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VIEWPOINT: How Leaders Can Focus on Meeting 2021’s Challenges

By Doug Meyer-Cuno

Date:

Change is just beginning

Business leaders dealt with massive and rapid change in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but many small businesses and chain stores didn’t survive. 

 As the new year proceeds amid much economic uncertainty, companies that successfully navigated 2020’s turbulence cannot rest. They need engaged, forward-thinking leaders who can keep adjusting and focusing on the right factors in a volatile business environment. 

We live in a VUCA world; the acronym stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. We need to adjust to how fast things are changing. It means companies adjusting to artificial-intelligence technology, electric cars, and hub-to-hub freight liners that are driver-free. Every company needs to think out of the box.

Leaders, therefore, need to be fast at making decisions to compete in tomorrow’s world. They’ll have to challenge themselves to look into the future and find ways for their company to not only keep pace but stay ahead of the curve. 

Here are a few ways for company leaders to meet the frequent challenges of change in 2021 and beyond.

• Align change decisions with the company vision. Many entrepreneurs and CEOs forget the importance of setting a vision for their organization, and that makes decisions in the midst of massive change more difficult or less thought out. Reaffirming the vision must be a priority every day until it becomes part of the DNA of the company culture. Everyone in the company must ask themselves why the organization exists. They must ask themselves this question so often that the answer is ingrained in every decision they make. Once they do, it’s possible to navigate the uncertainties of change as a unified group.

• Be more intentional with your vision, mission, and core values. Some financially successful companies lose their compass, which shows why it’s vital for your business to be always intentional with its vision, mission, and core values. They are the standard-bearers for the organization’s reputation, as well as performance. The companies that will make it in the future are the ones who can push data, processes, products, and services through the pipeline the quickest. Alignment around your vision, mission, and core values are crucial in developing a business capable of great speed and agility.

• Empower your employees. Though it’s important for leaders to often come up with the ideas and planning to chart direction, the most-effective leaders tap into the talented and smart people around them, pick their brains in their areas of expertise, and implement their ideas. You must empower employees not to be yes men [or yes women]. Ideally, you want a group that thinks, and does not groupthink. Encourage debate and participation from everyone. The really talented people out there want great leaders capable of empowering them.

• Don’t put up with attitude problems. High performers who set their own rules and don’t adhere to core values aren’t worth keeping around, due to the damage they can inflict on the company culture. When you’re in a leadership position, it’s vital to the success of your team that you live what you preach. If you don’t, nobody else will either. Demonstrate boundaries and what it means to do the right thing by showing you won’t accept noncompliance from your mavericks or high performers. Taking that action will serve to further empower your teams.

At this critical-crossroads time for many businesses, leaders need to reevaluate how strong or fragile their company foundation is and whether it is well- equipped to handle the battering winds of change.

Doug Meyer-Cuno is ForbesBooks author of “The Recipe For Empowered Leadership: 25 Ingredients For Creating Value & Empowering Others.” He founded a food- ingredients distribution company, Carolina Ingredients, and expanded it into a nationally recognized industrial-seasoning manufacturer before it was acquired by Mitsubishi in 2019. Since then, he has founded the company, Empowered Leadership.

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