Challenges for the Business Leader

There is no denying three lockdowns, remote working and 12 months of crisis mode has taken its toll on executives, business owners and business leaders across the UK. An accelerated pace of complex change, rising cases of mental health and wellbeing related issues being reported, and a general sense of disconnection presents a range of contingent risks with every potential to derail even the most robust business continuity plan.

In 2020, once the novelty of remote working and video calls wore off, the conversation turned to fatigue and even the more battle hardy of CEOs and executive leaders facing the prospect of burnout. Despite the grit and tenacity shown by businesses across many sectors and industries, including those decimated by lockdown and mobility restrictions, it has been hard to maintain a sense of positivity and optimism when so much remains uncertain.

The good news is that resilience is a highly teachable skill and, given our innate ability to adapt and innovate our way through what life throws our way, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Mindset and behaviour are two critical focus areas for leaders taking their people out of lockdown, setting out a clear path and identifying the expected bumps in the road and a more purpose-led existence.

Change, change everywhere…

Change has become the norm. The buzz of something new on the horizon, a better outcome for the organisation and the heartbeat of its culture. But there’s no escaping change can be tiring and a tasking experience, and it comes with the risk of mental exhaustion and the potential for resistance from the people expected to drive it. In some cases people have reached a breaking point.

Ultimately, we will return from lockdown to an adjusted workplace. Business plans will be reframed and more aggressive in their ambitions, and employees are looking for a closer connection and an experience that makes them feel different about their work.

Digital will enable us to switch gears, faster

The overnight switch to remote working and e-trading has shown us that technology has a critical role to play in the way we connect with colleagues and do business with customers. From virtual sales meetings to using data on benefits & rewards platforms to indicate shifts in stress and anxiety, the technology will bring increased efficiency and better insights for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

There are risks, obviously, as the rising rate of cybercrime reminds us and an environmental issue as redundant technology moves to landfill. Having a clear understanding of risk appetite and consistently applying this to critical decisions, backed by performance metrics that drive decision-making, is where data can be a game changer beyond lockdown.

Relationships will always be central to connectivity and success

Here’s the thing… Face-to-face human interaction will remain the currency of relationships and the driver of growth and productivity. Digital has an important role to play in enabling those conversations, and interpreting the risks and opportunities that sit within them. Being able to visualise a problem and track progress in real time is also a value-add, and in some cases the positive force that pulls teams together and enables collaboration to thrive.

There are many perspectives floating about on how businesses can move out of lockdown. Leaders will need to adapt and face challenges head on – whether that be cashflow pressures, retaining high performing talent, and deepening connection with culture and shifting mindset – and many will emerge as stronger and more capable leaders longer term.

Visible and accountable leadership, showing fairness and empathy, and reshaping the thinking by co-creating solutions with your team and customers are just a few of things you can do now to transform stress into positive, affirmative action. No-one is saying it’s going to be easy, however, the opportunity is there for the taking.