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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.  

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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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