By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

Achieving harmony in work-life balance sounds utopian as a concept, especially with the stark impact
that COVID-19 has had on workforce dynamics. Reports are now indicating that a majority of the
women are being forced to drop out of the workforce at an escalating rate. However, in the face of
unprecedented challenges and the way the pandemic has transformed our society, leaders like
Shalini Ramakrishnan – Director, Product Marketing at Numly, is endeavoring to bring about a change
with guidelines and solutions that boost resilience and productivity.

1. In your present role, what are the unique qualities or characteristics that you have brought to
your career and workplace?
My innate ability to work across divisions and verticals is the most unique quality that I bring
to my role. I have had the opportunity of using this ability to experiment across divisions –
Sales, Operations, Product Training, and Customer demos without having to be streamlined
into a single role.

2. Every woman has different commitments and schedules in and out of the office. How do you
strike a balance between work and home?
We all know that achieving harmony at work and home is always a challenge, what with the
system redefining the ‘new normal’. The way I have learned to juggle both responsibilities is
by defining strict timelines and dividing up tasks to make work-life integration successful,
especially with my presence required across three time zones. This has helped me shift my
mindset in a way that I can prioritize my well-being and define boundaries for a more
productive and improved ecosystem – at both work and home.

3. How do you see COVID-19’s impact, both immediate and long term, on changing the nature
of how we work?
COVID-19 was almost a bolt out of the blue for organizations across the globe, and the
disproportional impact that it has had in the way organizations and individuals work cannot be
discounted. The immediate impact was transitioning to a remote working model that isolated
employees and left behind a silo mindset with minimal engagement and communication.
Overall, I see a fall in employee morale with organizations struggling to restore trust and
positivity. With the hybrid working model here to stay, they are now scrambling to re-invent
the work culture in the face of these existential challenges. Sustainable solutions are,
therefore, critical in the long-term – with increased engagement between peers and
managers, corporate flexibility to ensure the same levels of productivity, and the need for
reskilling and upskilling for innovation and strategic leverage.

4. What are the biggest challenges that you see with women in the workplace? Notwithstanding,
are there any benefits or opportunities of how the pandemic is transforming how we work and
live?
The challenges that women have had to face have been vastly disproportional and more
impactful on women. Women are striving to strike harmony with multiple responsibilities of
work, family, and home. Also, the biggest predicament for women is to be able to keep a
sense of normalcy in the current circumstances and how they can be best managed.
Organizations have started to recognize the struggle that women have been facing due to the
shift in work dynamic and incorporating initiatives that enable women employees and leaders
to drive a successful career for themselves. Work-life balance in the post-pandemic world is
an art that women in specific have to grow to master, with the transition from remote working
to the hybrid working model. The only benefit that I foresee is a sense of flexibility and a
smarter and more productive way of working.

5. In these trying times, how has Numly been a pillar in your work-life? How do you stay
motivated?
With the undue burden of mental load that has taken a toll on the well-being of women at
large, I would consider my team at Numly as one of the most dynamic and adaptive teams
that I have worked with thus far. Numly has been a pillar and extremely supportive of my
career choices, regardless of my gender. The freedom to define my timelines or decisions to
drive initiatives across numerous verticals was a shift that was graciously accepted by the
management and is motivation in itself.

6. What are some of the stereotypes and biases that you have experienced as a female leader?
How did you champion gender equality?
There have been some stereotypical situations that I have faced as a female leader, which is
questioning my ability to work effectively and deliver productive results. In the initial stages of
my career, these typical gender-biased remarks were prevalent and I chose to push them
under the carpet. However, the nagging question remained in my mind and I started to
introspect about how these preconceived notions could be dealt with. And I worked around
championing gender equality through empathy and behavioral changes.

