

Brand loyalty has gone mobile. Seventy-seven percent of smartphone users say that mobile offers have a positive impact on their brand loyalty, according to AccessDevelopment.com. This can include surprise points and rewards or exclusive content.

Another 66% of consumers say they’d have a more positive opinion of a loyalty programme if it was available on their smartphone or in a mobile wallet app. Furthermore, 73% of smartphone users are interested in having loyalty cards on their phones.

What happens if you fall behind your competitors and don’t offer a mobile solution to your loyalty programme? You’ll likely see a decrease in customers. 66% of companies that saw a decrease in customer loyalty in the past year didn’t have a mobile app.

Implement feedback

Another reason a brand will lose customers is because it doesn’t respond to their needs. In today’s fast-paced social landscape, customers expect brands to respond to their feedback, and quickly.

97% of customers say they’re more likely to become loyal to a company that implements their feedback. By ignoring them, you’re sending a message that their loyalty doesn’t matter, and with that, they’re likely to move on to a brand that shows them otherwise.

Although ideas about brand loyalty have shifted from generation to generation, people are still brand loyal today. However, you will have to adopt strong social and mobile strategies to retain customers who rely on the internet landscape to make buying decisions.

Let’s have a look at the customer experience and why the need for product experience management.

Truly understanding customer needs may help companies improve not only the buying experience but also their bottom line.

A company’s relationship with its customers is about much more than improving product ratings or decreasing wait times. Understanding the customer journey is about learning what customers experience from the moment they begin considering a purchase, and then working to make the journey toward buying a product or service as simple, clear, and efficient as possible.

Customer experience has become the centrepiece of most marketing strategies today. Marketers have begun to realise that it’s the biggest differentiator a brand or a retailer has in today’s overcrowded market.

A great customer experience starts with a compelling product experience. Customers have their pick of channels, so standing out among the crowd with relevant product information is imperative.

The race to own customer experience is on. Companies are recognizing the importance of delivering an experience that makes them stand out from their competition. Some are learning the hard way.

Finally, my personal opinion is that the subject of whether sustainable competitive advantage has disappeared is greatly exaggerated.

Competitive advantage is as sustainable as it has always been. What is different today is that in a world of infinite communication and innovation, many strategists seem convinced that sustainability can be delivered only by constantly making a company’s value proposition the conscious consumer’s rational or emotional first choice.

They have forgotten, or they never understood, the dominance of the subconscious mind in decision making. For fast thinkers, products and services that are easy to access and that reinforce comfortable buying habits will over time trump innovative but unfamiliar alternatives that may be harder to find and require forming new habits.

Mona K. Sutphen, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff once said:

“Most good relationships are built on mutual trust and respect.”

This powerful statement makes us understand that trust is the glue in the retail customer relationship.

Why Trust, High Standards and Outstanding People Deserve the Right Company Culture

A colleague who is an executive director in a large FMCG came down to see me for a discussion around my latest book, Purposeful Discussions.

In particular, David focused on an extract from Chapter Two;

When law firms, companies and others lay people off, the people who lose their jobs are generally the people who are ‘good’. People who are ‘outstanding’ don’t lose their jobs (or hardly ever).

Outstanding people are the ones who bring hard work, constant improvement and greatness to whatever they do. The world needs people who are outstanding and set the highest goals possible for themselves.

Everyone can be outstanding with the right standards. If you say you cannot be outstanding, you are slapping the face of your creator. There is nothing on this earth that does not have a purpose. You are in control over what happens to you and can control it by the standards you set for yourself. Life has meaning when you give it your all.

The secret lies in the standards you set for yourself and the decisions you make. What standards are you going to choose for your life?

David did continue our conversation to say what was my opinion of the current Furlough schemes and redundancies and what happens to a business that loses outstanding and good people.

As you can imagine this was quite a debate which I have written articles for several of the nationals through COVID19, I think we were both pleased that it was shared over a few glasses of wine.

It is true, some employees are more talented than others. That’s a fact of organisational life that few executives and HR managers would dispute.

