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So what does the year ahead hold?

More of the same or dramatic change, threats and opportunities?

Reading about the recent and dramatic major company liquidations, sell offs, large scale environmental disasters in third world communities, culture threats and ongoing disruption provides a great metaphor for our year ahead.

Personally I feel quite excited about the continued oncoming market forces and threats which actually force people, companies and economies to face the underlying issues and create real change.

Whilst the current business environment is influenced by the global stock market New Year decline and various economists reports of “worst start ever in history to a New Year,” the economists also report the fundamentals are positive for Australia. While we are going through a resources and commodity decline, overseas markets do recover and opportunities emerge in new countries and economies.




The recent examples of:

  • Dick Smith liquidation
  • Woolworths decision to sell off Masters
  • BHP Billiton’s challenges in dealing with the large scale environmental disaster in Brazil
  • Severe decline of commodity prices
  • ANZ Bank’s response to the revelation of their purported culture issues…

…all indicate underlying and complex issues created by leadership and strategy from the past which have not been confronted – until the market pressure boils over leading to the reality and necessity of having to make hard decisions.

What leadership lessons can we learn and what does this mean for 2016? 




  • Gordon Cairns, Chairman of Woolworths asked the management team to revert to him with scenario planning on the best and worst cases for Masters Home Improvement to recover from their inability to be a valid competitor to Bunnnings. The Board also sought independent advice to test management’s assumptions and then made a decision to refocus on their core business and take the losses. A brave decision on the very day Wesfarmers announced its expansion of the Bunnings business into the UK.
  • ANZ’s new CEO, Shayne Elliot responded quickly and decisively, acknowledging that the current culture is unacceptable and announced the plan to address the issue with a culture review and strategy to restate their purpose under the new leadership. At the same time he removed symbolic barriers in head office such as the executive car parks to start to address the “us” and “them” silos.
  • The debate continues as to laying blame for the Dick Smith liquidation. Who played what part and will there be some open accountability and ownership? The private equity firm, the banks, the recently departed CEO and his management team’s capability to sustain the business post IPO? Who will account to the potentially thousands who are may be about to lose their jobs and what about the time to be expended and significant legal fees while the company’s future is debated? The path and outcomes are unclear.

Key messages:

1. Be rationale. Gather information on your business and team and do a health check against your current goals and objectives for the year. Is the focus where it needs to be? Are there questions or underlying concerns which haven’t been addressed?




2. Calm and steady leadership through rough waters…

3. Look beyond what is in front of you to find new fields. This might be coming back to your core business or skill set, or it might be facing the reality of disruption and the possibilities of new collaborations, best demonstrated by Premier Baird’s support for Airbnb and Uber in NSW.




4. See the chaos and uncertainty as possibilities for change and clarity for new ways of doing business, leading, new markets, new opportunities.

5. Look after yourself, maintain your energy levels to be available as a leader for yourself first and then for others who will benefit from your strong and firm presence and self-confidence.

6. Stay close to your people and don’t accept behaviour in your teams which are not aligned with your company’s culture and values.

7. Don’t be afraid to take risks in a measured way, to explore new horizons and show your staff through walking the talk that they do have a leader who they can respect and draw courage from.




8. Avoid being isolated by being overly protected by staff – answer your phone directly, make more personal calls and send less emails.

9. Don’t be led by the pack, your job is to define and determine trends and opportunities as well as risk.

10. Don’t take yourself too seriously – always have a sense of fun. After all life is meant to be pleasurable not miserable. Your staff want to see all sides of you but most important is not being afraid to show the real you. Above all they want authenticity – not a manufactured person based on the latest management text books.

So all in all…2016 trepidation or transformation? The answer is in your hands.




We look forward to meeting up with you this year to hear how things are going through the continued challenging business environment.


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