As we recognise Boss’s Day on Friday the 16th of October it would be amiss not to address the changes that COVID-19 has brought to our working environments.  Jay Owens, business director at corporate culture experts, The Human Edge, says that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown everyone into unknown territory. “Businesses are needing to cope with challenges that they have never experienced before.”

Owens says that the term “boss” is archaic and redundant and should be relegated to the management theory archives as it has transactional connotations.  In this day and age, we should focus on our leadership roles of providing a meaningful picture of the organisation’s future, the value to society and focussing on employee energy. Coaching is also more important than ever as leaders need to invest in individuals, enhance their potential and recognise the contribution they can and do make.

The pandemic has resulted in new challenges for leaders, including, remote working, new technologies, new and different work/life balances, security of tenure and complex HR issues.  Owens says, to make matters even harder, they are also facing declining sales and revenue, reduced cash-flow and for some, the trauma of a complete business shutdown.  “There is no doubt that it is difficult for leaders and employees to stay positive during all of this.”

Owens provides four tips that leaders should be implementing at this time to help ensure loyalty, positivity, and productivity:

  • Connection before content – during challenging times human connection is paramount.  Employees need to know that their leaders care about them as much as they care about the business.
  • Clarity around content – because interaction is limited and virtual, leaders need to be far more specific about their expectations.
  • Champion collaboration – it is easy for people to become isolated and disconnected during these times.  Leaders need to create mechanisms for engagement and collaboration where colleagues, clients and other stakeholders can connect.  Isolation under these conditions promotes uncertainty, fear, and resentment.
  • Focus on performance and productivity – it is too easy during trying times to lose focus on the critical factors that keep the organisations functioning.  Challenging times also offer great opportunities for new ways of thinking, eliminating redundant practices and challenging people in terms of the value of their contribution to the success of the business. 
  • Owens says that employees’ expectations of management during this time also warrants a change in thinking.  He advises employees to be tough on their leaders.  “Seek clarity, ask for guidance and help, and articulate your expectations.  It is only when you are tough on them that they can be tough on you – there is a reciprocity in the leader / employee relationship.”  Employees need to make their contribution felt and make sure that their organisation can’t do without them.  In conclusion Owens says, “Irrespective of level, respect the individual and the value and sanctity of work – it is both a right and a privilege.” 

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