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Top 5 Challenges Leaders Face in 2021 and How to Mitigate Them

There is comfort in putting 2020 behind us, a year that brought many challenges and unprecedented obstacles to our reality.

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The pandemic triggered the economic downfall of countless companies, organizations, businesses, and even governments.

Many leaders and CEOs witnessed their revenue figures take a plunge almost overnight. Even the biggest corporations announced revenue impacts of a certain degree. Some had to close their businesses indefinitely while others saw their business models collapse right beneath their feet. The companies that managed to stay afloat amidst this drastic disruption the economy was confronted with had to implement unconventional strategies like remote work. 

Since those decisive months in lockdown, leaders are now expending all their energy to moving their businesses into safer shores. Covid-19 has incited a radical change in the reality of the business industry, it ushered in a new set of challenges for all organizations, most notably in the management of customers, daily operations, finances, as well as talent.

Not only that but some of the best practices that businesses relied on for their success pre-pandemic have now become entirely irrelevant and obsolete. Many shifts have taken place since then and leaders find themselves facing a lot of uncertainty. Restructuring teams and establishing contingency plans to forge ahead is a great place to start. 

Whether your organization has managed to find a good balance and is expecting more growth in 2021 or whether it has come to a standstill and is barely surviving, you need to build a compelling strategy that will propel your company towards a more promising future. One that takes into account the most pressing pain points you had to deal with in 2020. 

So, here are the top 5 challenges leaders face in 2021 and how to mitigate them.

Challenge No.1: Remote Employee Engagement

Keeping employees engaged while they’re working remotely is definitely a challenge that most leaders and CEOs are struggling with.

The truth is, companies that did not have a significant number of remote workers have found it hard to adjust to this transition despite having almost a year to figure it out.

The percentage of remote employees is ever-increasing and despite the indefinite nature of this pandemic, some things are still within our control. First, as a leader, you have to embrace collaboration tools and virtual engagement aids that allow you to communicate clearly and frequently.

Sharing updates and making sure everyone is on the same page is vital. You can’t afford to leave room for speculation because that will only augment your employees’ anxiety and feelings of alienation from the company and its mission, not to mention how detrimental it is to their engagement. 

In addition to that, you also need to invest time and energy in making your employees feel valued, respected and included. Finding creative ways to build and sustain company culture virtually is of the utmost importance. This cannot happen without reimagining the features and aspects that distinguish your company culture and make it a desirable work environment.

Challenge No.2: Sustaining Sales

No matter which industry you’re in and no matter what job title you are holding, the last year has been incredibly demanding of your time, effort, energy, and especially motivation.

Many organizations and companies have lost a fair share of their customers due to the constraints of the economic downfall. In spite of that, it’s in these instances that you have to find new and innovative ways to connect with your audience and customer base. 

They are struggling too, perhaps in different ways, but they have also witnessed the ramifications of this pandemic firsthand. A great way to move your organization into the path of recovery is to make sure your customers, just like your employees, feel appreciated, heard, and valued.

The first step to do this is to get closer to your existing clients and take the time to understand the challenges they are facing. This will allow you to better customize what you have to offer so it suits their needs. It also makes you more reliable and trustworthy as a company. 

Moreover, you need to update your channels of communication as well as the messages you diffuse. Some of the methods you’d use to reach out to customers pre-pandemic will most likely come across as tone-deaf or blatantly inappropriate nowadays. So craft directives that are bound to resonate with people in 2021 and be prepared to tweak and adjust these messages as things continue to shift.

Challenge #3: Creating a Safe Environment for Employees

Adjusting to the seismic shifts the pandemic has caused also entails re-learning the best practices of getting back to the workplace in a post-Covid world.

Creating a safe and secure environment that will cater to employees’ current needs is vital.  This means leaders have to take the initiative to set new office standards, especially when it comes to sanitation and the prevention of an outbreak. As a leader, you have to create new policies that set expectations and reinforce certain behaviors like wearing a mask, going through daily temperature checks, and reporting any symptoms. 

These standards need to be clear and non-negotiable so your employees are more susceptible to abide by these rules. You can also reinvent the physical workspace by putting enough space between desks, regulating traffic, and limiting the number of people to attend meetings. This will help minimize safety risks and make employees feel well-cared for. 

Challenge No.4: Managing Finances In a Shifting Environment

A valuable lesson that many leaders learned in 2020 is the importance of planning for the next crisis.

While organizations did ride the wave of this pandemic as many are going back into business, there’s no guarantee that 2021 will hold no surprises (at least negative ones that might catch us off-guard). 

Optimism is a great outlook to adopt, but great leaders know the value of anticipating the worst all while working to achieve the best. So, use scenario planning to predict everything that could go wrong and make strategic decisions that will help you mitigate those risks. This is especially important because it shows you which factors lie within your control and which ones don’t.

Challenge No.5: Team Cohesion

Team cohesion is one of the decisive elements when it comes to predicting a company’s success and longevity.

Unfortunately, this is also one of the top aspects that suffered due to the major changes that occurred after companies were forced to completely restructure and re-engineer their business strategies at the time. When employees are not in congruence with these strategies, team cohesion deteriorates. 

Reinforcing that sense of union is essential to promote trust and increase productivity in 2021. So, take inventory of the talent at your disposal and think about their strengths and how these complement their team members’ assets. Then consider your team’s blind spots and what you can do to manage and eliminate those.

Team cohesion is impossible without understanding each other both as individuals and as a group.

In Conclusion

While these challenges are merely a scratch on the surface of what 2021 may have in store for leaders and CEOs, they do, however, represent some of the most important pain points to be addressed to ensure the difficulties Covid-19 brought with it don’t repeat themselves. These challenges will dictate the rising business trends of 2021, so as you look ahead, acknowledge that we are still in a period of change and that bumps on the road are inevitable. Lead with transparency, commitment, and flexibility and you will propel your company into a promising 2021!

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