Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

What Has 2011 Taught You About Business and Leadership?

As this is the last week of the year, many of us are understandably looking back at the past 12 months and discussing what we consider to be the significant events of 2011. In most cases, such discussions tend to focus on the numerous challenges and upheavals we’ve either watched from afar or witnessed first-hand. From natural disasters to political uprisings, there’s no question this year has placed our collective humanity within the frame of adversity and unimagined change.

Of course, adversity in and of itself is not necessarily a good or bad thing. Rather, it’s what we do and whether we’re open to learning from it that should decide whether it’s been of benefit or harm to us.

Certainly for businesses, the state of the global economy and the growing level of competition coming in from multiple fronts counts as one of the biggest challenges organizations and their leaders have had to contend with. And yet, contrary to what we might be reading in the papers, this doesn’t mean that weren’t some bright spots to be found amid all that doom and gloom.

One such example of this comes from the article, “Business Lessons Learned in 2011”, where a number of business leaders look back at the past 12 months and share their experiences of the lessons they’ve learned which will help them to improve and build on their business in the coming months.

Some of my favourite lessons shared in this piece include:

“People often say ‘listen to your customers,’ but that’s not a complete enough process. First, ask your customers what you’re doing right and wrong, and listen carefully to what they tell you. Then, take action. Here’s why. If you don’t ask, many times customers won’t say that their experience wasn’t quite perfect. If you don’t put aside your prejudices, you may not realize that a customer is right when you think they are wrong. If you don’t take action on what your customers are saying, they will simply quit providing you with feedback.”
— Salah Boukadoum, Soap Hope

“One of the main lessons I learned this year is that my best return on investment is through holding free marketing classes and educational seminars. What started out as an idea to give back to the business community has led to new opportunities.”
— Karen Taylor, New Destiny Marketing

“I’ve learned this year not to take on too much work. I have an 18-month-old little boy who is taking up a lot of what used to be my ‘work from home’ time. Rather than stressing about all the stuff that’s not getting done, this year I made it a priority to try and ignore the small stuff, understanding that, if left alone, none of these non-actions would cause the company to go down the drain anyway.”
— Adam Koos, Libertas Wealth Management Group

As you can see, the lessons some business leaders have learned over the course of this tough year include how to listen better, the financial – not to mention social – benefits of giving back to the community, and how to make more time for family without feeling guilty over the loss of time that could be spent working.

There are several other wonderful lessons shared by other business leaders that are worth noting and I invite you to check those out as well by reading the article “Business Lessons Learned in 2011”.

As this is my last piece for the year, I’d like to end by asking you, the readers of my blog, what lessons you’ve learned over the course of the past year? What new understandings did your choices/decisions reveal to you about your business and the teams you lead? I look forward to learning more about your insights and experiences.

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14 Comments » | Tags: , , , , , , , | December 27, 2011 by |

  1. On December 27th, 2011 at 12:21 PM Yvonne Root said:

    The comment concerning "listen to your customers," is one which I've struggled a bit with. But, not the way you may think. I truly do listen to our customers. Or at least I try very hard.

    No, my problem was getting better at discerning which people not to listen too. For some reason, I thought that everyone who was willing to chat for any length of time was a potential customer. Not so. Chatters are simply chatters. Customers are those who purchase. And,I am getting better at knowing the difference.

  2. On December 27th, 2011 at 1:29 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Hi Yvonne,

    That's an excellent and important lesson you're sharing. I find often when we talk about listening more, the emphasis tends to be mainly on being more receptive to hearing when what we should be focusing on is how the manner in which we listen to others helps to improve our understanding of their relationship and needs of the other.

    This way, we can distinguish better between those who are simply 'chatters' and those who have a need that we can address or help them with or who perhaps might have some insights/experiences from which we can benefit from.

    Thanks again, Yvonne, for bringing to light and sharing this valuable lesson you've learned. I appreciate the insight.

  3. On December 27th, 2011 at 3:04 PM Jim Matorin said:

    #1 key learning – Validated that can reduce my online time significantly since I have A.) Established my digital footprint; B.) Learned to follow the right people (Tanveer you are one of those special people) that keep me in the loop, thus I do not have to keep digging for truffles anymore; and C.) Learned that there really is TMI out there, thus it is time to let go and walk.

    What do I plan to do with my new found time? Lead my community with a project that I conceived last year, that I want to start pushing towards the implementation phase in 2012, with a launch hopefully in 2013 if I connect with the right people.

    Tanveer: Thank you for your continual inspiration. My best wishes for 2012.