The more debatable point is how to treat the people who appear to have the highest potential.

Opponents of special treatment argue that all employees are talented in some way and, therefore, all should receive equal opportunities for growth.

Devoting a disproportionate amount of energy and resources to a select few, their thinking goes, might cause you to overlook the potential contributions of the many.

But the disagreement doesn’t stop there. Some executives say that a company’s list of high potentials and the process for creating it should be a closely guarded secret. After all, why dampen motivation among the roughly 95% of employees who aren’t on the list?

Shocking research was released recently by The Gallup Group, indicating that 87% of the workforce is either not engaged (read: they are there physically but not mentally or emotionally), or totally disengaged (they actually undermine the success of an organization.)

This is the highest rate of disengagement ever measured and is in spite of the fact that over 85% of organisations have an employee recognition program (which obviously isn’t working).

Companies spend more than $100 billion every year trying to improve employee engagement in the workplace. Despite their efforts, employee engagement numbers remain under 35 percent. It’s vital for employers to understand the role employee disengagement plays in overall business success.

Let’s have a look at ten shocking facts on employee disengagement.

1. Less than three out of ten employers have an engagement strategy in place
According to a recent study by achiever.com, only 25 percent of employers have an established engagement strategy in place. As with most business processes, engagement won’t just happen overnight. It requires a comprehensive strategy that defines your company goals and develops techniques for fostering engagement throughout the workplace.

2. Only 30 percent of employees feel encouraged to grow with the company
Career growth and development is significant to today’s employees, especially millennials and Gen Z workers. In fact, the opportunity for career advancement is one of the top reasons people seek new job opportunities. Despite this fact, the latest Gallup’s State of the American Workforce shows that only three in ten employees feel that their employers are concerned about their development within the company.

3. 75 percent of employees quit because of their boss – not the company
According to a recent study, employee disengagement starts with the manager, not the company itself. This report revealed that 75 percent of workers state that they left a job because of their supervisor or manager and not necessarily the company. This statistic should be a wake-up call to companies across the globe. Employee engagement strategies must start at the top and work its way down. Only when these strategies attempt to boost engagement at all levels within the company can employers hope to deal with employee disengagement effectively.

4. Companies with higher engagement levels obtain 21 percent higher profits
Study after study shows a clear link between employee engagement and company profits. In fact, according to a study released by Forbes, companies with higher levels of employee engagement see a 21 percent increase in profits or more. This statistic alone should be enough to grab any business leader’s attention.

5. Only 11 percent of workers receive weekly recognition
There is a direct correlation between disengagement in the workplace and lack of recognition. Like everyone else, your employees want recognition for their hard work. Without consistent recognition, employee disengagement can skyrocket within your workplace. This level of disengagement can tempt even your best employees to leave. In fact, according to our recent study, nearly one in five employees stated their main reason for considering a new job was because they’re not being recognized.

6. Employee disengagement costs companies more than $450 billion a year
According to a Harvard Business Review report, employee disengagement costs employers anywhere from $450 billion to $550 billion every year. This amounts to an incredible amount of waste within the business sector. Many employers overlook most of these expenses because they fail to see the link between higher costs and low levels of employee engagement.

7. 21 percent of employees say that their employer never asks for feedback
Imagine trying to voice your opinion, and no one is listening. That is how many employees feel, and studies show that they might be right. In our recent report on disengagement in the workplace, more than 20 percent of respondents said that their employer was terrible at requesting feedback. In some cases, their employers never asked for feedback at all.

8. Only six out of 10 employees know what their job expectations are
It can be nearly impossible for employees to remain engaged in the workplace without having a clear understanding of their specific job expectations, as well as the company’s goals and missions. This fact may seem like an obvious point, but it might be just so obvious that many employers are overlooking it. According to Gallup’s report, only 60 percent of employees claim to know what their expectations are at work.