7. Tell us about the Women Leadership Development and D,E&I programs in Numly. Has it
been implemented, and if yes, how has it worked?
Numly has successfully implemented comprehensive programs with a collective vision – the
Women Leadership Development and D,E&I programs. Amongst the gamut of programs that
are being implemented across organizations, these programs are designed on the core
foundation that developmental changes are essentially driven by behavioral and cultural
changes within an organization. The D,E&I program identifies skill gaps, addresses changes
in behavioral and critical skills, and recognizes and empowers women leaders to work and
evolve without bias. As opposed to the conventional external coaching formats employed
across organizations, Numly believes that peer-peer coaching not only elevates the
engagement within your organization, but is an experience that is bound to resonate with
employees in terms of connecting, engaging, and networking through an exchange of skills –
and most importantly, by breaking hierarchical barriers. We also have a host of ‘Getting
started’ programs where organizations can get started and onboard their employees with
ample learning material that is bound to transform their learning journey into a peer coaching
experience.

8. What advice would you give to women who want to be a mentor/coach?
The best advice that I would give to anybody who wants to be a coach is to understand that
every individual has struggles, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. And the ability to take
cognizance of the fact that you have to first be a coach before you can become a leader is
imperative. I believe that the coach-learner dynamic is a mutually beneficial learning journey –
where both reap benefits that contribute to their growth. If there is a skill that is unique to you,
the onus of imparting that knowledge to another individual as a mentor or coach lies with you.
Embrace any opportunity to be a coach as it not only minimizes the distance between you
and the mentee but also helps foster mutual trust.

By Kavita Ryali, Product Evangelist & Advisor, Numly™ Inc.

New hopes, new direction and profound changes! Heading into 2021, old ways will no longer hold ground for talent growth, retention and revenue growth for enterprises.  2020 has been a year of some of the most unprecedented times. An almost overnight crisis management in how we take care of ourselves, our enterprise employees and growth in business. Companies and Individuals need to reskill and upskill NOW to bridge the gap in this new era of WFH and engaging with remote teams or else they will perish. 

Bridging the Leadership and the Soft Skills gap is what I call the Y factor! 

“Soft skills are in the spotlight because they’re so hard to find in today’s potential employees”- Bruce Tulgan, a management consultant and author of “Bridging the Soft Skills Gap.”

A Gallup study shows that 75% feel of adults felt worried about the pandemic and its detrimental impact on mental health and wellness. However, 21% can be more productive and more engaged with the right coaching, help and support. This means more paradigm shifts for enterprises – the ability to adapt fast, attitude shifts and being nimble would be key for growth. Empowering People with Reskilling and Upskilling, addressing Employee Engagement and Network gaps, building strong Coaching-Mentoring Connections and powerful insights with AI powered Technologies will be key in the “Future of Work”. It is important to take women along and support them as they form a significant percentage of the workforce. 

Role of Women and the Y factor

Women technologists and entrepreneurs can play a critical role in Engineering, Healthcare, Sales and Marketing, Education sectors and more. Women today can be more engaged, productive and grow into leaders by honing in on their Leadership and Soft Skills – their “Y Factor”.  

This article shows that in 38 years, what changed in enterprises for women and decreased the wage gap were the Y factor soft skills such as negotiation, persuasion, and critical thinking that advanced their social skills. Companies are moving from top-down hierarchical approach to team-based structures, and as a result, individual evaluations are increasingly based on social skills, or how well someone works in a team, says Dale Cyphert, an associate professor of management at the University of Northern Iowa.

A calling to all Women and Men allies – Develop your Y factor, and Grow your Soft Skills

Earlier this year, I shared in my speakers session at a VMware organized event, a very important topic for working women. The topic and link contents are here – “Rising against all Odds, Climbing the Corporate Ladder” at Women Transforming Technology WT2, 2020 (11:20 minute mark).  It highlights their Y factor – their key soft skills in rising above and beyond from a myriad of adverse situations. Several powerful women from all walks of life and at different phases of their professional lives and careers shared how they faced obstacles in their careers, yet they succeeded despite all odds. How they have become an inspiration to others, they didn’t let obstacles stand in their way of becoming who they wanted to become.  They responded to a survey that highlighted the soft skills that made a profound difference to them: 1) Self Management and being Authentic, 2) Leading by example, being Accountable, 3) Problem Solving , 4) Getting Support and Collaborating, 5) Risk Taking

Key Takeaways and Recommendations 

Here are 5 recommended ways you can be in control of your own destiny. Carve out a future that you always desired. Set  yourself to achieve your goals by organizing your professional and personal fronts with these key takeaways.

