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Leadership in Covid19 – Obstacles

In my previous posts, I raised the crucial role leaders play in times of crisis to manage the mental state people are in, and lead them through these difficulties (Post 1). I also discussed the importance for leaders to “CHOP the FEAR’ of uncertainty and non-clarity through constant communication to staff and stakeholders (Post 2).

In this post, I’d like to touch on how can leaders get their business out of the maze of obstacles created by the Covid19 crisis.

The global shutdown and lock-down impacted the economic situation of many corporates, organisations and government entities. This will influence the financial stability of individuals as well as companies.  What can we, as leaders, do to overcome the obstacles and turn them into stepping stones for growing the business?

I have learnt that the way we view things is how we do things. When people played the Tetris game for hours and then went and looked at the world, they viewed the world differently, impacted by the way the game forces your mind to match different shaped tiles together. We can also change our thoughts pattern to view things differently. (Starting, for example, by changing “this is impossible’ to ‘how can we make it possible’).

Thinking creatively, may be easier said than done, especially when our mind is in stress and constant worries due to cash flows, employees ’salaries etc.

Some tips to use different methods to change the way we think about the problem:

  1. Talking to people (not only from our industry), the more diverse, better opportunity to ‘think out of the box’. Staying away from our ‘box of network’ and reach out, even to distant acquaintances.
  2. Asking questions, using our inquisitive minds; ‘what good can come out of it’? How can we turn this obstacle into opportunity? “What a brilliant opportunity is disguised in this impossible obstacle?
  3. Crisis moves us; does it move us backwards or forwards? Asking different questions in different ways and discussing them also with our employees and stakeholders may create a breakthrough in our thinking of the situation.

ORT SA, is an educational NGO and part of a global network ORT, we have had long impact on people’s lives through education, since ORT was established in 1880. We have been asking many questions since the Covid19 crisis, as it impacted the schools, the youth and businesses we are working with. One of the question we still ponder about is; “How has this crisis and its’ emergency response to COVID-19 will impact the future of education and re-imagining of schooling?” This question keeps moving us forward to redesign our programmes and our offering to move remotely so to ensure we can reach each of our beneficiaries wherever they are. We have the opportunity now to draw the picture of education of the future, narrowing the gap with the less privileged communities, while doing so. It is not Impossible until it is possible.

Leadership in Covid19 -Clarity

Imagine you have been given a gift of 1000 puzzle pieces, alas, the puzzle pieces came in a box with no picture and you have to guess the final outcome as you assemble the pieces together. This is how many of us felt in light of the uncertainty Covid19 brought with it. Due to constant changes in the state of health indicators and fluctuations in the information provided by authorities, leaders found it extremely difficult to find clarity in the chaos and to lead under these circumstances.

Communicating to your employees, stakeholders and beneficiaries, repeatedly and frequently can help getting the haze out of uncertainty and non-clarity.  

How you communicate is also important. “CHOP the FEAR of uncertainty by Communicating”

Use the CHOP FEAR Mnemonics:

Clear Goals- be clear and convey clarity about the steps ahead, even if you’d be discussing the steps to be taken the next day.

Humility – we are all on the same boat. It is not about “I” or “You”. If a hole occurs on one side of the boat we are all going to sink… Using ‘We’ in communication makes everybody feel in accord with the leader. 

Optimistic yet Realistic- define reality using fact based information and embed optimism and positivity based on past history.

Purpose driven not pressure driven, remind people of “why” the organisation exists and utilise the opportunity of the lack of clarity to bring clarity on the core of your organisation and what keeps it going, especially in crisis like today’s.

……………………

Frequent- things are changing all the times, the more they change the more you communicate. Very important to keep all stakeholders informed continuously on actions you taking to deal with the current situation.

Examine team- be there for your team, address their insecurities and be proactive in seeking them out. Listen to them, be empathetic, contain their anger and fear so you can lead them. Show confidence, not in yourself, but in the team’s ability to get through the crisis.

Authentic- your communication style needs to reflect who you are. What you say and what you do is aligned. Check your body language and tone of voice when communicating. Especially when trying to communicate calm and ease yet your body language shows tension and tightness. 

Repeat – the pandemic threw our mind into stress and worry. Therefore it is recommended (and not a waste of time) to repeat messages you conveyed in the past.

Leadership in times of Covid19

This is the first post of four, based on a talk I gave at the World ORT Educator Forum May 2020 on leadership and management in times of crisis.