9. Higher employee engagement leads to fewer safety issues
Most employers don’t relate employee engagement with workplace safety, but maybe they should. A study of the healthcare industry showed that providers with high engagement levels have 70 percent lower safety incidents than companies with lower levels of employee engagement. This improvement in workplace safety can be attributed to enhanced employee feedback processes, comprehensive employee recognition programs, and more precise job expectations – all of which improve engagement rates.

10. Lack of inclusiveness can cause disengagement
There is good reason why 69 percent of executives surveyed by Deloitte cited diversity and inclusion as a top priority. Deloitte’s stats show that 39 percent of employees would leave their current company for one that had a more inclusive culture, and over half (53 percent) of millennials would do so.

A diverse workplace environment brings fresh perspective and it’s important to embrace diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Understand what truly engages and motivates your employees by collecting honest feedback.

We’re all familiar with the damage that can be caused by personality clashes in the workplace, but how can leaders ensure a harmonious balance between their organisation and its employees?

“Organisational culture is the sum of values and rituals which serve as ‘glue’ to integrate members of the organisation”

Building a culture of engagement, in which employees are seen (and see themselves) as stakeholders, will promote organisational harmony as well as creating additional financial benefits. A Gallup study found that companies with strong employee engagement saw higher productivity and were 22% more profitable than those with poor employee engagement. Unsurprisingly, employee retention was also significantly higher in these businesses.

“Trust is one important key to building a culture of high performance, whereby speed will go up and costs will go down.”

This statement by Stephen M. R. Covey (son of Dr Stephen R. Covey) in his book, ‘The Speed of Trust’, captures the essence of why trust (or lack thereof) is at the heart of every organisation’s culture. I refer to trust as the glue and the lubricant of culture. Trust is glue because it binds people together and converts routine work interactions into effective teamwork. Trust is also a lubricant because when it is present, as Covey suggests, things move faster with less expense. Let’s test this concept of the glue and the lubricant functions of trust.

Imagine for just a moment what your work culture would be like if there was absolutely no trust or mistrust between you and the people in your workgroup:

What if you couldn’t count on them to come to work on time or stay at their work when they were needed?

What if you feared anything you said might be reported to the media or to your competitors?

What would the day be like if you couldn’t trust anyone to do even the simplest task without making a mistake?

And what if the people in your group had absolutely no trust in you?

Stephen Covey taught a very simple but powerful metaphor of trust: the emotional bank account. This metaphor works on the same principle as a financial bank account – one can make deposits that build trust with others, and one can take withdrawals that diminish trust. You might consider the current state of your emotional bank account with important relationships.

It’s not all bad news. Boards are beginning to recognise and discuss the importance of building and maintaining a strong corporate culture, as recommended by the FRC’s report on culture and the role of boards.

But while the board itself may have a strong ethical culture, the challenge is to ensure that this “tone at the top”. and most people follow their lead. They have a duty to project and uphold the company ethos, vision and behaviours.

As the famous Tony Robbins once said:

‘Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is to raise your standards. Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.’

The Digital Boardroom is Not Always the Right Answer

Much has been written about the impact of the pandemic on our daily lives. Locked down in our homes, consumption of technology for business and leisure has reached unprecedented levels.

Many commentators have explored how this will play out post-lockdown; reduced international travel, sustained high levels of video calls and softening demand for office space are just some examples.

For technology businesses and investors, it is not what is happening in our homes that is most interesting, but the conversations happening in (virtual) boardrooms. The pandemic and resulting lockdown precipitated the biggest business continuity test imaginable. And it has not gone well. The failings of large organisations to address their technical debt have been thoroughly exposed.

“Keeping everyone involved when you don’t have those corridor conversations and that office osmosis brings a different kind of challenge,” says Andy Barratt – Managing Director, Ford of Britain and Henry Ford & Son (Cork) Ltd.

Tough times often call for tough measures. In the current environment, directors are likely to be ‘meeting’ more often than usual to discuss, take and implement significant decisions around their business’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

But with limitations on social contact and gatherings, most boards are being forced to hold these important meetings virtually.

