COVID19 has replaced Brexit as the trigger for urgent and critical business change. Organizations have become decentralised as teams and individuals are made to work remotely from home. Or they are temporarily disbanded where staff are furloughed. Most companies will have now completed all the actions necessary to decrease costs, meet the government directive to “stay home” and put contingency plans in place with the view to still being in business at the end of this pandemic. If ever there was a time for leaders to be nurturing, both of themselves and others, it is now.
What are potential impacts of these changes on individuals?
We know through our experience in performance management that one of the key motivators for being employed to work in a company as opposed to working from home alone is the fact you get to mix with others on a daily basis. The opportunity to talk something through with a colleague over a coffee, the metaphoric and perhaps literal shoulder to cry on when going through a tough time personally or professionally, and not to forget the morale boosting office “banter”. Unless you are a key worker on the front-line of the coronavirus crisis, you will be cut off from all this now.
The issues facing key workers are different and will not be addressed here.
Potential impacts of enforced homeworking might include:
- Lack of motivation as social and face-to-face physical contact has disappeared overnight.
- Difficulty balancing time effectively as the working day is no longer segregated from family responsibilities. Not to mention the fact parents have the extra responsibility of educating and entertaining their children. Children who may well act up as a result of the highly irregular circumstances that they find themselves in. As well as the need to prepare meals, and generally keep the house going. No matter the motivation and dedication, it is likely that productivity will suffer.
- Mental and physical exhaustion as individuals try to play super mums and dads to cope with extended duties such as being home educators, as well as shopping for and checking in with vulnerable family members and elderly members of the community. All the while they are trying to be productive so they can earn the salary that keeps the ship afloat.
- Worry and anxiety about where is the money going to come from to meet financial obligations and therefore obsessing over the question; “How are we going to manage?”
- Dealing with the impact and fear of keeping well especially if there are people dependant on you.
- Living a relentless cycle with little or no respite and “down-time” as everyone “stays home”, and the challenge this brings of trying to stay healthy and keep everyone else healthy.
How does leadership need to change?
In asking this question, it is easy to forget that those designated as leaders also have personal issues and are impacted by the changes to their home environment work set up. Therefore, it is paramount that the time spent on leading is quality time, relaying supportive, inspiring and nurturing messages to all team members that show genuine interest, empathy and understanding.
Nurturing leadership is going to become the new norm as organisations realise that in order to navigate this crisis successfully, the priority is going to be people. Tailoring your approach to each team member relative to where they are at, as opposed to achieving short-term goals and driving profitability using a one-size-fits-all approach.
What does nurturing leadership look like?
When nurturing something or someone “we care for it whilst it is growing and developing” (www.Cambridgedictionary.com). Translating this into how leaders are to respond, they should take care of the individual and the business as a whole: each employee that a particular leader is responsible for needs to be supported in helping them find the new norm, encouraged to be kind to themselves and not beat themselves up when missing deadlines, forgetting reports and finding the new ways of using technology a challenge. Me included in this last point!
A nurturing leader will be able to listen empathetically, listen without the need to “fix” the current situation for their employee, enabling the individual to find their own solutions that work for them and their individual circumstances. Giving them the encouragement to keep trying and to make that breakthrough on something that may on the surface look incredibly simple, and perhaps would ordinarily be so, but in fact is extremely challenging in their new daily environment.
We know that challenge presents an opportunity for growth. The importance for every leader to create the right environment to allow for growth and development through trial and error is essential to show support, inspire to keep trying and to succeed, whilst at the same time providing a safety net should it be needed.
A nurturing leader will be tuning into his or her sixth sense of intuition and feeling, to “see” when one of their team is struggling, and to use gentle coaching questions to encourage the sharing of frustrations, venting of anger and disappointments. At the end, finding empathetic and inspiring words to show respect, kindness and warmth that willingly drives the person to keep searching until they eventually find the model, of the new norm that works for them in their current reality.
Just as importantly, each leader needs to protect his or her inner emotional and spiritual self through leading by example showing that nurturing is vital and to also take the necessary time to nurture themselves.
Under present day circumstances, I believe there is no space for the hard-nosed focus to drive profitability, as this will likely push well-intentioned and loyal employees who are desperately trying to be productive right now, away from organisations when the tide turns. It is a time for being. A human being, not a human doing!
Green Key Personal Development – Nurturing People, Nurturing Business, Growing Potential through these challenging times.
Rachel Shackleton is an entrepreneur who owns and manages Green Key Personal Development and Green Key Health. Working with local and multinational organisations, she is a public speaker and trainer in the spheres of leadership, communication and customer excellence. She ensures sustainable productivity and profitability through healthy self-management and leadership practices, ensuring a focused and successful workforce.
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