December 13, 2017

Advice for 2018 from Ann’s Network of Top Business Leaders

Ann shares leadership advice from her high-profile network of Baltimore's most respected leadersGreat organizations do more than deliver a great product or mission. It’s not just about providing a good customer experience or decreasing costs and increasing profits.

Great organizations, the ones that people want to support, work for and fund, they do all those things – and they also do something else.

They install strong, effective leaders.

Leaders who not only can put together a winning strategy, but who can communicate that strategy effectively and, perhaps most importantly, get people to work together and follow them to execute.

I’m always interested in learning how leaders set strategy, take action and get results in their organizations. So as I look ahead to 2018, I reached out to those leaders in my network who are getting it right day after day after day. I asked them:

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to organizational leaders in 2018?

Here’s what 10 of them had to say about leading more powerfully and effectively in the new year:

“My advice seldom changes as we look at a new year. I think all leaders need to remain intensely curious and open to possibilities because (whether we welcome it or not) the world is a rapidly changing place. Without curiosity and openness, we will try to avoid, rather than embrace, the inevitable opportunities that change will provide us and our organizations. We will stop managing risk in an attempt to evade it – which we really cannot do on any sort of sustainable basis. And we will not be leading our staffs by example. Anticipating and embracing change, on the other hand, lets us take an endless journey filled with growth.”

Mary Ann Scully
Chairman and CEO
Howard Bank and Howard Bancorp

“White noise is all around us. Stay focused and execute to plan.”

Edwin R. Brake
Managing Director
Ellin & Tucker

“Don’t confuse motion with progress. In start-up land, moving fast is so critical but companies waste so much valuable time moving versus moving forward. For example, stop and take a minute and look at all these dashboards you have built  – are they being used? Are they helping people do their jobs better? Or are they eye candy for the executives?”

Michele Perry

“In these trying times, all leaders should be aware of their surroundings and the safety of their workplace and people.”

Deb Tillet

“Lead with gratitude to those on your team and those you build relationships with throughout your journey. One should never, ever, never underestimate the power of words. The use of simple words such as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ demonstrate a level of respect to individuals. Simple words form bonding relationships and grow trust within individuals.”

Debbie Phelps
Executive Director
Education Foundation BCPS

“The one piece of advice I would give all our organizational leaders is to think creatively and be compassionate to our workforce. With the environment changing around us, we must ‘think out of the box’ to do business in new and more effective ways. Finally, you can never say thank you enough to your company employees who are dedicated to your goals and mission.”

Russell Snyder
President and CEO
Volunteers of America Chesapeake

“First, keep your head clear, your confidence high and your focus strong as these are all essential to maintain forward momentum. Second, always be grateful because without gratitude what was extraordinary yesterday becomes ordinary today. Gratitude reminds us of what matters most and what matters least, and fills us with the resolve to carry on in business and in life.”

Ellen H. Yankellow, PharmD
President and CEO
Correct Rx Pharmacy Services, Inc.

“In 2018 Jacob William Advisory is about expanding the independent decision-making process. Another way of saying it is ‘giving up the reins.’ As we have grown, we need to do away with a pyramid approach to decision making. We are empowering our entire staff, who we now call stakeholders, to be able to take responsibility, make decisions and take risks in proportion to their responsibilities and positions. We are working toward an environment where previously siloed positions are now cross pollinated and trained with other positions. We have very quickly seen a change in conversations when we started our 2018 marketing planning sessions. More ideas are now flying across the room.”

Mark Ring
Founding Partner and Wealth Advisor
Jacob William Advisory

“Leaders of any organization should recognize that a new year is an optimal opportunity to take bold steps to grow your organization, even if 2017 was a successful year. Organizations in today’s fast-moving and social media-conscious environment cannot rest on past laurels and achievements. Rather, organizational leaders grasp the necessity for constant re-tooling of preconceived ideas and take calculated risks to differentiate themselves in the marketplace from their competitors. Obviously growth for growth’s sake alone is not recommended; rather, strategic growth which is intended to address perceived opportunities to strengthen the organization long term is the preferred course of action. Above all else, leaders cannot be hamstrung by fears of failure or internal or external criticism. They need to assert responsible leadership which means identifying corporate opportunities and having the courage to pursue them even if such opportunities may prove to be less than 100% successful. As the old saying goes: ‘The status quo is unacceptable’.”

Howard K. Kurman
Offit Kurman

“It is all about the people. You need to make sure you have the right people in the right jobs. If you do, your job will be easy. If not, it will be impossible. Poor job fit cannot be worked around, and it causes issues for the rest of the team. If you spend your time appropriately on this, then it is will reap all sorts of benefits for your business.”

Laura Gamble
Regional President
Greater Maryland PNC Bank

Action for the Month

Take the advice that resonates most from my network of Baltimore’s top leaders and put it into play in 2018 so that you’ll be ready and able to lead your people where you want to go. 

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