It is important (perhaps now more than ever given the scrutiny that decisions made during this crisis may face) that directors are careful to exercise their decision-making powers in line with the company’s constitution, and also, from a practical perspective, that the virtual meetings themselves are well structured and delivered.

In general, the larger the company, the worse they have fared. Short term focus on maintaining the share price, incentives that reward maintaining the status quo and support an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, and the inertia that plagues large organisations, have left companies ill-prepared.

The ongoing wave of business disruption that is being led by many technology innovations and their resulting consequences is crashing at our shores.

Boards are concerned, and rightly so, about addressing these issues before their revenue streams, brands, share values and bottom lines are negatively affected.

Moreover, outside stakeholders from activist investors to regulators are starting to demand action and improvement in how companies manage digital risk. Whether leaders fix these deficiencies themselves or are forced to, change is widespread and unavoidable.

NTT Security’s Global Threat Intelligence Report identified a 350% increase in ransomware and called out spyware as the leading malware attack tactic, indicating that hackers are in it for the long haul — waiting for the chance that they know will come.

Boards also need to play the long game and this starts with understanding and governing technology fuelled disruption. Addressing this challenge boils down to improving boardroom digital diversity.

Corporate directors across industries can do this by introducing digital competencies into their boardroom and by actively developing the digital IQ of all of their board members.

Speed is everything in today’s tech-driven business world. In an effort to speed up even more, some so-called progressive business leaders are cancelling in-person meetings in favour of the latest high-tech solutions.

Face-to-face meetings allow for clearer communication. In addition to being able to read facial expressions, body language, and inflexion, in-person meetings often end up being more positive and considered more credible than online or virtual conversations.

Without non-verbal cues, you also run the risk of misinterpreting information. In fact, 60% of people regularly misread tone or message when communicating via email or phone, according to Entrepreneur.

Not only do in-person meetings tend to be more positive, but they also tend to be more productive. On average, an in-person meeting generates about 13.36 ideas versus a virtual meeting, which generates 10.43.

And although virtual meetings are sometimes more convenient, nearly 70% of people admit to browsing social media to pass the time during audio-only conference calls.

Even though there can be a prioritisation of speed over face time grossly underestimates the power of human interaction and the importance of face-to-face communication. If the point of business were simply to accomplish as many tasks as possible, then yes, an email would probably do. But that’s not what real leadership is about.

If you’ve ever been on the bad side of cyber miscommunication, you’ll agree that faster isn’t always better.

Managing a successful team and, consequently, a successful business requires personal connections and trust. Business is, in large part, about building relationships. Being a successful leader requires emotional intelligence as much as it requires drive, discipline and best practices.

Despite some benefits to video conferencing, studies show there is simply no substitute for the effective experience of face-to-face communications. In fact, research from Vanessa Bohns, associate professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University, shows face-to-face interactions are 34 times more successful than emails.

CEOs know that trust and camaraderie build great teams, create loyalty, and are the basis of moving a business forward. Wealth and success depend on it. That success comes from, and is built through, face-to-face interactions and experiences and cannot be replaced in the same way with virtual experiences.

“People still feel they are at a disadvantage when they are remote,” said Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst of the technology advisory firm Enderle Group, in an article for CIO Magazine. “Side meetings, individual breakouts and even social interaction after meetings are not addressed by current video conferencing solutions.”

Technology assists us with many tasks in one way or another every single day. While technology can be an amazing and valuable tool that helps us in numerous ways, the wrong tools and apps can be incredibly frustrating. Most people think of technology as their best friend or their worst enemy. For board directors where many are at or approaching retirement, technology tends to draw more jeers than cheers.

When board directors are using the right technology, it can increase the pace of their work from a snail’s pace to that of a roadrunner. The wrong technology slows the pace of business down, exacerbates mistakes, and opens up dangerous new opportunities for risks.

Boards become vulnerable. The right board management governance software assures compliance, solves security issues, and enhances good governance principles. Boards become productive and efficient and are better able to keep pace with today’s business practices.

