The Bottom Line
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This time of year is about setting objectives and goals. However, these usually fail within the first month. How can you empower yourself to stick with them for the whole year? Dawn Leane outlines five ways that can help. It’s the time of year when we set ourselves new goals, whether personal or professional. But often, by the time spring arrives, our good intentions are just a distant memory. Setting objectives is always a good idea, but we can set ourselves up to fall short unless we have the right mindset. Here are five ways to empower yourself in 2021 and beyond. 1. Start with the end in mind A goal without a plan is just a wish, as the saying goes. Stephen Covey advises us to “begin with the end in mind”. Having a clear understanding of what ‘future-perfect’ looks like makes it easier to know where we’re going, assess where we are now, and work out all the steps in between. By breaking our journey into a series of smaller goals, we are more likely to stay on track. 2. Give yourself a break Strike a balance between having ambition and setting unrealistic expectations. For example, if you tend to leave things to the last minute, you may decide to focus on improving your time management. We usually approach this by trying to change ourselves, expending much energy in the process. Or you could accept that you work best with an impending deadline and change how you structure your time instead. Self-acceptance is the most empowering act of all. 3. Build your network There is little we can achieve alone. A strong, strategically developed network is essential to success in any endeavour. Your network should consist of people who can provide you with information and further connections, give honest feedback, provide personal support, and help you maintain a positive work-life balance. Ensure that the people in your network know what you want to accomplish. It will be easier for them to help if they can recognise the opportunity, information or introduction that will benefit you. 4. Review regularly We live in a VUCA world: volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Review your goals regularly to ensure that they are still relevant, that you are on track, and have the right resources. If your original objective is unrealistic or your circumstances change, don’t judge yourself. Instead of doubling down or quitting, reassess what you want to achieve. Revisit your concept of ‘future-perfect’ and ask if it is still valid. If not, what can you change to make it so? 5. Just do it Motivation is a myth. John Maxwell writes: “The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation. Just do it. Exercise, lose weight, test your blood sugar, or whatever. Do it without motivation. And then, guess what? After you start doing the thing, that’s when the motivation comes and makes it easy for you to keep on doing it.” The key to empowerment is taking control. That doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes or have bad days. But if you learn from those experiences and refine your approach, your capacity will continually develop. Dawn Leane is CEO of Leane Leaders, supporting leadership development through training, executive coaching, mentoring and consultancy.

Jan 08, 2021
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Coming back to work after the holidays is always challenging, this year especially. How can we inspire our staff to be more productive amidst the January blues? Anne Phillipson explains. Crack! That’s the sound of the spines of new 2021 diaries being opened across the island as employees face the new year with the same determined optimism that students embrace (at least for a few weeks) at the start of every term. In business, we may set new strategic objectives aligned to corporate strategy at this time of year, asking our team members to set personal objectives for 2021. But the start of this new year is unlike any other. As leaders look at the challenging landscape, they will understandably want to ensure – now more than ever – that everyone in the organisation is as productive as possible. Productivity describes various measures of the efficiency of production. Back in the industrial revolution, this was much easier to measure. It was easy to count the widgets coming off the line, or the number of units produced per person per year. But productivity is a noisy measure when it comes to knowledge workers. If productivity used to mean getting more things done each day, it now means getting more important things done consistently. As the great business guru Peter Drucker said, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” How can leaders unlock their employees’ productivity and create the best possible environment for them to thrive? Here are three suggestions that should help. 1. Prioritise Make sure that your team knows what is most important. This might seem straightforward, yet I am willing to bet that if I interviewed ten of your employees, I would get a range of answers to the question: “What are the three most important priorities right now?” For everyone to be crystal clear on the priorities, leaders must communicate consistently. It is always tempting to do the ‘urgent’ at the expense of the ‘important’, so make sure that important activities get priority. Regular check-ins with your people will help, as will progress updates on priority objectives. 2. Remove friction Ensure that people have the resources they need to get the job done. Find out what your employees need to make it easier for them to do their job, and then act on the responses. Maybe a process slows people down, or a clunky system could be simplified. Or perhaps they need a computer upgrade or training. Whatever the friction, it’s imperative that you take action to make your employee’s life easier, thereby removing a barrier to productivity and building trust with the team, so they know that you take their feedback seriously. 3. Agreed measurement Too often, bosses equate hours in the office with productivity. Those same bosses are now anxious that nobody is in the office – if they can’t see people, they feel that it is impossible to know how productive they are. However, if people are clear on the priorities, with clearly defined and agreed outputs, and have the tools and resources to do their jobs, bosses will have to trust their people to get on with their work. Isn’t that why you hired them in the first place? Anne Phillipson is a Director of People & Change Consulting at Grant Thornton NI.