Source: Touchbasepro

This post is about the implications of the crisis on people’s mental health and the role of a leader in addressing this challenge.
Feel free to subscribe and follow me in the journey of leadership. Hope you can find it beneficial. Please share your comments, ideas, suggestions and your own stories and experiences.

Source: Founder Institute

Although the Covid19 pandemic is a matter of public physical health  we found ourselves, as  leaders, having to deal with the mental health implications of this crisis.

The lock-down restrictions thrown many into a turmoil of emotions, mostly negative, some even found themselves going through stages of grief. Grieving the loss of freedom, routine, normal life, our coffee at Startbuck with a friend. Learning to accept those loses was part of the process of coping. ‘The strongest survives’. And who is the strongest? The crisis highlighted the need of resilience in leaders.  Resilience is like a roly-poly toy that whenever is pushed, no matter how hard, will always stand up, many times in unpredictable ways.

How do we do that? How do we, as leaders, continue leading when we may be stuck at one of those stages of grief of denial or anger or depression and cannot find ourselves able to stand up?

On a personal level, leaders have to ensure that they start with themselves so that they are able to make decisions and communicate in a calm and relaxed manner.  

  1. Look up for leaders that are ahead of the game. Even observing political leaders that may be stuck on one of the grief stages, is a reminder that we are all human. But there were some shining stars. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand and the President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa delivered harsh news on restrictions and drastic lockdown in a warm and somehow humoristic ways. The manners in which they communicate during this crisis is something to learn from. 
  2. Reach out to your close network of friends, family and mentors for the mental support needed in this times.  
  3. Utilise the crisis as an opportunity for self-growth. All these courses/ podcasts/ books you kept on postponing due to lack of time. This pandemic and lock-down has given us time. So instead of filling this ‘space’ with non-conscious ‘binging’ on Netflix, utilise it for learning you always wished you’d do ‘if you only had the time’.

On a professional level, there are challenges of leading a team that some may be working from home and others not working, without knowing when they can come back to the office. Use this time to strengthen the organisation’s purpose and values;

  1. Remind yourself and team ‘why we are doing what we are doing’. Use the organisation’s vision and purpose as the “Northern Star’ to guide you through the uncertainty. At ORT SA, we reminded ourselves that ORT, which was established 140 years ago, went through crisis worse than today’s’ and yet it endured and evolved carrying on impacting the lives of people through education.
  2. Re look at your Values. Strong organisation’s values will serve you as anchors at this difficult times. If one of your values is increasing revenue and returns, you may need to review it as you may be setting your team for failure.
  3. Reflect on the organisation mission. What is the organisation doing? is it still relevant? how can the organisation provide solutions to Covid19 challenges? If the organisation is pivoting from the core purpose and changes how and what they are doing, it needs to be reflected in your mission statement. Create a ‘Covid19 Mission Statement’. ORT SA Covid19 Mission statement was the same with the addition of ORT2Connect the unconnected so we can continue fulfilling our mission which is making people employable and creating employment opportunities.

The fear and stress from catching the virus (especially if you are at high risk), fear from losing your job, fear from the unknown. People react differently to fear, some thrive under pressure and create amazing things but some find themselves paralysed without the ability to think, act, work, and make decision.

Be aware of this as a leader and be present. People are looking for leaders, not superheroes. Be the leader for others that you wish that you had.  

Hello!

 In this blog I would like to explore the past, ponder about the present and envision the future of ICT and Technology in education.

As well as share best practices from teachers in the ICT and Technology implementation.

 

Yours in technology

Ariellah

Education Crisis Post Covid19

There is no question that the toll of Covid19 and the lock down on the economy, education, and nearly every industry has been heavy. Time will tell how badly.  

While our rights for freedom and education has been jeopardized, it was done to ensure that our rights to health and life are intact. Therefore, we should leave the guidance on the next step of restrictions to the health experts. Those experts have gained their expertise after years of observations, studies, and experience with the ability to analyse the situation better than any of us can. It should be done in a transparent manner, taking into consideration economic and educational needs.

This is why I find it disturbing that experts in the field of education are pointing fingers criticizing decisions made and producing their own guidelines of when and how we should open schools, for example. Rather let’s spend this time finding collaborative solutions for bridging the gap of knowledge and regression in skills due to the absence of schooling in the past two months. If anything, this pandemic emphasised the importance of traditional schooling, especially in disadvantage and poor communities that have no access and infrastructure to enable remote learning. Let’s use our expertise in education and leverage this challenging period and the time we have to work together to find a solution for the benefit of our children.