Essentially, the right modern governance tools set the stage for ultimate corporate success and profitability.

The Wrong Technology Creates Board Meeting Inefficiencies

The pace of corporate business is such that board directors can no longer wait for quarterly reports and updates. Corporate business happens in real-time. Without the right technology, board directors are left out of the loop and in the dark.

Board directors need the ability to stay continually connected and engaged with management and the pulse of their organizations. The wrong tools and apps can hang them up.

Routine tasks simply take too long. Manual voting processes, delayed meeting RSVPs and paper processes bog down corporate secretaries. Last-minute agenda changes can increase labour time and other costs greatly. Preparing agendas and board meeting minutes takes a lot of time to complete and get approved with manual processes.

Security Is Sorely Lacking in Boardrooms and in Board Processes

Board directors are keenly aware of the high risks of cybercrime. If it hasn’t been drilled into them enough, the media continually reminds them by reporting new instances of data breaches.

By and large, board directors find IT to be too technical and confusing for them to make good decisions about how to protect the board and the company. Cybercrime is more sophisticated than ever. Hackers are working doggedly around the clock looking for ways to penetrate multiple layers of security to make corporations vulnerable.

Nearly everyone now uses email, but once again, the media tells us that using personal and business email accounts and other electronic apps for communication lacks the necessary security to protect confidential board business. Insecure communications also pose a risk of accidentally sending disclosures to the wrong parties with no controls to prevent it.

While security is sorely lacking in the technology realm, boards that continue to use dated paper processes can’t have the assurance that their important documents are safe. Paper documents may be difficult to find if they’re stored in multiple locations, which means that it takes a long time to get the right documents or risk not being able to find them at all. What is worse is that paper is subject to natural disasters such as fire, floods and damage by vermin.

Finally, recent events, however, have identified core values that need to be revisited and enhanced.

Many businesses have, in the past, viewed face-to-face meetings as a cost center or a luxury. The residual trauma of this global experience and the absence of in-person time with one another has now reconfirmed the value of such interactions, purpose and trust.

Successful leaders know that people are their most precious resource. Now they are also realizing that those people, meeting with one another face-to-face is a critical part of business, and more important than ever before.

Regular computer systems lack the features and security to prevent employees and others from gaining access to confidential information, giving control to all the wrong people.

Tech Equipment Can Be Too Complicated to Use

While many boards need to meet more often because of the pace of the organization’s needs, the costs and scheduling can be a nightmare. The travel, food and lodging expenses of bringing on board members from various states or other countries can be quite exorbitant. It can be difficult to quickly find dates that accommodate all directors because of waiting for responses via phone and email.

Technical equipment can be complicated to set up and use. Systems may be electronically incompatible with each other. Poor audio or video quality makes for unproductive meetings. Some pieces of boardroom equipment are less secure than other pieces, setting the stage for spreading pesky viruses. If all that isn’t bad enough, cybercriminals have been known to hack into boardroom cameras, placing company business at risk.

Nokia-chairman Risto Siilasmaa shared his thoughts on why directors should open their minds and consider new ways of thinking about the future even if a company is performing exceptionally.

“When your team considers only a single plan with no alternatives, alarm bells should ring. Not preparing for alternative scenarios – even the most unlikely ones – is a guarantee of being blindsided. Thinking in alternatives is not just about identifying options to an existing situation but about constantly imagining and manufacturing alternatives. By making this mindset part of your leadership team’s culture, you automatically start to come up with a higher number and wider range of alternatives.”

I can only imagine…

I recently decided to take a road trip, with all the ‘staycation’ I have found driving to the country very therapeutic, great for introspection, reflection and thought.

It was another beautiful hot day driving through some of the back roads in Surrey and Hampshire, I started to think about purpose-driven outcomes in business, the recent changes through the pandemic, the failures and successes, and one of my key topic’s leadership and trust.

I have always believed that meaningful lives are for extraordinary people: great saints, artists, scholars, scientists, doctors, activists, explorers, national leaders…. If ever we did discover the meaning, it would – we suspect – in any case, be incomprehensible, perhaps written in Latin or in a COBOL computer code.

