Next Normal: Leading with Resolve According to CEOs From Around the World
In a stunningly short time, lives and livelihoods have plunged into a still-unfolding crisis. Never have we seen job loss skyrocket so fast, nor the threat of economic uncertainty loom so large. But instead of purely hunkering down, business leaders must act boldly to give the company an edge for when demand inevitably returns.
The C-suite roles has become even more complex, at the top and at every level down. Those that act rather than react will be better placed to survive and prosper in the long term. Here’s how CEOs from around the world lead with resolve and navigate toward greater business resilience in the next normal.
According to IBM 2021 CEO Study, there are five key factors that set outperforming CEOs apart in a post-pandemic world.
- Leadership – 85% of CEOs consistently show “decisive strategic leadership” to boost business performance.
- Technology – 60% of executives look to cloud computing, IoT, and AI to accelerate digital maturity and help deliver results.
- Employees – 50% of outperformers identify a hybrid workforce as a key challenge and are actively finding solutions to be better equipped for the anywhere workplace concept.
- Open innovation – 97% among the C-suite pursue flexible partner networks to getting ahead with innovation.
- Cybersecurity – 72% of top business leaders recognize the importance of integrating digital security into strategy.
On balancing central control with delegating responsibility locally during a crisis
Here’s what Manley Hopkinson of Hewlett Packard Defence UK and ATLAS Consortium has to say for business leaders: “Resist temptation to centralize control and to put yourself at the center of all activity. Your top priority is to show absolute clarity on intent and priority in order to create successful, empowered teams.”
On raising the customer experience bar:
When it comes to giving heightened attention to customer relationships, it isn’t enough to give them what they say they want. Smart, real-time, curated data from AI can help in developing products/services that will delight customers at every interaction. “Look ahead of the curve,” says Calin Rovinescu, CEO, Air Canada. Acknowledge that a customer’s impression of the brand is only as good as their last buying experience.
On prioritizing purposeful innovation:
Jeff McElfresh of AT&T Communications believes that product focus and sensitivity can improve the chance of high-quality execution and avoid creation of products/services that have zero appeal to target customers. “There are many things that we could do well, but we will also never be best in class at some,” he said. “It’s okay to focus on your strength and rely on somebody else to do other key tasks because that is key that what you have on offer will be a raging success.”
Accelerating Digital Capabilities
C-level executives who want to experience a more substantive modernization and full digitization of their business application landscapes in the next normal while winning the revenue race must point their organizational firepower at the right targets to operate and deliver at the highest effective speed and at relatively low cost.
- Digital investments for evolving customer expectations and demands.
Align existing organizational practices with new digital priorities to keep pace with industry standards and to be better against competition. Adjust digital offerings and channels to enable frictionless and more satisfying customer journeys.
- Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) to boost efficiency velocity, innovation, and profitability.
Merge critical decision-support business models with next-generation data sets for optimal performance and outcomes. Use analytics and advanced machine-learning techniques to improve key business operations and to avoid hamstringing future growth.
- Scalable modernization plans of technological capabilities.
Create rightsizing plan for shifting to cloud-based environment and modernize the tech stack selectively while assessing cybersecurity prowess. Strengthen technology talent bench by tapping specialized labor pools and outsourcing expertise.
Making Swift, Smart Decisions in a Crisis of Uncertainty
Here are five principles that business leaders can follow to make smart decisions quickly in the next normal.
- Take a breather.
In an uncertain business landscape, it is crucial to have the discipline to ignore distractions. Giving yourself a moment to step back can help avoid knee-jerk reactions that lead to poor outcomes. The simple act of pausing, according to research on decision-making, enables the brain to access the most relevant information and improve decision accuracy. During this pause, ask yourself the question ‘What is most important right now?’ so you can prioritize the most pressing issues first.
- Involve more relevant stakeholders and experts.
When things are unfamiliar and the stakes are high, the more people involved the fewer the risk that nothing important is left out. After considering all best options, you can clarify execution, accountabilities, and timelines. This not only saves time but enhances the potency of the decisions made.
- Set up an integrated nerve center.
This is a network of cross-functional but centralized teams, each focused on a single objective or scope but coordinated enough for optimum collaboration and transparency. Endowed with enterprise-wide authority and organizational capabilities, the nerve center gives leaders the best chance of getting ahead of changing events and consumers, building resilience amidst disruptions, and thriving in the next normal.
- Make the critical small choices.
As the crisis unfolds, some minute or routine choices can be hard to spot and difficult to make – and your preferences can have large long-term strategic implications. While even the most detailed, precise predictions can still go wrong, you can anticipate multiple possible scenarios for how things might unfold over time and monitor a few weeks or months down the road whether these have made a positive impact or not in the business.
- Walk the talk.
Effective leaders recognize that the workplace is a powerful source of identity, strength, and meaning. Setting clear goals is one thing but taking actions to realize those goals sends a more powerful message. By doing as much as what you say, you communicate that the bottom line is not the only thing that matters but to help people make a sense of events. Focus on helping remote employees to recover from this crisis and to future-proof their roles within the organization. This fosters a shared sense of purpose, drive ongoing culture transformation, and propel productivity.
Sustaining a Culture of Remote Agile Team
Organizations who are already implementing work-from-home policies before the pandemic have a competitive advantage in terms of adapting to disruptive technology, digitization, and fast-changing business priorities. While co-location has its merits including frequent in-person contact and conversation, organic interaction and spontaneous bonding, and more dynamic collaboration, virtual teams can deliver just as much value and productivity gains as traditional in-office employees.
Business leaders worry about reduced cohesion, delayed trust-building, and increased inefficiency due to an abrupt shift to a fully remote work approach. Here are suggestions to counter these challenges:
- Maximize the use of chat, virtual whiteboards, and video conferencing tools for promoting instant communication, capturing collective ideas, and maintaining face-to-face relationships.
- Schedule virtual happy hours where team members are encouraged to share their beverage of choice, introduce their pets, or talk about anything other than work.
- Adjust coaching and mentorship approach to address professional-development concerns, to provide impromptu support on an as-needed basis, and to deepen a shared experience virtually.
- Establish a single source of truth when it comes to keeping aligned with organizational objectives, accomplishing deliverables, and finding solutions to potential bottlenecks.
- Be purposeful and transparent when providing feedback about team performance – reassuring remote employees that active engagement and positive contributions are valued and celebrated
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