For many, this time last year this was a period of immense stress as we attempted to come to terms with coping and functioning during a global pandemic. What initially began as three weeks of hard lockdown soon transitioned into many months. The unfortunate reality is that it is far from over. The term ‘the new normal’ has been bandied about for so long, that it is no longer ‘new’.
Life, as we ‘knew’ it, has irrevocably changed. And the end is not in sight. The impact on business and various hard-hit industries is well documented, together with the social, economic and psychological impact. As we make our way towards the middle of 2021 does business, once again, need to rethink its approach as this pandemic continues?
Measures that were hastily put in place, such as remote working, virtual meetings and often longer working hours, to name but a few, are some of the changes that have enabled businesses to stay afloat, and are now embedded as standard working routines. Give the extreme jolt to our comfort zones, what is needed to move ahead through the uncertainty and find renewed energy and wellbeing?
Knowing how to adjust
We all know the wisdom of the famous saying often attributed to Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We are all inherently resistant to change – even when we know the benefits. And yet, as the famous Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “change is the only constant in life”.
Whilst so many have embraced different and ‘new’ ways of being, the pressure remains not only to evolve, but to constantly be alert and ready to implement any additional measures needed.
After the disruption of 2020, employers had to cope with the uncertainties of the business world while simultaneously dealing with the challenges of COVID-19. In a disrupted workplace, we must use the knowledge gained in 2020 to inform how we keep our people aligned, engaged and empowered, given the new remote work habits we have largely adopted.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that adaptation is necessary for our survival, whether for the individual, our families or our businesses. Checking in with your employees, clarifying outputs for remote workers, upskilling and reskilling, and leadership coaching are important, necessary leadership behaviours to grow your employees in times of change. The key to business survival and employee development will rest on staying up to date and having a flexible and agile mindset. One of our core responsibilities as leaders is to nurture our teams so they are prepared and empowered for whatever challenges will cross their path.
Being positive, mindful and keeping the bigger picture in mind
When adapting to change, in the words of Peter Drucker, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence itself; but to act with yesterday’s logic.”
Moving forward requires a constant awareness and openness to the knowledge that our world will likely continue to shift and morph over the coming months; in ways we cannot possibly predict.
And we need to acknowledge that with this comes increased anxiety levels – for ourselves and our team. Just think about the anxiety that this unknown future has sparked in you personally. The world was already changing at an alarming pace, but it has accelerated significantly and there are very few things that we can be certain about right now.
Do not be tempted to tiptoe around tough issues. Be honest and say what needs to be said so that people, in this case particularly employees or team members, at least know what to expect from you. Be clear in your communication, always helping to provide clarity and, in that, a measure of calm in turbulent times.
Continue to celebrate both small and big successes, creating a positive environment in which team members can continue to flourish and grow.
Reassess your medium to long term strategy. Are the tools and measures put in place one year ago still relevant and adding value? Or do they need to be rethought? What have the lessons been over the last months and how can they be incorporated as we move forward into tomorrow?
Now, more than ever, perspective is everything. Do not lose sight of the ‘bigger picture’, both professionally and personally. To provide calm and a sense of accomplishment, remember to break it down into smaller and more immediate tasks and actions. In the words of Jocko Willink, ex-Navy SEAL commander and leadership author, “Prioritise and Execute”. In times of chaos, focus on that one priority that has to happen, and then make it happen, before losing your focus across multiple, fluid challenges.
Being both today and tomorrow’s leaders
Leaders in current times are under enormous pressure to ‘find’ the way, ‘show’ the way and ‘lead’ the way. Leaders’ ability to adapt to change is dependent on their willingness to stay abreast of new trends and developments, ensuring the organisation, its people and its products are still relevant to their market.
The University of Queensland Business School recently shared five leadership trends they feel must be prioritised during 2021.
- Build a positive culture in remote teams
- Adopt a change mindset
- Focus on wellbeing in leadership
- Eradicate ethical blind spots
- Employ the triple bottom line approach
Some more thoughts to assist us, as leaders, to continue engaging mindfully and with purpose are:
- The basic human response to change is fear – and when people are afraid, they crave security. Whether you are a CEO, middle manager or team leader, it is critical to communicate honestly even when you do not have all the answers. Certainty is a salve for fear.
- In times of uncertainty, prompt action is your best way to get more information.
- Share power and decision-making with your team, while still
ensuring clear lines of accountability.
- Help your team members manage stress by being empathetic and
understanding, always with an open ear to listen.
- Managing hybrid, remote teams demand a new leadership style. If you are a leader in one of the many businesses that have normalised remote working policies, it is wise to tweak your day-to-day operations to accommodate remote sessions, also ensuring your people don’t suffer from ‘Zoom Fatigue’.
BIOGRAPHY – BRIAN EAGAR
From being voted as the naughtiest kid most likely to fail at school, Brian Eagar found success in the information and technology sector as a young sales and marketing executive, culminating in an executive sales and strategy role for one of the Siemens businesses based in Germany. On his return to South Africa, his passion to inspire leadership led to the creation of TowerStone in 2006.
Fuelled by his passion for empowering and connecting people, Eagar translated this into a programme to empower leaders to inspire values driven behaviour with their people, with the ultimate objective of shaping a sustainable, performance culture.
With personal executive leadership experience spanning 15 years, Eagar has gone on to coach and is/ has been coaching executives from companies including the following:
- The Aveng Group
- AEL Mining Services
- Shoprite Group
- On the Dot (Media 24)
- Bokoni platinum mine
- Harmony Gold
- HRG Rennies Travel
- Curo Fund Services
- Massmart Group
Eagar’s personal philosophy is: “To consciously lead, to be a model example, and to let go of the old to inspire the new, is one of the toughest aspects of a personal life journey. I am driven by the need to serve and inspire others”. He walks the talk with seven years of executive development and facilitation experience combined with seven years coaching experience.