"My first 100 days" Catherine McWilliam, Nations Director - Scotland
Sitting down to write this blog, it feels strange to be reflecting on 100 days as Nations Director of IoD Scotland. So much has happened during the last quarter of this year, and there are some days when I feel like I’ve been in the job for years, and others when I am reminded of just how new it all is to me.
It would be easy to focus this reflection purely on the challenges that face IoD Scotland’s members and Scotland’s leaders in the year ahead. While we absolutely need to explore these, I won’t make them the sole feature – much like how I intend to focus my priorities and IoD Scotland activity in the year ahead.
Coming into this role, my number one priority was to get out to speak to our members across our seven regional branches. I am acutely aware that, while some will be shared, the concerns and experiences of members in Highlands is likely to be vastly different to those operating in urban Scotland.
Without a doubt, the most rewarding aspect of this job is being able to tap into the vast and varied insight that comes from our membership. As an organisation, we exist because of our members, and it has been genuinely fascinating speaking with you all.
During each of these visits, I’ve been struck time and time again by the resilience and ingenuity of our members. Despite facing some of the most challenging circumstances in recent times for doing business, our members are pivoting and innovating, looking for ways to do better business, and showcasing Scotland as a lucrative place to do business.
We are seeing new collaborations, product and service diversification, renewed commitment to delivering Net Zero and of course, tackling inequality in the workplace.
That’s not to say that it’s all rosy in the garden. I’ve had many conversations about the difficult decisions members are already facing and will continue to come up against in 2023.
The cost of doing business is ripping through our industries – leaving a trail of uncertainly and worry in its wake. I’ve heard examples of manufacturing organisations which, at the start of 2022, had books full of orders and hearts full of optimism for the year ahead. But both of these were quickly dashed when faced with a lack of skilled labour and increased energy supply chain costs. I know of charities which had delivered highly successful income generation activity, only to see donations fall, but costs and need for service rise at record pace. The issues facing our public sector have also been widely documented.
And of course, it’s not just business facing these challenges; they are widely reflected in Government and in the media, as we see the same issues plaguing individual households, local economies, and society as a whole.
As I reflect on my first 100 days as Nations Director of IoD Scotland, my biggest worry is the toll that this perpetual cycle of uncertainty is taking on our business leaders. These are not rich fat cats in pinstripe suits, but local leaders, deeply rooted in their communities and committed to their employees.
Being a leader is a lonely place, and we’re seeing this now more than ever, as the everyday decisions are coupled with the anxiety of the uncertain economic outlook and grappling with what that means for our own organisations.
This is where the IoD can help. Part of our drive is to connect leaders and create space for our members to share their experiences and insights, partnered with our role to promote, support and recognise good governance and purposeful leadership.
Despite the hardships 2022 has brought, IoD Scotland’s members remain committed to making their organisations more sustainable, supporting our nation’s journey to, Net Zero and beyond, and ensuring that the management and leadership teams across our sectors and industries are reflective of the diverse landscape of talent, voice and experience that Scotland has to offer.
In 2023 IoD Scotland will continue to support this work, but also to drive it forward, connecting our members and wider stakeholders, supporting the professional development of our current and future leaders, and amplifying the voice of our members when it comes to influencing the policy that matters most to them.
The challenge ahead is very real, but we’re ready for it.