Jan 08, 2021
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It’s almost impossible to predict the economic forecast for 2021. However, there are steps we can all take to get Ireland back to living its best life. Neil Gibson explains. When making resolutions, we inevitably start with great enthusiasm and, all too often, by February, our lives look just as they did before. With 2020 over, perhaps it is a good time to think about our collective resolutions, which will need to last well beyond January if we are to get Ireland back to living its best life. Eat and drink more Many hospitality businesses had their worst-ever year in 2020. As vaccines are introduced, thereby making it safer to be outside later in the year, it will be important to spend money in the hospitality sector. Treating yourself to a dessert in 2021 – you are doing it for the economy! Get fit Physical fitness improved for many people with time at home, while others went in the other direction. For almost everyone, mental health has been impacted due to feelings of isolation, loneliness, vulnerability and fragility. Tiredness and fatigue have become significant issues too. We need our healthcare system fit-for-purpose and our businesses sufficiently robust to survive. We all need to be adequately fit – physically, mentally and financially – to face whatever might come our way. No backsliding 2020 revealed ways to work and live better. There is unlikely to be a desire to return to pre-COVID-19 congestion levels, and many digital ways of working are simply more efficient. Embracing these improvements to free-up time for the things we enjoy should be a goal. Bring forward our goals We now know how quickly policy can be implemented and what an emergency response looks like. However, we still have other emergencies at the door, so let’s be more ambitious on timelines. Achieving carbon neutrality is an obvious one, but there are others such as the housing crisis, rural broadband roll-out, and the delivery of Metro North. Watch the spending Our Government spent record amounts on our behalf in 2020. All very necessary and, so far, there is no great urgency to balance the books. There may well be a global debate about turning a portion of the costs into perpetual debt or a form of ‘great reset’ with debt we effectively owe to ourselves being forgiven. However, that cannot breed complacency over managing spend. Maybe, to coincide with the season’s theme, we need to resolve to make a list of what we need rather than want. Plan for the future Resolutions are often limited to things we can get stuck into in January. Real change takes longer and requires a new culture and attitude. There has been criticism from the Fiscal Council and others that recent spending decisions have built up expensive future problems. We need to keep an eye on the long-term vision. Does Ireland 2040 need to be revisited? Should corporates look again at their vision? The answer should be a resounding “yes” in both cases. Be grateful for what we have There are challenges ahead, but 2020 has allowed many to appreciate what truly matters in life. This may improve our appreciation of a broader range of jobs in our society; it will undoubtedly enhance our view of the importance of government. Firms that worked hard on purpose and culture saw those principles tested and, hopefully, strengthened. Community and a value on friends and colleagues are part of the culture shift that could potentially be the biggest lesson learnt. At the heart of the word “resolution” is the concept of “resolve”. How apt that we need to be steadfast in our commitment to a better tomorrow. If we didn’t already know that real success is a mixture of economic, social and environmental progress, we do now. Ireland appears set to continue its strong economic performance. However, it will need similar strides in the other two dimensions to say with honesty that we kept our New Year resolutions. Neil Gibson is Chief Economist at EY.

