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Building on first quarter success

Building on first quarter success

Dr Ahmad Badr explains why companies should not get caught up in the excitement of a successful first quarter

It’s the time of year when regional businesses announce results for the first quarter of 2018, and this year’s have made for happy reading for many investors and observers of regional markets. Many important companies, from Sabic to Mubadala to Emaar, have announced encouraging figures, and there is a definite sense of optimism and excitement about the prospects for many sectors over the rest of this year.

Read: Dubai’s Emaar Properties sees profit jump thanks to strong retail market

When such results hit the headlines, it is easy to be swept up in this excitement and that’s no bad thing. A healthy, happening business environment can be good for everyone, and it’s great to revel in a tranche of good news stories. But, as a business leader, it is also a good idea to foster the kind of calm, improvement-focused attitudes that demark many of the most successful people in various fields.

Some of the most famous sportspeople and team managers, for example, have famously fostered an attitude focused always on ‘the next game’ or ‘the next event’. No matter their success and glittering medal haul, they will respond to questions about their glory only with a focus on further self-improvement. They could be one game away from the title, but they’ll only be focused on the minutiae of how to beat their next opponent, not on any greater sense of success.

Such an attitude works as well in the boardroom. Record profits are, of course, a great thing for any business to celebrate, but they also represent a challenge for the leader that has helped to produce them. Building on success, creating a business that sustainably performs over the long-term, is the true test of leadership quality and performance. Ignoring too much of the excitement in favour of further performance gains is one way to test this quality.

Partly this is down simply to the fact that businesses are rarely built to perform well for a very short-time. Outside of a very few ‘pop-up’ style business models, the needs of employees, customers and stockholders are measured in years, not quarters. But it also comes down to the fact that success can create its own challenges, and these are challenges that a good leader needs to be able to respond to.

There is, for example, the challenge of simply becoming complacent. A business, or at least parts of its structure, can often become somewhat lackadaisical and under-performing after pushing hard for a particular target or goal. Individual employees or teams might see success as a reason to take their collective feet off the pedal, believing their job has been done. Or they might view the level of success as something of a plateau reached, with limited idea where or how they could attain greater heights.

This is where a good leader needs to keep the focus on improvements and further effort to strike forward for further success. Whether you have just released the iPhone X or built a new industrial process, the attainment of a landmark moment needs to be followed by further success to keep a company relevant and profitable. A leader who keeps their followers’ eyes firmly placed on the long-term vision of the company is more likely to see this happen.

Naturally, success also raises expectations of future performance. If you have won gold once, the logic goes, silver is never going to be a suitable follow-up. In leadership, this means that incredible market conditions or unusual demand could skew further expectations, potentially making tougher years and conditions harder to reflect as successes (even if they really are!). Moderating expectations by simply focusing always on the next challenge shows a leader is prepared for the long-term, not short-term celebrations.

I don’t mean to suggest that any business should avoid celebrating its good performance. When good news comes, it should definitely be enjoyed by everyone who has contributed to it. Rather, as the business leaders who are currently celebrating Q1 successes will no doubt be doing, leaders should also be keeping one eye beyond these celebrations to maintain success into the future.

Dr Ahmad Badr is chief executive officer of Knowledge Group

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