2021: Leadership Lessons I have Learnt

2021 has been a very fulfilling year personally and professionally. It has roared by, filled with challenging work, fun times and great people. Not many days go by without reflecting on the fact that I love what I do and the people I get to work with.

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With Greg Allnutt

Covid again dominated the year as businesses navigated shut downs, global supply chain melt downs, closed borders, vaccination roll outs and significant geopolitical change. Overall the global and NZ economy has performed well but 2022 looks to be equally full of change and uncertainty.

2021 Personal milestones;

  • Much more work from home including a 3-week total lock down. Nice to be able to mix work & home life.
  • Our children turned 20, 4 and 3. My eldest daughter studied at AUT in Auckland until August and then finished the academic year online from Christchurch.
  • We continued to develop our home, section and garden which has been a fun project.
  • A Labrador pup joined the family in May adding (chaos) to a busy family.
  • My father had several operations relating to cancer and has regained his health as he turned 78. He continues to live with us.
  • Over the last 12 months (according to my Apple watch) I averaged 9318 steps per day, exercised on average 31 minutes per day, completed 315 workouts and slept on average 7 hours and 26 minutes per night. Pretty happy with that!
  • I was awarded my “Infantry Bayonet” for 25 years service in the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment. I was really humbled to receive this and it came out of the blue after an invite to a 2/4 Battalion formal dinner. This award from the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment means a lot to me and my 28 years of military service is something I really am proud of.
  • I took 4 weeks off at Christmas and 3 one week breaks during the year. We had a camper van holiday at Easter, took time at the family farm and holidayed in Twizel. It was a chance to explore with the kids, do some hunting, rest, read and catch up with family
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2021 Business & Consulting Milestones

  • My 17th year of self employment.
  • Our company (Pivot and Pace) grew by 25% in both top and bottomline revenues and 7 new people joined our team in both consulting and support roles. Our team now sits at 12 and growing.
  • We appointed a General Manager to run the business day to day and a second independent director to our board. This is part of our succession planning as we look to scale our business.
  • Our Executive Leadership Coaching services grew by 30% and I personally delivered 307 one on one sessions working with 45 executive leaders. (Across NZ, Australia, the UK, the USA and India). This is now our biggest growth area in the business with the demand for sustainability strategy being a close second.
  • I personally facilitated 38 strategic planning sessions, 19 customised leadership team workshops, worked with 22 senior leadership teams, attended 55 board meetings (chairing 30 of them), completed 13 webinar training sessions as a student, delivered 5 key note speeches & took 40 domestic flights.
  • We moved offices in May and fitted them out.
  • I attended the NZ High Tech Business Awards in my role as Chair of Link Engine Management Ltd as finalists in the “Company of the Year” category. Whilst we did not win the top award, we were proud to be alongside some of the countries most admired brands.
  • We hosted a Black Tie Leadership dinner for 25 business leaders at the Christchurch Club with Shaun Maloney sharing his journey as CEO of Seequent after being successfully sold to Bentley for $1.05Bn USD.
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With Shaun Maloney
  • I took on an independent directorship with Groundline Engineering as Board Chair. Groundline are a specialist, privately held NZ power engineering company delivering services across New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom.
  • After facilitating the new Vision & Strategy for the Board of Angus NZ, I accepted a role as their first independent director. Angus NZ is the largest NZ breed association and I really enjoy working with farmers and agri-business leaders. My grandfather was a Angus NZ breeder in the 1960’s and my Uncle was a former Chair and life member. Growing up around black cattle on our family farm I have enjoyed reconnecting with the industry.
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The Board of Angus NZ 2021
  • We completed our first year as a sponsor of the Canterbury Institute of Directors and have recommitted for 2022 & 2023.
  • Our relationship with NZTE continued to grow as we engaged with NZ export companies seeking Strategy and Strategy Execution services.
  • John Spence remains a key strategic partner in our business and our regular zoom meetings keep us connected with US based businesses and trends.
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  • Our network of formal strategic & collaborative partnerships has continued to grow to 9 (including our long standing partnership with John Spence LLC in the USA).

I have learnt a lot and there are some interesting patterns we are seeing across business and the leaders we work with. I think the next 5 years and beyond will continue to be the most challenging ever for businesses looking to grow and scale. With that in mind it is important to reflect on the lessons learnt.

What valuable leadership lessons did I learn in 2021?

  1. Talented employees are leaving their mediocre bosses/leaders. Referred to as “the great resign” this pattern is being put down to people reassessing life priorities and leaving good jobs despite not having secured their next role. Personally I think much of this relates to the mediocre leaders that they work for. Leaders who don’t inspire, can’t connect, won’t adapt and look at new ways of leading just won’t be tolerated in a tight labour market where there are many options. Research shows over 50% of the NZ workforce is looking to move jobs in the next 12 month!
  2. Burn out is high. The pace of change is relentless. Everyone is tired and working hard and constant change/uncertainty adds to the stress. Managing tempo and ensuring everyone takes time off is critical to manage this. No organisation can be a maximum capacity all the time. Resilience levels across the board are low which won’t bode well if 2023 throws a big curveball or three!
  3. Many business models are failing to deliver what is currently needed. Out of date constitutions and business models that were designed for the 20th century are being challenged at present. Some create barriers to growth, succession and acquisition. Some of these things should have been addressed years ago. This will continue to be a big challenge and in some cases will be a catalyst for failure. Certainly we see national and local government struggling to keep pace with things, infrastructure is groaning, climate change is hitting home and the stage is set for some real disruption in the near future.
  4. Most Leaders don’t/can’t or won’t change their style. Those leaders who cannot flex or adapt their style of leadership are finding it really hard to lead succession, younger generations, change and to execute strategically. New skills and ways of engaging people are needed. 19% of the workforce in NZ and Australia is actively engaged. This is the outcome of poor leadership. On top of that our productivity is low despite working long hours.
  5. Many Boards suck at Strategic Thinking in Governance. This year, more than ever before, we have been involved in restructuring Board of Directors. Some companies have removed all their independent directors and recruited a totally new board. Board Chairs have been found wanting and there is a real shortage of skilled directors to take on Chair roles. With the pace of change boards need to work harder and be more adaptable to keep up with the pace of change that management teams are operating in. To think strategically and to stay ahead of the future challenges of the company requires more director development, more external advisers to the board and more strategic input.
  6. Trust the process. In times of constant change and uncertainty it is hugely valuable to have a framework and process within which to operate. Regular reviews, lessons learnt, professional development, intentional culture, speed of execution, data informed decision making and clarity on priorities mean there is a need for robust processes. Certainly I have found our strategic framework has never failed to deliver the outcomes needed. That said there have been times that we have just needed to trust the process and push forward.
  7. Opportunities abound. Never has there been more opportunity, nor a more exciting time to be leading in business. With any change there is opportunity and in constant change this is magnified if leaders can keep a clear head, create the space to explore the market and can execute. Exciting times indeed!

As you reflect on the year what were your milestones? What did you learn as a leader?

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