The executive struggle and the year ahead

by Chuck Hyde ([email protected]) 374 views 

2020 is in the rearview mirror. We are coming off a year when the very nature of work has been upended and in some ways still in the jet wash, trying to figure things out.

The Predictive Index recently released a benchmark report of CEOs and business owners that gives us a sense of what’s on the forefront of their minds as we move forward. The two significant findings: Executive and critical teams are struggling to get along and deliver on strategy.

That really should not surprise us. Here are some leading indicators of the stressors our organizations have been experiencing:

  • 69% of companies surveyed suffered layoffs or furloughs since March, and of that group, 28% let go at least one-fourth of the company.
  • Remote work for those remaining has graduated from a perk for a select few to the new norm. In fact, 97% of respondents will allow remote work in some form moving forward. Working well remotely moved from a non-factor to the No. 1 challenge for CEOs in this study. Concerns over employee performance and productivity saw a 20-point increase from pre-pandemic levels.
  • Company leaders who reported strong cohesion of their teams saw a 10-point drop in this same period. Companies whose employees are primarily remote struggle in setting direction and in their managerial responsibilities, nearly doubling the field for both.
  • Further complicating matters, 96% of the companies surveyed indicated they changed direction due to the pandemic, with 50% indicating their strategy shifted “to a great extent.”

Many businesses are looking to bounce back in 2021 and have developed ambitious goals. Developing and executing a sound business strategy is essential, yet executives can’t afford to neglect their talent strategy. After all, businesses generally don’t run themselves. People do. So how do leaders create a talent strategy that supports their forward plans?

It starts with a recognition of the importance of the people factor. Two-thirds of CEOs in the survey indicate they promote a long-term affiliation culture, including quality of working relationships and development opportunities. High performing organizations have always known this. The difference today is purely contextual. My new least favorite word is “unprecedented.” Yet, for executives with the desire to build strong teams and execute strategy, they must do it with an appreciation for the unmistakable headwinds we have been experiencing.

Where and how do we start? CEOs aren’t just recognizing their needs for business and talent strategy. They are telling us they need help in creating it. Significantly, 94% of the CEOs in this survey indicated they needed outside help with business strategy, and 91% with talent strategy.

Here again, perhaps this should not surprise us. Among the things 2020 proved is that organizations cannot merely keep on their blinders. More than ever, it matters less on what any of us know individually and more so on what access we have to what others around us know. A new premium has been established for trusted sources of information and tools that inform decisions and equip organizations to execute at new levels of performance requirements and degrees of complexity.

My observation is that the degree of impact from COVID-19 and the trajectory of a company had everything to do with what they were doing well before last March, proving that challenge favors the prepared. I believe that 2021 will be different from 2020. I also think that 12 months from now, the impact of whatever 2021 brings our organizations will have everything to do with the decisions we are making now.

Chuck Hyde is the founder of C3 Advisors, a Northwest Arkansas firm focused on executive development and talent optimization. The opinions expressed are those of the author.