Alan's corner: New year, curtains up
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Alan’s corner: New year, curtains up

Alan’s corner: New year, curtains up

Start the year on a positive note; bring your team together to appreciate their past efforts and share the business targets for the year ahead


The year 2022 reminds me of Catch-22, the novel written by Joseph Heller and later immortalised in the WWII film by the same name. It has now entered our lexicon to describe paradoxical situations. In that story, a bomber pilot tried to declare himself insane so as to get sent home. But the medics take the view that one needs to be sane to plot such a scheme. Another example of a paradox is ‘that in order to save money, sometimes you have to spend it’.

Despite the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of the last two years, the temptation for businesses is to continue to save money. I want to encourage you to spend just a little money in order to make some more.

Everyone is fed up with the pandemic. We want life to return to normal as soon as possible. We, as leaders, have to do our best to face into 2022, with as much positivity as we can muster. Therefore, why not take time to reboot your system. Pull out the plug and put it back in again.

What better way to do that than with a curtains up event early in the new year. This is an event where the leadership takes time to formally communicate to the wider organisation and show the team that they are in control of the future. This event will give you an opportunity to acknowledge the efforts and sacrifices made by everyone in the last year and to present the business plans for the year ahead.

How to convene a ‘curtains up’ event
Use the ‘Ws’ to help you plan the event: who, what, where, when and why.

1. Start by considering your audience: The level, the tone and the content of your message will vary across different groups of people. Tailor your message accordingly. If you are planning a physical event and can’t fit everyone into the same room at the same time, consider how the message from the main event will be cascaded. Those on the frontline are often left out of such events and that’s not okay. I do appreciate that the cascaded message may sometimes be edited, but think this through.

2. Linked to audience selection, what do you want to say? What can you say to show authentic appreciation for your team? This is your time to acknowledge their ongoing challenges. I would normally suggest that your presentation should be light on the past and heavy on future plans. Well, not this time. In this exceptional year, spend a little longer on the past successes.
Also, you’ve heard me say before that ‘budgets are not plans’, they are merely a set of numbers that predict the eventual score of the game. Instead of just budgets, develop a set of high-level business goals (approximately five to seven) that ultimately will deliver on your ambition for 2022. For example, develop a new media campaign, or launch a new range, or partner with X to open a new market Y.

3. Who should present? Apart from the CEO, who else should present? What other relevant speakers should be included? Take time to plan and rehearse these presentations so that they are inspirational and motivating.

4. Pick a venue or platform: With the high acceptance of virtual platforms, you might include everyone at the same event, using a hybrid of physical and virtual delivery. Try to keep it short, sharp and to the point. I have conducted some events in about two hours and others that go for the full day. Your overall objective, your content and the medium will determine this for you.

5. Introduce interactivity: If you have a facilitator, you should include a Q&A segment in the mix. You might also consider mini workshops for the audience so as to get their input into big issues. One example might be: how can we improve our customers’ experience in this new hybrid world?

The last word
The benefit to the wider team of a curtains up event is that they will feel respected, included and focused. This will be money well spent and it will drive engagement for you. Do give strong consideration to engaging an experienced facilitator to navigate the preparation and the day itself. Returning briefly to the number 22. Titanium is as strong as steel but only half the weight. It’s atomic number is 22. In your curtains up event, get a good balance between light and entertaining content, yet showing that the business is strong and tough facing into 2022.

Alan O’Neill is the managing director of Kara, change consultant and speaker

Read: Alan’s corner: Situational leadership

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