Jan 08, 2021
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Simon Shirley examines the recent report from the Interdepartmental Pensions Reform and Taxations Group and what it means for pension reform down the line. In 2018, the Irish government published A Roadmap for Pensions Reform 2018–2023, in respect of a proposed five-year plan for comprehensive reform of the state and private (or ‘supplementary’) pension systems. A key aim of the Roadmap is to promote long-term pension saving to address income adequacy in retirement. The Interdepartmental Pensions Reform and Taxations Group (IDPRTG) – chaired by the Department of Finance and includes representatives from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the Department of Social Protection, Revenue, and the Pensions Authority – was established to carry out several tasks set out in the Roadmap, namely: proposals aimed at simplifying and harmonising the supplementary pension landscape; an assessment of the cost of State support for pension savings; and a review of the Approved Retirement Fund (ARF) structure. The group engaged in a public consultation process and received submissions from various stakeholders, including pension/life insurance companies, trustees, lawyers, advisors/brokers, investment managers, and private individuals. In recent weeks, it published a report on some of its work-to-date. This report has been broadly welcomed by the private pensions industry and contains positive and practical steps. The report contains several proposals to reform and simplify the existing supplementary pension system, i.e. the system that is relevant to most of us working in the private sector who have pension plans. This system consists of two pillars, broadly summarised as follows: Employer-arranged pension plans, known as occupational pension schemes. These are provided by employers for employees and are arranged on a “group” basis (i.e. for more than one employee and are the most common arrangements for employees in the private sector), or on an “individual” basis (i.e. for one employee only and are typically used by company owners and key executives). Individual plans, which are typically used by self-employed sole traders/partners, employees in non-pensionable employment, and employees who are changing/leaving employment. While many of the proposals make sense at a technical level, at the end of the day, many of us will always require advice on saving for our retirement, irrespective of the number of products, rules, options, etc., that are available.  As professional pension advisors/brokers, we are at the coalface of the system. For decades we have been advising employers, and individuals from all walks of life, from late teens to 90s, whether starting out or in retirement, whether running their own business to working for a multinational, on planning for retirement and planning in retirement. No matter how many technical groups are assembled, reports published, public consultations undertaken, etc., the fact remains that adequately planning for retirement will remain challenging for many of us, as we are programmed to engage more with short- to medium-term matters, rather than long-term issues and requirements. While the current system does have anomalies and inconsistencies, some of these wrinkles can often lead to improved outcomes for individuals, and can actually improve the attractiveness of saving for retirement, in conjunction with appropriate advice. I welcome that the report acknowledges the need for advice and states: “The need for independent financial advice in the lead up to, at the point of, and during retirement is widely accepted. Improving the availability of appropriate advice for pension savers received significant support in the consultation responses.” However, the danger in this process could be that the need for advice ends up being a footnote rather than being front and centre, given the various perspectives, experiences, and interests of the large stakeholders (i.e. the government, relevant state bodes, pension/life insurance companies, etc.).  Pension and retirement planning is a very personal experience, and a simplified one-size-fits-all solution may not always be in the best of interests of citizens, who tend to have very varied personal and financial backgrounds, objectives and expectations. To assist the large stakeholders in this process, the voice of the experienced professional advisor (through representative groups such as Chartered Accountants Ireland and Brokers Ireland) should be a key influencer in any changes to be made.  So far, I have been impressed overall by the preparatory work done by the government and the state bodies in recent years – however, effective ongoing communication and practical implementation of the reforms/changes to be made will be the ultimate litmus test. Simon Shirley is the Founder of Simon Shirley Advisors. He is the author of the new book, A Practical Guide to Pensions and Life Insurance, from Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Dec 11, 2020