Oscar Wilde said, “I am not young enough to know everything…” Answers are not found with the young nor with the old but many times they are the product of brain power coming together

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Reboot Post Covid19

We may have been super organised prior to Covid19 planning our day, week , month, even the year ahead of time. We may have been great in prioritizing things on our to-do lists, ticking as we go along and feeling super productive. If there is something that the Covid19 taught me is that a crisis is very good in ‘messing up’ our plans and its even really good in prioritizing things for us. And, maybe, in away, it is something we should feel grateful for. Family and time with our loved ones, whether we were lucky to have them with us, or not, has shot up, for many, to the top of the priority list. So while earth and the world is doing a ‘restart’ or ‘rebooting’, we should utilize the opportunity and change some of the settings before we go back to ‘new normal’. Keeping our family and loved ones on the top of our ‘to-dos’ and maybe create a ‘not-to-do’ list to ensure they remain on top.

Education in times of crisis

(Insight from Webinar http://www.ort.mx organised by ORT University Mexico)

One of the things that Covid19 brought with (together with worldwide chaos and uncertainty) is the understanding, that this is a crisis, in its full definition; the virus targets human lives, is unexpected, it creates uncertainties and poses a threat to human existence.

Another interesting phenomena is happening, almost parallel to the spread of the virus; the break through of usage of virtual platforms such as Zoom, MS Teams, Google Hangouts and YouTube streaming. Many of the online webinars and forums are dealing with the crisis in various ways, from the psychological to professional and economic impacts.

One of the most interesting virtual webinar I attended, recently, was organised by the University of ORT Mexico and World ORT, discussing ‘education in times of crisis’. What I found enlightening in the discussion by top professors in the field of education, is the forward thinking and ‘out of the box’ ideas that were shared with almost 500 participants from all over the world.

Ms. Mariana Ludmila Cortés who is the former Vice-president for development of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), where she traveled to over 40 countries developing and implementing large scale education projects for disadvantaged children, claimed that there is a crisis in education worldwide, regardless of Covid19. According to World Bank (2018), globally, 6 out of 10 children and youth are not meeting proficiency levels in reading and mathematics despite of completing years of schooling in the developing world. The Learning crisis calls us to be specific with the terms we are using while trying to tackle the problem. Learning vs Teaching ; Education vs Schooling. She suggested that we need to change HOW we deliver education and urged people to take charge of their own learning.

Prof. Sidney Strauss Director of Research at Ammachilabs, professor at Amrita University and former Professor of Education has vast years of research in education. He shared the finding, that children are able to teach each other (from as early as one year old). Teaching is natural to human beings. He claims that evidence in caves of our ancestors shows that, already at the times when human were making stone tools, they had managed to transfer the knowledge.
If this is the case, what are the implications on education? we need to rethink of schools and the roles they play. We need to find ways to harness this natural ability of people to teach and for children to teach each other.

Prof. Moisés Salinas Fleitman Rector of the ORT University Mexico, examined the roles of education in times of crisis. In addition to the obvious roles of being a source of reassurance , reducing stress and ensuring delivery of practical and psychological tools to confront the crisis, he added that the crisis could be seen as an opportunity for innovation. Crisis has a disruptive manner and it could be a tool for us to switch from threat to opportunity for innovation in education.

I do believe that, we now have an opportunity to analyse the disruption in a creative and collaborative manner. We could learn from different industries and how they have been adjusting to the changes (such as communicating and expanding stakeholders networks through virtual platforms). We also have to be mindful about those communities that do not have the privilege of technology and accessibility to connectivity.

Screenshot of the ORT.MX Webcast April 2020

2nd Day Lock down but who’s counting?

Watching the news worldwide on the implications of he COVID19 virus on people’s lives, work, mental health, I”m thankful for waking up healthy and with no symptoms. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, this virus does not discriminate, even not the young ones. Remembering that although we feel we are in a dark, cold and ruthless tunnel, there is light at the end of the tunnel and we will persevere.
How does one spends days confined to home without losing their mind? Gaining perspective to the situation at hand. This too shall pass. We might as well do something with the time we have and utilize it to learning new skills, gaining new knowledge, learning a language. With connectivity and access to internet, the sky is the limit at what one can gain from this period.
So, here I am, trying to make the most of the situation, before we know it, the light will appear and we will come out of it stronger.
PG

Reflections -First Day of Lockdown

First day of lock down in South Africa. I may be going through the five stages of grief related to the changes occurring around me. The most devastating part of it is that I can’t take the dogs for a walk and the concerns of their well being. Caring for others is the ‘moto’ of the Covid19 measures taken by government and I feel like I am failing my pets in this regards. 😦 Determined that this lock down won’t become a “knockdown” for my mood and well being! After all I have the privilege of having my family with me and continue working from home.
Determined to make the best of it and seek opportunities for self growth and the continuous growth of my organisation ORT SA which does incredible things in this country.
Putting structures in place to replace my ‘normal’ routine will be the first plan of action. (include WFH routine/ family time/ learning slots/ spiritual/ exercise).
Acceptance.

