By, Remi Baker, Managing Director at people consultancy Wondrous
2020 has been the most challenging year in memory and the pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on the world of work. Unsurprisingly we have seen business leaders come under huge amounts of pressure with many having to take on new roles and become more hands-on to mitigate the disruption caused by the crisis. While a vaccine has presented some well-earned optimism, a growing number of Covid cases in the UK and complex lockdown restrictions mean businesses must prepare for more uncertainty in the new year.
The most successful business leaders from this year have adapted to their circumstances and have excelled above those who remained set in their ways. For businesses to thrive in the new year, these are five of the key qualities which leaders will arguably need to steer people to success.
Don’t shy away from difficult conversations
One positive of 2020 is that it has taught us that many businesses have a long way to go in creating inclusive cultures and tackling lasting inequality be that related to race, gender or otherwise. Starting conversations about inclusion will potentially make business leaders uncomfortable, but this shouldn’t cause inaction. On the contrary, leaders should acknowledge their blind spots and get the right conversations going. Whilst doing so, it will be important to seek knowledge on topics where they may not feel the most educated. Learning and educating oneself on different perspectives will place business leaders in a better position to understand where everyone is coming from and will help to build an inclusive culture.
Be a clear and effective communicator
The success of your business relies on clear and effective communication. As a leader, it is a vital tool for building trust, aligning efforts in the pursuit of goals, and inspiring positive change and we’ve seen from the Government how inconsistent communication can cause major problems.
Next year, leaders will need to be open, honest, and authentic about the state of affairs. If clear communication is lacking, important information can be misinterpreted, causing relationships to suffer and, ultimately, creating barriers that hinder progress. Clear communication should permeate throughout the businesses and leaders should also encourage managers to have regular dialogue with their colleagues. Simple tactics such as virtual coffees or check-in sessions, can help people to engage, maintain friendships and connect with their colleagues.
Embrace resilience in your approach
A key component of resilience is the ability to lead and respond to challenges, and what greater challenge is there than the road ahead for 2021? While businesses deserve praise for making it through this year, significant hurdles remain. To be resilient as a leader, you need to be open to learning from your experiences and those of your employees, to minimise challenges in the future. Simple steps like encouraging peer mentoring and knowledge sharing during team meetings means everyone benefits from the experience of overcoming a challenge and acts resiliently – not because they’ve been told to, but because of the culture that has been fostered.
Be agile to respond to new challenges
In 2021, a successful leader will need to have the ability to pivot easily and be agile in their approach. The events of this year have proven the business case in many ways for hybrid working, so leaders will need to upskill, to ensure they are able to respond to the fabric of a new workplace culture. Leading remote teams requires specific skills and leaders will need to ensure the right structure, resources and processes are in place for the business to succeed.
Develop trust with your employees
As we can expect the disruption from coronavirus to continue in the new year, employees will continue to look to their leaders as a source of inspiration, and encouragement. However, this must be underpinned by trust, and a successful leader will need to be transparent. Those who invest time in this will be in the best position not just to maintain business as usual, but to emerge from the pandemic in good shape. Without this foundation of trust, employees may lose motivation and confidence, which will in turn, affect their performance. In these unprecedented times, leaders who are unpredictable or inconsistent will not stand the test of time.
As many business leaders will know, running a business this year has not been easy. And with experts predicting that GDP growth will see a significant decline in the final quarter of 2020, it is going to be a slow and bumpy start to 2021. Leaders who are effective communicators, agile, resilient, trustworthy and bold about difficult conversations will stand the test of time and steer their businesses successfully to the other side of this crisis.