It wouldn’t be anything that could orient or illuminate our activities. Without always acknowledging it, we are – in the background – operating with a remarkably ungenerous perspective on the meaning of life.’

Perhaps, I could be wrong. It is conceivable that everyone on the earth plain has a meaningful life in their own way, we all make choices, we all have dreams, and we all possess the ability to see out our individual outcomes, our purpose and trusting that the choices we make drive learning, expansion and growth.

Do we lack determination, imagination, courage, and passion in today’s business world?

I watched an inspiration film recently, a true story called “I Can Only Imagine“. The story revolves around the band’s lead singer Bart Millard, who in the film’s opening scene tells fellow performer Amy Grant that he wrote the song that changed his life in only 10 minutes.

“You didn’t write this song in 10 minutes,” Amy Grant replies. “It took a lifetime.”

The story then flashes back to Bart’s unhappy childhood when he was growing up with his abusive father Arthur and a mother who left both of them when he was an adolescent.

Even as a child, Bart loved music, but his father would have none of it. “Dreams don’t pay the bills,” Arthur tells his son. It’s one of many lines Arthur utters that signify what a miserable son-of-a-bitch he is, along with such gems as “Life hits me, I hit it back harder.”

It’s no wonder Bart grew up to be a pop star. Everything his father says sounds like the title of a country song. You can also tell how mean Arthur is by his perpetual stubble. Not a beard, not five o’clock shadow, but carefully groomed stubble that’s always the same exact length. There are male models who don’t pay as much attention to their facial hair.

Bart leaned into an active imagination and his love of music as escapes from a troubled home life. As he grew older, Bart turned to football in hopes of somehow connecting with his abusive father. But a career-ending injury-combined with the vision of a teacher who saw unlimited potential set Bart on a musical pathway.

Chasing a dream while running from broken relationships with his father and Shannon, his childhood sweetheart, Bart hits the road in an old, decrepit tour bus with his new band MercyMe – named for his grandmother’s favourite expression. With the guidance of a grizzled music-industry insider, the band begins a journey none of them could ever have imagined.

I can only imagine- the heart of the film

Some of my readers will remember my first book, Freedom After the Sharks, I have always said that each of us is, to some extent or other, a reflection of the experiences of our lives.

However, whether and how we succeed is determined at least in part by how we cope with those experiences and what we learn from them.

Freedom After the Sharks is the story of a man who, despite a difficult family life and professional setbacks, developed the determination, drive and skills to create a successful business and happy life. Skills and self-motivation gave this young man the drive, determination and tenacity to continue a journey through hardship to reach self-fulfilment and, ultimately, success.

The question is do we give up at the first hurdle or do we continue with perseverance?

Every leader eventually faces difficult circumstances. In these situations, perseverance, determination and courage is a must if you are to be able to achieve your goals. Without these traits, the opportunity to succeed becomes less because you don’t have the ability to persist.

There are countless examples of courageous leaders. The one thing that each has in common is their determination to continue pushing forward, despite what others believe, or what current circumstances continue to throw up at them.

Rather than focusing on failure, and becoming discouraged from pursuing their goals, courageous leaders look at challenges as opportunities to improve. Buoyed by optimism and enthusiasm, they motivate themselves to look for meaning in each challenge and turn it to their advantage.

Like many other leadership skills, courage is a skill that can be learned and strengthened. The following tips can help you to cultivate your courage and use it to increase your success!

One thing that commonly happens when you are pursuing your goals is that suddenly you’ll hit a roadblock and all movement comes to a standstill. The first emotion you feel at these moments is fear, and then panic.

The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, believed courage to be the most important quality in a man. “Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.” When we are courageous, we step outside our comfort zone of predictability and familiarity and are exposed to new ideas. We can take in new information and broaden our understanding of the world, an important tool in overcoming adversity.