Insight from Business Day Focus 4.0

The Business Day Focus 4.0 Conference held at the beginning of March this year, aimed at exploring the implications of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) on our economy and society.
The presence of leading Hi-tech companies’ CEOs as keynote speakers and in panel discussions illustrated the importance of this topic to the business world.

Below are my three main takes from the conference:

1. It is not a matter of “if” but a matter of “when” we adapt to the 4IR

According to MD Tech Accenture, Kirstan Sita, 85% of South African companies are vulnerable to future disruption (Accenture research).
One of the reasons companies fail is if they missed, or not responded fast enough, to changes in the market (Prof Bran Armstrong, Wits Business School). The more we delay our adopting to changes, the more we widen the gap.
The challenges of poor infrastructure development and the need for cities to work collaboratively towards the creation of smart cities was alerted by Liquid Telecom CEO Reshaad Sha.
It was reiterated that government has to elevate infrastructure as high priority and enable connectivity (survival need) in an equal distributed manner.

2. Technology is neutral. It is what we do with it that matters

Alison Jacobson from the Field Institute, argued that before looking at digital strategy of the business one needs to look at the business strategy and the specific needs of the business through the customers’ needs. “Do you understand your customers? Only then deploy the technology”. Competitiveness in the market and creating the competitive advantage has to be customer-centric.
Devina Maharaj from Digital Investec Bank recommended “Understand the needs first, than plug the gap with the relevant tech solution”.
According to Prof Brian, there are many reasons to automate. Machines have many advantages over human being. If the first and second industrial revolutions were about ‘machines enhancing power’ the third and fourth industrial revolutions are about ‘machines enhancing human brain power’. We need to stay alert in the wake of the ‘digital vortex’ upon us and be ahead of it.

3. Range of skills are needed for the future workforce

Assaf Luxembourg, Business Development Consultant from Israel, noted that ‘technology changes fast, but culture changes are slower’. He then recommended that each individual see himself/ herself as a ‘business unit’, as the ‘CEO of themselves’ and seek to promote oneself. Adjusting to the dynamic nature of the market he says, is to think as entrepreneur and not as employee (even if you are one).
Dr Tashmia Ismail-Saville, CEO of YES, said that tech skills can be easily taught, the need is to create mechanisms to ensure that resources are available to the youth in all communities as in some of them access is limited.
The real skill needed to adjust to 4IR as noted by Alison are the abilities to identify the problem and use critical problem solving and team work.
We should ask, ‘how do we become the best version of ourselves by using technology’ and plan for our career to ensure relevance for the future.

Be ahead of the 'Digital Vortex'
Be ahead of the ‘Digital Vortex’

Preparing for Corona is unpredictable as predicting the future

The Corona virus crisis hitting the world country by country on a daily basis makes one realise the sad, known fact that we cannot predict the future.
When we started this new year of 2020, or when we approach new month, week or day, we need to be prepared for changes, knowing that change is the only certain thing we can be sure of.
Whether we run a company, manage teams, train/ teach, in retail, health, education or any other industry we should be prepared to surf the wave of change and be able to adapt to it’s implications.

The epidemic caused by the Corona virus is a an example of a case that can impact almost every area in our lives and change the way we do things, go to work, school or maintain our health. Technology has a role to play in assisting ‘surfing the wave’ and we could be applying new ways of doing things as we learning and adapting to new realities.

Though we can’t predict the future, we can prepare for what we think it will bring. Learning from countries impacted by the virus, we can, each in our own industry, think on measures to take to alleviate the impact that the changes may bring into our lives. 

As schools close down due to concerns of the epidemic spreading, we should explore online learning platforms to ensure that learning and the schooling is not disturbed.
Online applications could also help with identifying the symptoms and alert on areas that are impacted by the virus.

Please share – What measures did you take or are preparing yourself to take in light of the Corona?