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Stephen Walker

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Do you want to go there from here? A review of 2012 and 2013


Stephen Walker takes a personal view of 2012 and throws a few custard pies at people who have astonished by their poor performance. He has plaudits for those who have shown astonishing individual capability. He tries to take a sober view of 2013 with a forecast for the UK economy, what the successful will do and how the rest of us can chase after them.

2012 has been a year when we held our collective breath. We watched the astonishing Olympian feats, too shocked to breathe in case we blew away our good fortune. The economy too made us catch our breath several times as it seemed to suggest an improvement and then a worsening of our condition. It seems to me 2012 could have been a lot worse. Perhaps we can invoke the Dunkirk spirit metaphor again – it could have been a disaster but somehow we muddled through and avoided the cataclysm. While we have this spirit in our minds, I think the successes in 2012 have come from astonishing individual efforts as, sadly, have the disasters come from incredible individual failures.

The 2012 Olympics

The London Olympics showed the world the UK can still throw a good party. However those of us who are interested in management processes are still trying to lower our eyebrows from that security company’s notion of how to recruit guards. The show was made to work by the volunteers – people who wanted to be part of a 'great enterprise' for its own sake. (For more on the London Olympics see this TZ article). Not forgetting the British Army falling in for a more relaxing tour of duty than they have been used to recently. We came away from the Olympics and Paralympics very pleased with ourselves – helped of course by the outstanding individual performances of our athletes.

The economy

I was heartened today to read the reports of an 82,000 people rise in employment. Then I read an article by the BBC's economics editor Stephanie Flanders saying that there is a statistical puzzle over rising employment while GDP is static – in other words our productivity is declining.

Coincidently I read a LinkedIn discussion today which was around how to motivate staff. One gentleman was of the firm opinion that people were lucky to have a job and that was sufficient motivation – just show them the door if they don’t like it. This is being emotional as a manager instead of using emotional intelligence. What should we call the opposite of emotional intelligence do you think? Clearly, I have failed in my main resolution this year, which was to make people understand how to make people want to work.

The country did avoid a complete financial meltdown though and it still has the AAA rating from the rating agencies.

I have become increasingly despondent about the Government’s laziness over the Benefits system. Not just this Government but those before it too. The benefits systems – to give it the correct description, is a contract of insurance paid for by National Insurance contributions – is something most people think should exist as a safety net for those falling into hardship. The cost of the system is huge and as a result the safety net is being reduced which means those most in need will now hit the ground – hard. How many years does it take the change the system to make it work properly?

It would be horrible to believe that the cuts in public sector funding are falling disproportionately on frontline staff to maintain the executive capability. I wouldn’t let some of these people run a hotdog stall! There still seems to be lots of money sloshing about the public purses though. My local council spent £60,000 on two sleeping policemen, made deliberately gentle to avoid slowing down the traffic. Ask your local Council for the cost of the things they are doing near to you – call them to account for their cavalier ways. It is so much easier to spend than earn.


A favourite quote of mine: He who reads a crystal ball must expect to eat ground glass. Regardless, what does 2013 hold for us?

The economy

The UK’s population is paying off its debt. Perhaps a generation will have learnt its lesson about borrowing: bad luck Banks. There is so much activity amongst small businesses I am convinced growth is possible. Perhaps the statistical conundrum of employment growth with static GDP is caused by small business owners reducing their working week to 50 hours! I remain quietly confident about the economy in 2013. There will be a continuing exodus from the public to the private sector to the great benefit of the UK productivity, debt and economy.

The 2013 fight

We need to win sales, we need to wrest sales from our competitors. We need to be better, faster, cheaper whatever it takes to sell our products and services. I can tell you that companies in India and China recognise their cheap labour is no longer sufficient to guarantee them the work. While we have examples of emotional stupidity like that on LinkedIn, they are pushing ahead with ways of making their educated, qualified people more productive. Unless you are going to be satisfied for your children and children’s children to live in a low-wage economy with poor social insurance, education, health and prospects, you best find out how to win some more business.

How to win in 2013

Hard work – stop taking the easy option of putting up your prices, shrinking the market and retaining your turnover. Improve productivity and profitability, put prices down, grow your market and win more business. We are well into the 21st century now, so invest in information technology. But invest wisely - buy because you need not because you can. Finally make your people effective. As 2012 has shown us individuals can do astonishing things, good and bad. Manage your people intelligently and they will astonish you.


I hope 2013 will show us a revival of honesty and the work ethic. I hope the astonishing individuals in our public sector will decide enough is enough and step forward to make a difference. Is it too much to dream we can do this in a spirit of co-operation and lose the "I’m alright Jack" attitude from the people who should behave better? You can rest assured that this is one baby-boomer who will be fighting the good fight in 2013. This one isn’t ready to move aside for the Yers just yet. I could use your help though.

Stephen is a co-founder of Motivation Matters, set up in 2004 to develop the management of motivation to inspire greater performance. He has worked for notable organisations such as Corning, De La Rue and Buhler and has been hired to help Philips, Lloyds TSB and a raft of others. A published author of articles and Conference speaker, Stephen delivers workshops on personal skills, management skills and leadership skills across the country. It is all about “making people more effective” he says. You can follow Stephen on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Blog.


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