The Greatest Challenge’s Business Leaders Face Today – LinkedIn Poll

Leadership today is more complex than ever. The growth of technology, sudden market changes and uncertain economic climate has ushered in at an unprecedented and rapid rate.

We recently asked our LinkedIn community of Business Leaders within various size organisations and industries, what their greatest challenges are today.

The results were as follows:

  • Build/ retain a diverse board – 8%
  • Navigating constant change – 48%
  • Staying ahead of competition – 24%
  • Future Strategic Planning – 20%

Our team have taken a greater look into these challenges and advised on actions to help navigate through.

Build/ retain a diverse board

The most successful and influential boards are those with directors that offer a variety of skills and diverse experiences.

For many business leaders, introducing diversity into their board team comes as a huge challenge – but one that is vital in steering a company towards its long-term goals.

Diversity encourages new ways of thinking and perspective on a range of consumers, markets and business practices.

To overcome these challenges and establish greater boardroom diversity, we suggest the following:

  • Increase transparency

Work closely with the HR Director to identify gaps in your current board team. Following this, devise a strategy to introduce more women and minorities into executive positions. Once the board structure has been established and you’ve identified how you will implement your strategy, make these goals public and communicate it to the wider business – this will keep you accountable and demonstrate your commitment to diversity and inclusion in your business.

  • Refresh the board

One-to-one meetings and annual assessments for each director, are just as important as companywide ones. These should determine board members contribution to the business strategy and where there is a short fall in skills.

For those that have been part of a board team for a number of years, falling into a comfortable and coasting way of thinking can be easy. As a business leader it’s your responsibility to ensure each individual on the board continues to influence, demonstrate productivity, passion and commitment. If this begins to fade or there is a greater demonstration of underperforming you need to find ways to reengage your directors or consider a restructure and introduce new proactive members.

  • Develop future leaders

Work with your HR department to develop future diverse leaders and make it your mission to recruit further diversity into the wider business. As importantly, involve your board team in mentoring programmes, where they can support leaders of tomorrow and get a greater perspective of views from those diverse individuals.

Navigating through constant change

As a result of the pandemic, Brexit and digitalisation, business leaders are facing more changes than ever before. Navigating through these and getting ahead of the curve is where many struggle.

We suggest the following steps to support you through these changes:

  • Prepare for change

In light of the recent pandemic, being able to roll your sleeves up, take charge and guide the business through unforeseen challenges is crucial. Prioritising and undertaking a risk analysis and a mitigation strategy, will be poignant in navigating through future challenges that may lie ahead. Identifying as many risks as possible ahead of time will reduce panic and chaos amongst your workforce – with readily available and attainable strategies and tactics in place. Use your previous experiences to establish a strategy that can successfully keep your business running profitably, whilst remaining ahead of the competition.

  • Communicate with the team

In times of uncertainty, communication is key. From a leader’s perspective, that includes your team, board, investors, shareholders and customers. Open up a forum for people to ask questions and voice concerns, and ensure your responses are timely and direct with no room for misinterpretation. Weekly team catch-ups, monthly or quarterly companywide communications meetings are a great way of doing this.

  • Focus on obtainable, short-term goals.

In your company strategy, it is vital that you consider short-term goals in order to successfully reach your long-term goals. Focusing on immediate/ quarterly priorities, where designated people can take ownership, will balance the pressure on your own shoulders. If the wider business feel involved in these changes and clearly understand their positive impact on the business and the company’s mission, every individual will be working in the same direction.

Staying ahead of the competition

To dominate your market and stay ahead of your competition, defining your business proposition is essential.

You have to identify and demonstrate your unique selling proposition through your marketing strategy and instil this in your sales team when reaching out to prospective customers. You need to make a clear-cut proposition, that gives customers a reason to come to you rather than your competitors.

As a business leader, aside from product and service offerings, you need to ensure your core processes, strategy and values set you apart from the rest in your market.

We suggest the following steps to help you stay ahead of the competition:

  • Know your competition

Delve deep into your rivals – what they offer, their market proposition and how they present themselves. Work closely with your marketing team for competitor analysis and research. Following this, spend time relooking at your own business, undertake a SWOT analysis and identify what your competitive edge is and target marketplace – then set your strategy.

  • Test and experiment

Trial and error can be extremely useful in identifying what your audience likes and requires. It is a great way of monitoring results and planning strategically for the business. However, do your research first! Leaving it completely to chance may impact productivity and throw a considerable unwanted curve ball into your brand strategy and customers perception of you.

  • Be the best employer

Skilled and motivated people are the backbone of any successful business. Attracting and retaining talent means more than paying a competitive wage, offering an inclusive and inspiring culture, career development opportunities, and excellent benefits are significant for productivity and personal job satisfaction.

Future Strategic Planning

Strategic planning provides structure to day-to-day decisions that follow a larger vision – in program development, building a solid financial foundation and preparing for challenges that lie ahead. It is an opportunity for the board team to share their perceptions and discuss critical issues that may affect the organisation in the future.

An inclusive approach to strategic planning has proven to positively impact a smooth operation, in ensuring key stakeholders believe in the organisation’s vision and are committed to achieving it.

We suggest the following steps to help you to plan strategically:

  • Mission & values

Start with reviewing your mission statement, this has to define a long-term goal/ vision that is used to navigate your business plan. Use your mission, to then determine your company values – what you want to instil in your people that reflects in your customer experience. Your values need to be strong, clear and at the core of your practices.

  • External and internal SWOT analysis

Strategically review the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that you face both within your organisation and with external factors such as industry trends, global issues and growing competition. Interpreting data is key to successfully executing a SWOT analysis. Bring your board team together to support in this step, their perspective and insights will be significant.

  • Develop strategies

Once a clear picture of your mission, values and market position has been established, the board team need to develop strategic options to move the business from its current status toward that of your mission. Its key to remember that a strategic planning meeting is not the place to discuss systems, preferred data, or training required. Managing these kinds of details will be the responsibility of individuals assigned in the action plan.

  • Action Plan

The outcome of developing strategies should be the prioritisation of a few (two to five) achievable goals and the creation of a related action plan. Many strategic plans have previously failed for because they were too ambitious or too complex. It’s important to remember that the opportunities or limitations identified in your SWOT analysis need to be addressed over a matter of years – for company sustainability.

By having an annual strategic planning meeting, these goals will stay in sight and can be successfully achieved.

For more information on how to address your current challenges as a business leader or if you are looking to add real value into your board team, please contact Lee Bhandal at l.bhandal@parkinsonlee.com.

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