We’re in the First 100 Days of a New Decade. Let’s Seize the Moment.
By now, we know that the business landscape will continue to be turbulent for some time to come. After the year we’ve just survived, it’s clear that 2021 will bring additional change and pressure, and executives must be equipped to lead through a continuously shifting environment.
If we take our cues from leadership experts and US politics, the first 100 days of a new era can make or break our success. As the writer Alan Watts said, “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” If we prepare as best we can and start our first 100 days with purpose and passion, we can ensure that our organizations are ready to rhumba in 2021 and beyond.
Based on the seismic shifts that began in 2020, here are five change leadership priorities every executive should have on their agenda for the first 100 days of a new decade:
1. Make Working From Anywhere Part of Your New Normal
With COVID-19 cases on the rise, most organizations have delayed the date for non-essential workers to return to the office until June or later in 2021. Other, more progressive organizations have chosen instead to create long-term, hybrid workforce strategies that allow for a greater percentage of employees working from home (at least some of the time) than ever before.
While adopting a hybrid model requires policy changes and updates to workspaces and technology, it also requires an extensive change strategy so that leaders and employees can adopt the necessary behaviors to grow and thrive in the new work environment. As the boundary between work life and personal life gets blurrier and the physical distance between colleagues grows, everyone will need to get better at communicating, creating community, building empathy, and defining and achieving success.
2. Create a Change Plan for Your DE&I Strategy
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) isn’t just about making lofty statements, charitable contributions, and unconscious bias training for all. While these are important, and the renewed focus on fighting racism and oppression is a welcome sight, building a truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture requires lasting behavior change and focused change management efforts.
As executives begin 2021, they should treat DE&I like a change management effort. Doing so will require a tangible vision for the future; leaders who feel empowered to drive change; and employees who are prepared with the skills and abilities to thrive in a diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment. This effort must also include an employee engagement and communications strategy that creates open, ongoing dialogue and transparency about progress and challenges along the way.
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3. Build a Tech-Enabled Culture
Many corporate digital transformation and technology efforts that were planned at the start of 2020 were forced to accelerate as businesses faced the immediate and urgent reality that they needed to operate differently, both internally (among employees) and externally (with consumers/customers/clients). In addition to the faster implementation of new technologies, this reality has also driven everyone from the CEO to the front line to embrace new technology solutions. This type of widespread adoption requires a tech-enabled culture in which everyone can understand the tangible possibilities, integrate technology into their ways of working, and be flexible enough to grow with technology over time.
4. Help Leaders and Employees Recover From Major Strategy or Structure Changes
While many companies had to make difficult strategy or organizational changes in 2020, many more are looking at doing so in the first part of 2021, either by reprioritizing certain products, business lines, or initiatives or by restructuring or right-sizing teams.
This year is sure to bring much change and disruption to organizational structures, reporting lines, roles, and responsibilities. After an exhausting year on the home and work fronts, leaders and employees will need high-touch support to navigate these changes so they can thrive in 2021. They’ll need to understand the rationales for the changes, and more importantly, they’ll need to feel they can succeed once the changes have been made. They will need ongoing, personal communications and coaching from their leaders so they can learn how to manage the stress, especially in light of the current environment.
5. Assist HR, Leadership, Managers, and Employees in Better Managing Change
We’ve known for many years that change itself is the new normal, but 2020 amplified the pace and scale of that change exponentially. Since change has become relentless and will continue to be so well into 2021, every organization must help its teams learn how to “join the dance,” as Watts put it. This means equipping HR, leaders, managers, and employees at every level with the tools they need to understand, translate, adopt, and advocate for the changes ahead, no matter what 2021 brings.