Here’s to a year of communication and competence (please!)

Written by Ann Francke OBE Tuesday 05 January 2021
Truly human leadership will get us and our people through a tough 2021
Ann Francke OBE, CMI's CEO

As a new year begins, I want to acknowledge that we are facing some tough times ahead. I know many of you will be personally affected by the current worsening of the pandemic.

The priorities we identified in CMI's Management Transformed study – communication skills, employee wellbeing and building a sense of belonging – will be even more important as CMI members across the UK face further lockdown.

It’s incredibly important that managers continue to focus on the human aspect of their role. Some people – including ethnic minorities, young people and women, particularly those with children – have been hit disproportionately hard by this crisis, and they’ll need the support of managers and leaders.

A deal at last

The EU trade deal announced on Christmas Eve will have been met with a deep sigh of relief by the business community. The deal finally gave business leaders the certainty they’d craved throughout the Brexit process and finally allowed them to know what they were ‘getting ready’ for. The government must now ensure the detail of the deal is communicated clearly and swiftly so people can prepare properly for changes. And bearing in mind the hardship created by the government's handling of the pandemic, the tone must avoid trumpeting of any sort. Humble pie required.

Even though we now have a deal, We are still in for bumpy times in the next few months, and managing through this uncertainty is going to require the very skills highlighted in Management Transformed.

Make America grown-up again

At least it looks as though we’ll have a more collaborative approach from the US in future thanks to the election of Joe Biden. His promises to be an administration that seeks to build partnerships and rejoin global institutions. As someone who is able to vote in both the UK and the US, I’m thrilled to see the return of grown-up, inclusive and collaborative leadership. It will be good to have a US government working with others rather than alienating everyone except its social media followers. It’s a welcome return to a government that respects the rule of law too. As our research shows, when you have people’s trust, you’ll have greater productivity too.

The election of Kamala Harris as vice president is also an historic moment. Not only is there now a female VP, but also a woman of colour – a double first! Some people have levelled criticism at Biden for filling his cabinet with tried and trusted officials, but I think he is combining new ideas with experience. He’s also appointing people with the capacity to heal and people with a track record of competence; Janet Yellen as Treasury Secretary, for example. The question I’d ask is: what’s wrong with competence?

Boris, Brexit, Biden, bubbles

So as we look ahead to 2021, we must make sure that we don’t go back to factory settings. Management does need to transform, with a human approach and with employees’ real, human concerns at the fore.

I’ll leave you with my favourite take on the year ahead:


When Corona is a beer again

When Donald is only a duck

When tiers sit on cake

And when bubbles only exist in champagne

Happy new year to you all!


CMI has a number of resources to help you through the year ahead, including our mental health and wellbeing hub, redundancy support service and the CMI community, a supportive group that can lift you up when needed. Find out more about becoming part of the CMI community here.

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