The final days of 2023 have broken. I already shut down my working laptop and I´m trying to get some distance between me and work. I think this is crucial to start recharging for 2024. Time to reflect, time to start thinking of what my goals in 2024 can be.
I have to admit that 2023 was a tough year. Different from a lot of previous years. I started a new position, I left my “comfort zone” so to say, I encountered what it means to “leave the comfort zone” (not always a good feeling, I can tell you.), I faced new challenges I didn´t expect, I got new kinds of rewards I didn´t expect as well. And as every year you face setbacks and (small) victories.
One of the major differences from previous years is this “new work” thing that hit me straight when I started the new position back in February. During the pandemic, I was within an environment of people I knew. Out of a sudden, those people became “virtual” but still I knew with whom I was dealing. My colleagues, friends in short: familiar people. In February when I started my new position I was the “Newbie”. Except for one former colleague who was already there, I knew no one and my Team was completely split up. This makes it a lot more difficult to get going. Finding my way of working took me a lot longer than expected. Ok, I think after 10 months I can say, I think I found my way of working. Am I okay with this way of working: No. There are topics I need to cover next year. Things I didn´t have the chance to work on since structural things interfered with my goals.
At least, I identified some major goals.
01 Leading, becoming better in my job to better support my team in 2024
Learning by doing, is the most common thing when you move forward in your career. You learn new skills or new techniques when you start something new. Most of the time this may work out, but when it comes to leadership, I recognized pretty fast that learning by doing and hoping that it might get better over time is not the best approach. Esp. when the team size you manage increases significantly. Now add “new work” and digital leadership and the challenge is set up.
I recognized this year that leading today is way different than only some years ago. Being on top of multiple things at the same time and taking care of the team that puts trust in your leadership can be a heavy burden.
A great Managing Director said some years ago: My only purpose here is to provide you with a good working environment. I wasn´t quite sure what he meant back in the day. I think today I understand. I think that´s why he was not only respected by the team but loved. He was our “Alpha-Wolve”. The guy we follow whatever it takes, no questions about it. We trust him that he makes the right decisions.
He was a fine leader. And I have to learn. A lot.
Because leading in 2023 is different and more virtual. And 2024 won´t be less challenging, I can assure you.
I know that leading by example can be a good way, but I’m not sure if it’s the best. And as a leader/supervisor, you need to be the best. Not for you or your ego, but for the people that you lead because the decisions you make influence their working life. Bad leadership harms the motivation of the team and can lead to demotivated team members that (in the end) might cause a company problem if those people leave and you need to replace them with new people. I know because, like most others, I already had the “pleasure” of bad leadership. Bad leadership always ends in people leaving the company. Next to the budget impact that bad leadership causes, the more painful impact is the knowledge drain you have to face if longtime loyal people leave due to such bad leadership.
That´s why leadership means extra effort. You can not sit there patting your shoulders on your new title and say “Yeah, I made it!”. Then the work starts and you can not stop to improve yourself constantly. That´s why I need to improve my skills in 2024 as I did in 2023…but I will have to do way more than this year. I’m not satisfied with my performance in 2023. I need to do better. I need to be better. Not for me, but for my team.
02 Microsoft Office, the most underrated tool in business still in 2024
Be honest, how much time do you usually spend on the tool that you use more or less on a daily base at work (if you are in Marketing or Advertising)? I mean Microsoft Office. I bet most of you would say: More or less zero. It´s MS Word, MS Excel, MS PowerPoint, and of course MS Outlook…that´s it. Some might know Power-Bi because some Analytics Guys set a Dashboard up for you but that´s mostly it. And most of the time you do the basic stuff, because you simply don´t need more than that.
But Microsoft Office developed over the years into a multi-functional toolbox. Esp. Microsoft Powerapps and Microsoft Automate caught my attention this year. Especially Powerapps, since I encounter that it might be the key to easing one of the major issues I take on every day. Connecting multiple MS Office tools to create something that might be beneficial for my daily work and the work of my team lets me put Microsoft Office on one of the top spots on my ToDo-List for next year to put energy into. Enhancing my knowledge about this productivity suite will bring me some advantages in my next year’s daily business.
Because let´s face it: If you wait for tools to be approved (because mostly they come with a cost and it takes ages to implement them the bigger the company gets), you can wait a long long time. Because you are a single individuum in a company with hundreds or even thousands of employees.
And I need to improve my Excel skills desperately. Doing that 08/15 stuff that I´m doing doesn´t provide me the output I need on some topics. And mastering the tools you have is a better way than always with workarounds, or accepting what you have. Holding the Status Quo can not be the answer.
03 AI, curse or blessing for the job and/or humanity?
To be honest, I completely underestimated AI in the beginning.
But I have to admit that from a professional perspective, I see tons of possibilities to increase daily productivity and make workflows easier and much more efficient than they are today. I played a lot with Open AIs GPTs. I created already several GPTs to test and the results stunned me (and this is a mild description).
It made me giggle how easy it was to create tools and workflows by only phrasing some sentences connecting some thoughts and getting stunning results. Simply AMAZING! I think there is great potential in automation and, let´s say, marketing content. From my first steps into this technology, I am already a great advocate for using this technology to ease life e.g. copywriters because now they can do a lot of the basic stuff that usually consumes a lot of time do an AI and can focus on creating the impactful stuff that AIs can not do.
On the other hand questions about this technology rose in the past months.
AI will dominate in the years to come. I think we can all agree on that. The only question will be: What kind of LLM (large language model) will dominate the market and become the mass’s favorite? At the moment I´d say OpenAI with Microsoft in the background has the upper hand, but Google will strike back for sure. They can not let this stay because their base income model is at stake. And a look at Google Gemini tells me they already have tons of new tools in development. Let´s see what´s coming our way in 2024.