Having courage enables us to stay our course when external circumstances threaten to challenge our well-being. It empowers us to confront problems head-on, even if having doubts, rather than risk experiencing fear, resignation and victimization.

Through courage, we are better able to control our destiny and honour who we are and in what we believe. We have a chance to avoid even greater problems that might have resulted had we not been courageous.

We develop a psychological muscle when we push through fear. This muscle helps us when we need the strength and resilience to overcome or avoid adversity. The more we exercise this muscle, the more our self-confidence and faith will grow. We will feel empowered to confront problems head-on and courageous in challenging times that fill us with pain and fear.

Life is meant to take challenges and overcome hurdles and obstacles instead of having reservations on challenges. Success lies in going beyond the boundaries and leaving no stone unturned for achieving your goals. One has to read between the lines that what success lies in because pain is the only thing that tells that a person is alive.

When you believe in your purpose you can work through obstacles, overcome disappointments and endure hardship.

As John Seamon Garns – American Author of Prosperity, once said: ‘Real leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determinations.’

Often in life, you make a journey that changes the meaning of life as you knew it. I believe every single person can be extraordinary for something if directed in the right way and if circumstances can take them there for the great of good, amazing things can happen.

Final thought: society cannot flourish without some sense of shared purpose and belief system, and most importantly love.

I am a firm believer in the power of curiosity and choice as the engine of fulfilment, but precisely how you arrive at your true calling is an intricate and highly individual dance of discovery.

Still, there are certain factors and certain choices on your journey of life that make it easier and more worthwhile.

Everyone has a story, despite difficulties in family life, professional setbacks and extraordinary events like COVID-19. The journey of life is the learning’s, we all possess the determination, passion, drive, creativity and skills to create a foundation.

Business professionals and individuals in the great challenges of today’s business world have renewed responsibility for what business does best: innovate, invest and grow.

We are all extraordinary people and have the ability to share and provide wealth creation and richness to our surroundings – the bigger question is how much do we want to change and to be extraordinary?

As Thomas A. Edison, American inventor and businessman, once said:

“Be courageous. I have seen many depressions in business. Always America has emerged from these stronger and more prosperous. Be as brave as your fathers before you. Have faith! Go forward!”

Guest-blog: Sharon Shahzad discusses the importance of marketing and why NOW marketing is needed more than ever

Sharon Shahzad

As we face the unprecedented social, economic and political upheaval of the Covid-19 outbreak, trust has never been more important.

Declining levels of public trust over the past decade have impacted many areas of our lives, whether that is our trust in politics, banking, finance, business more generally or, closer to home, in advertising.

With this new global crisis, the decline in the bond of trust is brought into even sharper focus. There is increasing government intervention in our economy and daily lives, coupled with media coverage of the outbreak and businesses working hard to support an anxious population. All this means we need to place our trust in those around us like never before – whether that is friends, neighbours, employers or business and political leaders.

We are trusting our politicians to do the right thing, our media to carry the correct message and our retailers to ensure we can buy the products we need as we rightly stay at home to limit the spread of the virus.

Many people will have seen adverts about coronavirus around their neighbourhoods or directly in their homes in recent days, showing that when a message needs to be delivered to people with power and clarity, advertising remains the most effective way to do this.

But the past few days will not have made up for years of declining trust in our industry. We need to do more now, and even more again after this crisis is over.

In the immediate present, brands need to demonstrate they are on the side of the consumer and the gargantuan national effort we face. Some brands are already doing this; I’m thinking of marketing and advertising activity around discounts on food for key workers at a number of food and drink chains, special opening hours at retailers for our NHS staff or the businesses that have answered the call to switch their manufacturing facilities to producing ventilators.

A bond forged in times of difficulty can be the strongest bond of all and if we want the public to trust us again, we need to demonstrate we are on their side when they need us.

Amongst all of the confusion and uncertainty in the world at the moment with COVID-19, you will be starting to ensure that your business is ready for the challenges ahead. This involves navigating the pandemic as successfully and effectively as you can, whilst thinking about both the short and long term strategy of your business.

