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6 min read - February 26, 2024

Learning From 2023, to Influence 2024

How good has it been to have a great summer so far, especially in the upper North Island! The mood in talking to business owners/leaders right through the country this year, couldn’t be more different, there is positivity, self-assurance and cautious optimism. Perhaps we are starting to find our mojo…

While the short weeks have been nice to help people readjust to work wear, I am happy we are now into the year and personally finding it great to get some continuity and momentum.

This then got me thinking about some of things observed in the last work year, and how that showed up over the summer holiday, then what I hope we learn from, as we lead our businesses through 2024.

Here are my summer-themed analogies:

Bug-free window-screens (TRANSPARENCY): as a leader you want to have the answers, be able to provide clarity of direction and give comfort to the business.  Unfortunately, and especially with some of the conditions we were dealing with last year, it is not always our reality.  Having worked with many leaders where being open about ‘current state’ was a struggle, mainly because of the perceived impact on the reputation of the leadership team, what people have clearly said they would like to see more this year, is greater transparency.  We all hope the year will be more positive, with the market conditions improving to assist our businesses, but it might still be tough - irrespective as leaders - being more open and transparent about the current state of the business is critical. Sharing our challenges/bumps in the road ahead can support the business as a whole to navigate through them more effectively. Your teams will appreciate it.

Everyone in the family has holiday ideas (CO-DESIGN CHANGE:)This point flows from the one above.  Too many times, last year, there was a ‘secret society’ of leaders trying to design fundamental changes for their organisations but either lacking enough contextual detail of the day-to-day functioning of their businesses and/or only seeing a restructure as the route to success. Those who work with me know how much of an advocate I am for co-design, but I encourage you to think about how you involve more talented people from across your business to co-design the aspirational outcomes.  Not only will they bring a ‘non-exec’ perspective of what is really happening in the business, they also bring an objectivity and ideas not ordinarily heard on this topic at the ‘top table’. Importantly having them involved in the co-creation ensures greater understanding, buy-in and then ownership to support a successful implementation of all the changes required…and it will be more than structure.

Your favourite things sometimes break (BREAK STUFF): Given the pressures of the last few years I have again seen a lot of business trying to protect all that they do, especially the elements that have traditionally made their businesses successful.  Unlike my toddler niece who is at the ‘let’s mess everything up’ phase, my challenge to you all is to look at ‘strategically breaking’ what has worked up until now, because if you don’t, this historical strength might become your biggest weakness. For example, all parts of K3, whether Legal, Accounting or Consulting are being disrupted by AI.  We could continue to do what we do, because it works for our clients and us. However, we have started the year thinking aspirationally about where do we want to be in three years, how will we achieve that working in conjunction with technology and then starting the process of managing that transition.

Stain the deck or watch it crack (PROTECT VS. NEGLECT): Working with three fast growth businesses at the back end of last year, it was clear that in some instances the organisation had outgrown the capabilities of some of its leaders. That doesn’t mean encouraging those leaders to leave, nor failing to recognise the value those people can still contribute. It could mean finding roles betters suited to their skill sets, where they deliver great value, but no longer have the unrealistic pressure to try and lead within businesses growing exponentially. The challenge for leaders is when do you need to protect your team versus when does protection have a detrimental impact on growth, performance and individual wellbeing. Hand-on-heart, are there people in your team that even with the best intentions and support, will not get to where they need to be?  It’s way better to have the conversation now rather than them and the business, suffering as a result of under delivery.  I know that sounds harsh, but I have seen people blossom post these conversations, employed in new roles/companies and with the realisation that where they had been, was not the right fit.

Don’t dictate from the BBQ (LAZY LEADERSHIP): Just like overseas we have an issue in NZ where billions are being spent with consultants every year and a big chunk of that shouldn’t be (I know, ironic statement given the author).  With challenging times came leaders overreaching into their business getting way too operational. Combine that with an under investment in learning and development, concerns from owners/boards about the capabilities of leaders leading, or big brand consultants being brought in, and suddenly you have leaders whose ability to complete the fundamental elements of what good leadership should be atrophying. In 2024 we need to do more to support our leaders to have clarity around the levels at which they work, invest in helping them develop the necessary skills and create an environment when they can put these renewed capabilities into use with the right support around them.  And if you are using Consultants, make sure that while they are doing any discrete piece of work, they are also building capabilities in your organisation to remove future reliance on them.


We know the year won’t be easy, but 2024 has started well. If we focus on applying the lessons learnt from last year, then as a leader you are creating the best chances for you and your business to succeed.   

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