by Brian Eager of TowerStone


Chin up and eyes front as we learn from 2017’s challenges

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The past year has delivered, as each year before it, a complement of 365 days. As a leader, it was incumbent on you to make a positive impact every day. Dreams were realised, goals were smashed and ambition met with success in many cases. In parallel to the successes, there were times when the mark was missed or outright failure was a stark reality.

The challenges businesses faced in 2017 – and could face for the foreseeable future – seem to boil down to two overarching words: choice and change. These two seemingly simple factors can prove to be our downfall or the wave we ride to success.

We can no longer hide from change. It is both rapid and far reaching. Customer expectations change on a daily basis, talent is often looking for greener pastures and maintaining the edge on the competition requires constantly having your finger on the pulse. Change is a crushing force to struggle against, but if we catch the winds of change in our sails it can propel our businesses forward. 

Besides the choices that the changing landscape bring to our doors every day, our individual worlds have also grown larger given time and technology. We have come a long way since the time when our world consisted of our small town with one butcher, one baker and one candlestick maker. Now we can choose between a French loaf, a German brötchen or a Portuguese roll from our corner grocer.

Consumers do thorough research before choosing to be your customer. With the world literally at their fingertips as they scroll through mobile-friendly websites, how could they not do their homework? Weighing what you offer up against what your competitors offer could take as little as five minutes. The same goes for your talent who can easily promote themselves on social media and stay informed of career opportunities with notifications sent directly to their mailboxes. Choice is literally endless.

So, how do you lift the weight of constant change and overwhelming choice? Perhaps consider applying force to these three levers:

  • Cultivate a team of champions. The keyword being “team”. Should you invest in your team members in order to retain your talent? Definitely. Should you invest in and rely on a select few team members only? Definitely not. We must offer our team members opportunities to grow and contribute in a meaningful manner, but it is imperative that no-one works in a silo. Encourage constant collaboration and skills transfer to minimise the gap that a team member who moves on might leave.
  • Build trust relationships with your customers. This can be as small as ensuring that the milk you sell is always fresh or as complicated as investing a retiree’s life savings with care and knowledge. The only way to consistently combat the overwhelming range of choices out there is to ensure that they choose you because you haven’t disappointed them before.
  • Embrace change to remain competitive. It is important to realise though, that all the trust in the world won’t help you if you are selling flipcharts to a client who is looking for an interactive solution. You must stay abreast of customer needs and innovation to make sure you have the best and most up-to-date offerings available.

Author John Maxwell encourages us to use stepping stones to fall forward each time instead of seeing them as stumbling blocks to success – inevitably making progress by each failure. Are we learning from our efforts and embracing the realities of choice and change? Are we learning fast enough? Why will next year be your best yet? You decide.

*Brian Eagar is a founder and CEO of TowerStone Leadership Centre. Visit

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