Just as we are all hoping that the impact of the Coronavirus is only short term, you should be thinking about putting your marketing efforts into a long-term plan.

As panic arises, it might be one of people’s first thoughts to cut their marketing budget. However, when thinking and planning for the long-term performance and prosperity of a business, keeping a marketing budget right now is more important than ever.

Which reminds me of a brilliant quote by Richard Edelman – President & Chief Executive Officer of the public relations company Edelman – ‘The marketing business has been just about promoting things, but we don’t believe that anymore. There has to be a societal component, too.’

Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Sharon, who is aka ‘The Marketing Guru’, Sharon is a senior marketing professional and entrepreneur with over 15 years’ experience in marketing across multiple sectors. Her flexibility and mindset attributes are leveraged into positions at established firms as well as start-ups.

Sharon’s career to date has included senior marketing roles in a variety of industry sectors, including fintech, financial services, health-technology, recruitment, education, media and publishing. Sharon has experience in acquiring and maintaining business relationships with key decision-makers, sports brands, stakeholder groups and industry-leading publications to trade associations

Sharon is going to talk to us the importance of marketing and why NOW marketing is needed more than ever.

Hello everyone and thank you, Geoff, for your introduction, I have not written a blog in a while, as I have been in strict lockdown and have been shielding.

With the latest government guidelines on easing lockdown and for the economy to start moving, I thought now was a good time to issue my next blog.

In the last two blogs, I covered how lack of marketing can get you stuck in the start-up rut and the top 10 marketing essentials. A lot has changed since my last two blogs, with a global pandemic hitting us all, and with the entire world economy pausing, hard changes and choices had to be made to keep ourselves and families safe.

Businesses have suffered, people’s pockets have got smaller, with 9m employees on furlough for some to make major adjustments on getting a lower income of £2500 per month. We all have been affected in one way or another and not to forget those who have lost loved ones, life will never be the same, for them again.

Now that we are coming out of the lockdown and the economy is beginning to take steady steps. Many businesses will resume, although not pick up from where they left, as we all have to get used to a new normal.

Many businesses will be making major changes to their business structure, strategies, and staff, making cuts to survive. Many will just disappear as the lockdown has damaged their business for good. Many employees will be made redundant, and many will just decide to quit working for someone else and start up their own business, as they have had the taste of working from home with work-life balance. We will for sure have a new landscape on the business front.

To survive these unprecedented times and to keep your head above water, there is one key ingredient needed. It is to have a resilient marketing strategy. Businesses that are looking to make cuts should think twice before culling marketing departments. Marketing will be needed more than ever.

Reaching out to your clients, keeping them engaged and motivated through your communications and marketing messages. It is now imperative to be even more relevant to your audience. Hold on tight to your already established clients, as they will need the extra, attention, love, and care to ensure they do not go elsewhere.

Marketing strategies will have to take a different shape, those marketing plans devised pre-COVID-19 will no longer be useful in this new environment. The resilient marketing strategies will have to be more cost-effective; marketers will have to think more out of the box and adapt to new methodologies for reaching out to audiences.

If you are a start-up and at a point of not knowing which direction to go, you should be thinking about marketing, your investment does not have to be too large in size, you might just need one marketing expert at hand or a cost-friendly agency that can work the magic.

Starting a new business with zero marketing strategy is not a good move. You will need that leverage to launch you into the market.

Over the years we have seen the big digital transformation take place from companies moving from offline to offer digital solutions to their clients and consumers.

Digital will prevail and will continue to be the much-needed solution for businesses to survive, as we’ve discovered the importance of online communication platforms, where companies moved their entire operations online, enabling employees to work from home using the various digital video, team collaboration tools.

If your business or service is only offline, now would be the time to think about a digital offering, supported by a robust digital acquisition marketing strategy.

You can contact Sharon Shahzad via LinkedIn or by email:

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/chief-marketing-officer-cmo
sharon dot kalsi87 AT hotmail dot com (removing all the spaces)
Tel: +44 7843 470 307