Planning for 2022? Here are Three Tenets for Your Playbook

Leadership StrategiesLeadership
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Clarke Murphy
December 14, 2021
4 min read
Leadership StrategiesLeadership
Executive Summary
As we move closer to closing out the year, clients are increasingly asking for advice in building their 2022 plans.


As we move closer to closing out the year, clients are increasingly asking for advice in building their 2022 plans. If there is one thing we have learned over the past two years, it is that the traditional methods for planning during stable environments have missed the mark, and we must build a plan that flexes as we continue to stabilize. This is a critical time to think about the most pressing business challenges and set a game plan for growth, change, and innovation. In conversations with clients, I am urging them to view planning not as an exercise, but rather as an opportunity to take a deep look at the past and current state and write a new chapter into a future state, one that centers around three core characteristics that I believe are essential as we head into 2022: agility, relevancy, and inclusivity.

Agility Is Everything

The pandemic taught us many lessons, but one of the most prominent for me has been learning to use change as a weapon—for competitiveness, innovation, and success. Over the past two years, Russell Reynolds Associates made a conscious choice to be agile. We created new programs, hired new talent, and developed new leadership solutions for our clients. At a time when we were torn apart physically, we completed nearly twice as many client projects and took market share. This was only possible because we rallied around one another and committed to trying new things and working in different ways.

When you do not see change as a threat, or fear the ambiguity of the unknown, you can pivot quickly and deploy creative solutions. In other words, you are best positioned for success.

Choose Relevance Over Reverence

Don’t be reverent; remain relevant. When we work with boards, the biggest hurdles they face are defining their strategy and positioning leaders to stay relevant. A lot of boards focus on the now, instead of the next. As a result, they end up mirroring the strategy and leadership ideals that work today, instead of thinking about what the company is going to need tomorrow. One of the single most important things you can do in 2022 is to encourage your board to engage in healthy debates on relevancy. That is how you inspire and grow your company and your people.

I spoke recently with Jim Hagemann Snabe, an inspiring IT leader who shared insights on the redefining moments that enabled him to lead transformation at SAP and at 100+ year-old companies Siemens and Maersk. He stressed the importance of reinventing from a position of strength, focusing on the possibility of what a company can become, rather than dissecting last quarter’s numbers. He talked about power versus impact, and said, “If you think you are leading and you look back and there is no one else behind you, maybe you are just out for a walk.”

There is No Integrity Without Inclusivity

In a recent conversation with 15-year NFL veteran Troy Vincent, now EVP of Football Operations for the National Football League, he summarized a sentiment I wholeheartedly support, saying, “We are all drinking from the wells we dig…diversity is a fact, inclusion is a choice.”  Inclusion does not just empower others, it brings awareness and clarity to problems and fosters a courageous, accountable and collaborative environment.

Our research shows that organizations have made some progress on DE&I, particularly at lower levels, with 72% of employees saying that they do not think their race, religion, gender, or sexuality would affect their chances of getting a job at their organization. Yet bias and favoritism still have a stronghold at the top, with 64% of the C-suite saying that senior leaders in their organizations show a bias or favoritism towards those like them. While C-Suite leaders are clear-eyed on the problem, they are clearly still grappling with how to improve inclusivity and hit concrete goals.

The past 24 months have presented more challenges, more surprises, and more experiences than anyone could have expected, and as a result, we should have the most diverse perspectives and incorporate those into our business planning. To get where we want to be, we must be intentional and incite action. We have been talking about diversity and inclusivity for decades, the time for action is now.

Leadership is not about the power you have, but about the impact you can make, and if we lead with that mindset, guided by agility, relevancy, and inclusivity, we inspire others and together we write much more than a plan, we write our own destiny.