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While there’s an end in sight to the pandemic, COVID-19 has hit most businesses hard. How do we bounce back and recover over the next 12 months? The key, says Patrick Gallen, is to learn how to lead with resilience. I participated in an excellent webinar on organisational resilience and readiness last week. We were joined by guest speakers from around the world. What impacted me most about the discussion was the strong focus on how organisations, regardless of COVID-19 restrictions and a potentially hard Brexit, need to bounce back quickly as they recover from the pandemic and strive for survival and growth in 2021. Resilience is the capability of organisations to prevent (where possible) and respond effectively to crises and the ability to anticipate, adapt and take advantage of long-term trends and opportunities. A key component of resilience is leading and responding through challenge. In today’s world, where change and disruption are constant, simply bouncing back is no longer a sustainable strategy. It’s about moving from a survive to a strive mode. There is still a significant road ahead before organisations emerge from the current challenge and there will, no doubt, be new challenges that crop up. As a leader, you will need to direct with energy and purpose – and you will need to be resilient. Resilience is not only essential at an organisational level, but also at a team and an individual level. However, the way we speak about resilience at an organisational and a leadership level will influence an individual’s perception of resilience. An organisation’s resilience isn’t simply the sum of its employees’ resilience. It includes culture, leadership, beliefs and practices. Leadership needs to be shared and distributed across the organisation at all levels, with excellent communication and collaboration, avoiding silos and empowering employees to make quick and informed decisions. Here are my top tips for leaders in 2021 to be resilient and lead with purpose and energy. Balance Try to maintain a good work-life balance, which can be difficult when working from home on a continual basis. As a leader, make sure that a good work-life balance is encouraged and respected by you and the entire organisation. Connections and collaboration Encourage strong collaboration and support mechanisms within your teams and at all levels. As a leader, actively address the problem of silo-working. Belief You need to be confident in your ability to lead in challenging times, and this should be encouraged and supported by your organisation. Purpose Be sure to stay connected to your values. When you are connected to your values, you are more resilient. Rest, recovery and review After periods of intense work and focus (such as the last nine months), there is a need for rest and recovery, but just as importantly, a review of what has worked well and what needs to change. Learning from new and difficult experiences builds on your ability to navigate the next difficult experience. Self-knowledge and growth as a leader will build your resilience levels for 2021 – and beyond. Patrick Gallen is the Head of People and Change Consulting for Grant Thornton Ireland.

Dec 11, 2020
News

2020 was an unusual year, and 2021 will likely be just as strange. Moira Dunne emphasises the importance of setting your goals as usual, however, and gives some tips on how to stay on top of them. As we reach the end of an extraordinary year, our focus is switching to 2021. Most years we make new plans in January for the year ahead. And even though 2021 may still present plenty of uncertainty during this global pandemic, it is still important to do this to get motivated for the future. Here are some practical tips for goal setting to help maximise your chance of delivering your goals next year. Reflect on 2020 Before moving on, it is useful to reflect on what we learned in 2020. Most people were forced to rethink how they work. We adopted new working habits and routines, and found new ways to connect with each other. For many, this new way of working had benefits as well as down-sides. Consider what you learned from the changes you made in 2020. What do you want to bring forward into 2021? Here is a list of some of the key changes we encountered. Which ones are relevant for you? The power of uninterrupted time to get work done. The benefit of clearer communication with colleagues. How making quick decisions benefits business. Streamlined business processes that reduce time waste. The importance of planning ahead. The value of team interaction for problem-solving and creativity. Setting goals for 2021 Before you set your goals for 2021, review the status of the goals set for 2020. Some may never have been completed or even started given the circumstances of 2020. Some may not be relevant due to a change in business focus. Re-evaluate your priorities for the year ahead. Be realistic Take a realistic view of your workload and schedule. Where can you find extra time to work on your goals? Plan to achieve one goal at a time to avoid overwhelming yourself. Once you make progress on one goal, you will be more motivated to tackle the next one. Making progress It is hard to find time in our busy day-to-day schedules to work on extra projects or goals. The key to making progress is to work out the specific tasks or actions required to achieve the goal. With a list of tasks, it is easier to make some progress each week. Find a time block within your week that you can set aside to make progress on you goal task list. These time blocks can add up and, if well planned, will result in regular progress on your larger goal. Making a plan To help stay on track, I recommend that you create a simple goal plan with targets. This helps you stay motivated. It also provides a sense of achievement as you complete the work. Be productive Now is the time to focus on 2021 so you can finish this year feeling motivated and organised. And while 2021 may be another unusual year, having a purpose and a plan will help you get up and running in January. Happy New Year to you all. Moira Dunne is the Founder of beproductive.ie

Dec 11, 2020