But with all this fancy stuff that makes me not stop to be stunned there comes the other side of the medal. I was not very enthusiastic about this new technology, I mean, I wrote a whole article about my concerns (LINK). Although I´m fascinated by the convenience that I can now create content it is getting more and more to the point where I´m still not a big fan of content creation via AI since my personal POV is, that if the content gets produced by a machine based on algorithms it loses its kind of individuality that only humans with a certain ability and passion can create. If anyone does it by the press of a button or writing a prompt, I think we make it too easy to flood the world with more and more senseless stuff that no one wants to read and blurring the way to real and good content. I did my tests. I let AI create a full blog, and see what happens in regards to SEO and clicks. But is this the way we want to surf the web? Websites created and optimized by AI, search results that are based on AI algorithms? And what about the content itself?
Who reads content that is only created by machines in 2024 and beyond? I don´t speak about the marketing content, I talk about things that matter. News, people’s opinions, real meaningful content?
And what about deep fakes? When do people lose the ability to differentiate between AI-generated content and real content? What is real news and what is something that was created to “adjust” our point of view in a way that someone else wants us to see the world? Just take a look at the United States or the war in the Ukraine. People already started to use this kind of AI technology to create this kind of content aka propaganda. People who have (not yet) developed the sensitivity to see the difference get confronted with this kind of content and they take this as “authentic”. Take a look for yourself on Social Media platforms like “X” or TikTok. These are platforms where esp. young people spend their time. There is already a lot of content that is created by AI and some people advocate it as an “easy way” to create tons of more or less senseless content. And we have no defense mechanisms developed so far to protect their ability to differentiate what is right or what is wrong. This is concerning to me. And should be concerning to you too.
It´s a different story to let AI write some Marketing content to promote my product. It´s a different story to let AI help you develop new technology for the benefit of humanity or help in the medical field to create vaccines to face current and upcoming threads. But humanity has an evil root in itself that we ALWAYS try to create something that has the only purpose to create an advantage to others no matter the costs and no matter if other people can be harmed. This is human nature (unfortunately). We have seen multiple times in the past that technology that was developed for the good of all mankind was abused to gain power. Like quantum computing that can do calculations way faster than any current mainframe system? What if someday some “bad guys” use it to break every banking password because the capability of such systems can go through billions of operations in a fraction of the time a normal mainframe would take? Technology is not there yet and from my understanding, quantum computing works (for now) differently to normal computing….but let´s give it some more years and it will be a different story. The same it´s with AI. Used in the right way, it can open up new and unimaginable benefits for all. In the wrong hands, it can be a dangerous weapon…not speaking of this point when an AI get´s own content. This sounds way too “Terminator” like and too Sci-Fi. But think about this: Go back in your memories: Did you think 5 years ago that it would be possible to create an AI that you can “rent” for 20 US$ a month that you as a regular person can train in the way that you want it? I guess not. And now try to imagine 2024 or 5 years into the future. Still “Sci-Fi”? That’s just a thought.
04 More fun in my (working-)life in 2024
Sounds silly to put “more fun in my life” as an official “business goal” on my ToDo list for 2024. But I think having fun is crucial to a successful job. If you don´t do the thing you do with some fun, passion, and/or love, sooner than later you can book yourself a seat at a therapist because you will be burned out.
Having fun at work is more crucial than ever. If you are constantly under pressure because of timelines, tons of projects, and a ToDo list full of problems you can not enjoy the work you do and you should! A job is more than just the paycheck at the end of the month. I tip my hat that can live like that, but I would go down in depression if the part of my life that get´s most of the day during the week does not give me any fun. I need to identify those “fun parts” and give them enough space in my daily schedule. I need to confess that this is something I barely did this year. I was so driven by making other people “happy” that I forgot that if I am not giving myself enough space to be happy, how should I be able to share this feeling?
We often tend to de-prioritize this “feeling” because feelings don´t sell products, they don´t please shareholders and no CFO will give you any credit for feelings. But people need to have fun with what they do. That doesn t mean that they should be giggling all day long. But getting emotionally crippled over time kills motivation, and a person that lost it s motivation can not bring benefits to the company’s goals. THIS IS WHAT upper managements often seem to forget when they look at their balance sheets. A staff that you constantly push to and over their limits so that the numbers are right will soon be your “former staff”. People are no machines. They have good days, they have bad days. If appreciation only is paid via paycheck you have a much bigger problem than you can even imagine and it will backfire on you sooner rather than later.
And this is why “fun” makes it to my “ToDo List 2024”.
Give more appreciation in 2024, get more appreciation
Appreciation goes right next to the goal “Fun”. Self-motivation is key to a healthy work environment. However, relying only on self-motivation can lead to frustration. As I encountered this more than once in my career, I made a promise to myself that if I ever get into a leadership role, I won´t fall into this trap of being a leader who ignores that people need some appreciation for what they do on a daily basis. I can improve on that point. I know. That´s why this is on my to-do list for 2024. I have to appreciate more for real stuff. Not giving appreciation for it, but for real engagement and for hard work. Nothing motivates more (next to monetary appreciation) than an honest “Good job man!” .
“Doing good and talk about it!” is a quote that I often give members of my team as advice. An advice that I way to often forget for myself. I´m not seeking for everything appreciation that I do. But to notify you that I appreciate some nice words is something that I need to continue.
So with these words…
(Work-)life is a rollercoaster and 2023 proved to me once more that this is a quote that fits. Let´s calm down (if you have the chance to) and stay strong if you need to rush to the end of this year.
Everyone: Have a good time, enjoy time with your loved ones, recharge your batteries, and have a great start into 2024!