  4. On December 28th, 2011 at 10:09 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Hi Jim,

    Well, first off, thank you so much for the kind words and praise. It's always gratifying to hear how others are benefiting from the insights I share here.

    The lesson you share here about shifting how we spend our online time, as well as assessing just how much time we really do need to spend on the various social networks, is very timely and relevant. In fact, over the course of the last few weeks, I've had several conversations with friends who've asked how I keep up with all of it.

    As you astutely pointed out, the fact is that there is a lot of information being shared now and consequently, we need to refine our time and attention to where it has the most impact, instead of simply being "on" because everyone else is.

    The simple fact of the matter is that social media adoption is on the rise and with it, so will the amount of 'information' being created, shared and mass distributed. A new vital skill for business leaders and owners to develop is understanding which waves to ride their surfboards on and which ones they should simply pass on.

    Thanks again, Jim, both for this valuable lesson that I know others are struggling with as well as for the kind words.

  5. On December 27th, 2011 at 4:13 PM Jon M said:

    Hi Tanveer,

    I believe one of the best lessons learned this past year is to have direct debates about issues, plans, and strategy. It is about being open, honest, and frequent in the discussions. This is the only way to get timely information and make adjustments as needed.

    This approach is needed for management teams as well as in one-to-one meetings. It eliminates skirting issues, but getting at them in a fully honest and mutually engaged manner.

    Appreciate all your insights in the past year. All the best to you in 2012!


  6. On December 28th, 2011 at 10:16 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Hi Jon,

    That certainly seems to be one of the root causes behind so many of the failures we've seen, both in business and the political arena – the lack of clarity over positions, what your target audience really wants/needs, and a deep understanding of the situation and potential consequences.

    One thing I've been alarmed by lately is how polarizing so many issues have become, where instead of being open to accepting divergent thinking/approaches, we resort instead to attacks on character or fostering a 'we' vs. 'them' mentality. As you pointed out, if we are to have a real grasp of a situation, we need to be open and accepting to not only having others challenge our position, but allowing others to disagree outright with it.

    The world has never been black and white. Sadly, in some circles, that's the only options some leaders are willing to accept.

    Thanks Jon for sharing this lesson and the kind words. Wishing you all the best for 2012 as well.

  7. On December 27th, 2011 at 9:09 PM Henry said:

    The year 2011 has been a great year for me as a starter of new business. At initial stage one can bring significant improvements in his business by following some of the good experience that they learn from others in the same niche. This excellent observation that you have mentioned here from top business legends will probably be very helpful to me! I appreciate your write up!

  8. On December 28th, 2011 at 10:18 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Henry; I'm glad you enjoyed it and I hope you'll find the lessons shared in this piece, as well as here in the comments, helpful in managing your business in the months ahead.

  9. On December 28th, 2011 at 11:08 AM amandblogger said:

    As for me, then I can definitely say that this year taught me to plan everything in my business and activity. As a result I always know what I have already achieved according to my plan, and what else should be done further.

  10. On December 31st, 2011 at 5:27 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Making plans is certainly important; of course, what's key is shifting from planning to execution, the main cause for many project deaths.

    Thanks for sharing your year-end lesson.

  11. On January 4th, 2012 at 4:53 AM chloebergman said:

    As a business owner, I find that I never get the opportunity to switch off, even at home after a long day. I find that my most inspirational moments come when I go to sleep at night. The normal daily business hours are the usual get-things-done grind, but it's when I start to drift off at night when my creative side becomes more active. Hence, I keep a notepad and pen on my bedside to jot down my thoughts and ideas. Yes you wake momentarily, but that little niggle is put to bed too, and my mind can relax…

  12. On January 5th, 2012 at 12:18 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Hi Chloe,

    Making the effort to 'unplug' is definitely one of the most valuable things both leaders and employees can do to improve not only their creativity, but also their well-being.

    Given the understandable expectations of greater adoption and use of social media platforms and other modes of online communication and sharing, the challenge to intentionally step away from our computers, smartphones and tablets might seem harder. That is, until we realize how much we stand to gain from making the effort.

    Thanks for sharing your lesson, Chloe.

  13. On January 4th, 2012 at 10:25 AM Dennis said:


    Interesting post and question. So right now it's the first time this year when I look back at 2011. If I were to choose one thing I have learned in 2011 is never to rush into things without making a very good plan! ( I am talking about business, of course!)

    Warm wishes to you all,

  14. On January 5th, 2012 at 12:19 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks for sharing your lesson from 2011, Dennis. Wishing you the best for 2012 as well.

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