Key Questions for Leaders in 2015

Asking the right questions is often the key to discovering the path ahead to progress.

Far too much energy goes into goal setting when the right focus should be on processes.

The new year has been upon us for a few weeks now, and depending on your organisation’s financial year, most of us will be looking forward to the latest news, trends and issues that will matter most to us in 2015.

Four questions may be key to how you respond to 2015’ challenges. And in a simple and succinct manner these are:

1) Your role & purpose in one word

The time is right to revisit why you do what you do. It may seem simple, but in the crush of the daily commute, firefighting and pressing meetings it is important to describe exactly how you see yourself in your role.

Are you an “accelerator” of business; helping the group move faster with on-time reports on their finances, and delivering means to leverage your organisation’s cash flow? Or perhaps you are an “enabler”? Someone who uses finance and the associated tools to ‘enable’ others to expand, build, create and deliver solutions to better the condition of their customers.

A simple, yet powerful way is to imagine you’re speaking to an intelligent 10 year old, and needing to explain, in the shortest, simplest, yet most truthful manner, exactly what you do at work.

Understanding your deep purpose in your own context is immensely powerful. It gives you leadership clarity at every stage of action, and helps you persist when you encounter obstacles and setbacks.

2) Your biggest concern from internal perspective?

According to 2015 Finance Priorities Survey from the Financial Executives Research Foundation and consulting firm Protiviti, the five key concerns from an internal perspective are strategic planning, budgeting, compliance with regulations, profit analysis and cash forecasting. These seem to be the most pressing concerns for top executives.

Even as leader of large expeditions to the great peaks in the past, no one is immune to these key issues. What would be our strategy and approach to reach the summit? Would we be employing lightweight and swift alpine style approaches, or adopting a more resource-intensive siege–style approach? What are our funds prior to the expedition? Would we need to hedge some funds in light of major currency swings? Will the recent changes to the permit system in assessing mountains in Nepal have an impact on our plans?

However of all the major concerns, the greatest number of the 372 respondents identified strategic planning as the biggest concern. And so it should be. Strategy planning helps you align and deploy resources, sets a way forward with the constraints and resources that you have. The biggest red flag though, should be the extent to which you and your team can execute the strategy. In many cases, strategy planning with an unclear path to execute leads to confusion, backtracking and utter failure to deliver the result wanted. Do you share a similar set of concerns?

3) Biggest concern from global perspective?

For many, it comes down to volatility whether it is in the form of geopolitical upheavals in the Middle East, tension in East Europe because the Ukraine conflict; the case of OPEC oil versus shale oil from the USA; tensions from reforms in India to create a more sustainable economy and the impact of currency fluctuations on trade and an export-driven economy.

4) What will you do at the process level to get your goals?Some of you are already aware of and use SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis to help create a path for the year ahead. However, at the geopolitical or external concerns level, it may be better to use a PEST analysis (Political, Economic, Social and Technological) – outlining specific aspects that are will affect your unique situation. Taking each in turn, from the Political view, what might the politics and policies of the day do to your 2015 plan? How will compliance play a role to stymie or protect gains made? Economic: interest rates that will rise, taxes, financial reforms, your hedge/bets and inflation that will play a part. Social: what are your customers asking for in their ever-increasingly connected lifestyle and expectations? Technology: Patents, licensing, Big Data, Cloud – how will these have an impact on your business . I see maybe 10 times more SWOT analysis than PEST ones and getting the analysis right in the PEST exercise goes a long way in helping you gain clarity.

It is the last but not least important question. Process determines the series of steps, habits, behaviours and daily action that you and your team will need to consider and take in orde to achieve your goal. I feel far too much energy at this time of the year goes into goal-setting when the right focus should be on the steps and processes you are committed to take or do to get what you want.

And this includes winning the buy-in for these processes from your nearest and closest team.

About the author: David Lim is Asia’s Leadership Coach, and best known for leading the 1st Singapore Mt Everest Expedition. Since 1999, he has helped organizations build teams and grow leaders. Send him a note today at david@everestmotivation.com to subscribe to a no-cost leadership e-newsletter.


Add new comment