Planning for 2021: 5 key questions leaders are asking

A Vistage article

In the face of our new reality, many businesses remain closed or operate under restrictions. Business CEOs are thinking strategically about how they can keep their companies moving forward in the current environment while planning for the future. And the decisions leaders make now will define long-term success both for their businesses and employees.

As they look ahead, CEOs are asking themselves hard questions that shed light on their company’s biggest challenges and help form a plan for 2021. In conversations with current and former CEOs from organizations representing industries around the world, I’ve gathered five common questions CEOs are asking themselves in preparation for the year ahead:

1. How long will we be operating in short-term sprints?

In the midst of the pandemic, many companies have found themselves focusing on short-term performance metrics, so that they can quickly pivot and develop new strategies based on their results. When leaders focus on KPIs they can successfully measure and track in the near term, they are able to channel all of their resources toward driving key initiatives. Leaders are still referring to their long term strategic plans as a reference point that can be adjusted as needed, and adhering to their organization’s mission, vision, purpose and values as their North Star.

2. Where are there gaps in skillsets among members of my leadership team?

Many leaders are realizing how important it is to have a team who is comfortable with and can thrive in the midst of a great deal of change. Change is hard, and it’s coming everywhere. CEOs are actively working to ensure their teams are developing the capability to succeed in a constantly shifting environment. Communication is a big part of this. The most resilient leadership teams are in consistent communication with one another, rather than leaving what and how they communicate to chance. They also remain curious and open minded, listening to feedback from all levels of the organization as well as outside perspectives to inform their strategic decisions.

3. How will my team want to work in the future?

The reality is many companies, including your suppliers, partners and customers, will likely be in a virtual environment at least in some aspects for a long time. Vistage research shows that many leaders are offering flexibility to their employees, with 55% of companies allowing their teams to work remotely during the pandemic. We all now know that for companies in many industries, it’s possible to successfully work remotely. Now leaders are focused on how to maintain the energy and connection in a long-term remote or hybrid work environment. They are also looking ahead and thinking about how their team will want to work long term, and what that means for recruiting and retaining talent, as well as for their business and work environment.

4. How do I bring more value to customers to over-deliver?

One thing hasn’t changed during the pandemic: The most successful leaders are laser focused on staying close to their best customers and understanding the strength of their relationship with them. Just as the best leaders have constant, clear communication with employees, they do the same with their clients. Leaders are taking these key questions into consideration: What specific challenges are my customers facing? How will my company adapt our resources to address customers’ current and future needs? What are coverage plans for servicing customers? The strongest leaders are determining how they can add more value and consistently over deliver.

5. How do we maintain/revive culture in 2021?

From an employee perspective, it is clear when a company’s culture is driven by its mission, vision, purpose, values, and most importantly, demonstrated by executive teams. It can also be apparent when culture has been strained or when values have been pushed to the side. Effective leaders are transparent and consistent in communicating with employees; they don’t resurface only to share the good or bad news. It is so important for leaders to keep their teams engaged and informed on challenges that lie ahead in order to maintain the culture they’ve built.

To be a CEO or a leader does not mean you must be omniscient. In a period of change, like the present, there will be bumps in the road. But adaptable CEOs are leading right now with commitment, transparency and flexibility. They are forming a team of people who are comfortable with change. And they are examining their leadership styles and asking key questions to identify necessary changes to propel their companies into 2021.

This article was originally published on Small Biz Daily.

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