  1. Build a Network – Inside and outside your organization. Taking help from mentors and allies for soft skill training broadens your influence. The perspectives one receives from numerous people within and outside your network will push you in the right direction. Develop you Support System – We are the sum of who we surround ourselves with. We can not do this alone. It takes a village. Learn more – The Art of Networking
  2. Take Control – don’t wait for your organization’s HR and Manager to help you get coached on soft skills. Have a growth mindset and be curious. Take charge of your own situation and drive your own career growth. Learn more – 4 Ways You Can Take Charge of Your Career Growth 
  3. Soft Skills are not easy to learn – learn by practice and feedback through your network. Practice can be self learning and self taught lessons through your own experiences. Engage your team, your peers, your colleagues, your managers and friends to seek feedback. Conduct 1:1s or do virtual chats to constantly seek timely feedback. Do role plays and learn. Learn More: Soft Skills aka Power Skills
  4. Leverage Online Learning and Coaching Platforms – LinkedIn Learning, Smarthabit. Seek out Life Coaches. Sometimes they are your own friends that allow you to see your worth and continue to grow in your professional and personal life.
  5. Leverage newer AI enabled platforms like Numly to build your soft skills and network: http://numly.com. Numly is at the helm of addressing the shifting enterprise needs today  – an era of remote digitization, shifting business models, need for employee engagement, reskilling and upskilling and distance learning. It will lead the way for “Future of Work”. NumlyEngage – a very promising product that is at a cusp of providing an easy to use Coaching -mentorship program, 16PF personality assessment , Research based 185+ Soft Skill repository for growing leaders. A powerful set of AI powered Analytics, bots and insights to nurture your incremental actions towards skill improvement and engagement with shifting business needs. 

In conclusion, feel empowered to develop YOUR Y FACTOR Soft Skills heading into 2021 with New Hopes, New direction with these key takeaways! Companies and Individuals can now effectively reskill and upskill to bridge the gap in this new era of WFH and engaging with remote teams and nurture themselves and their businesses. 

 

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

The events in 2020 shook the business world to a stage where leaders must adapt if they, their business, and their teams want to survive and flourish. As we welcome 2021, it will be a valuable idea for business leaders to hold a vision for their organization’s future. We have entered the Fourth Industrial Revolution, yet most leadership development has remained dormant over the past few decades. 

However, to remain relevant for the upcoming years, leaders have to incorporate transformations in every area of training and executive education. Once only talking points, let us see five key trends that hold substantial promise as they become a reality in 2021.

Prioritizing Employee Experience

The advent of COVID-19 boosted the trend of business leaders playing an extended role in the employees’ financial, physical, and mental well-being. Support consisted of improved sick leaves, financial aids, flexible working hours, and childcare provisions. Today, business leaders are mindful of the power of building employee experiences that reflect their business’s customer experience. 

Read: Employee Experience and Talent Performance Management – Two Critical Pillars of HR 3.0

There are several reasons why employee experience matters to the company more than ever now.

  • Firstly, with the work from home set up, employees work up to three hours more per day and juggle the organization and family’s rising demands. While businesses are witnessing increased productivity working from home, the gains come with a cost to employees’ mental health. 
  • Secondly, the toll that pandemic has taken on employees makes yet another reason for employers to prioritize employee experience. 
  • Thirdly, with increasing digitization and automation in the workplace, employees are looking for more ways to develop emotional connections during social distancing and isolation. 

Approaches like employee journey mapping are now often utilized to fathom employee experience. As employees choose to permanently work from home, business leaders need to plan and monitor how the employee experience is intertwined with their organizational culture. Culture is rapidly becoming the new infrastructure for organizations. 

Read: The Why and How of Coaching for your Newly-Remote Team

Designing Organizations for Resilience

In the former years, organizational redesigns were mainly focused on restructuring roles, supply chains, and workflows to build up efficiency. However, the pandemic has proved that, although this method maximized efficiencies, it was brittle, as the systems lacked the flexibility to respond to disruptions and changes. Resilient businesses are always better placed to react during significant disruptions. 

To build a more responsive business, business leaders must design roles and structures around outcomes to amplify agility, flexibility, and formalize how processes can flex. Also, consider offering employees distinct, adaptive, and flexible roles to attain cross-functional knowledge and training. Business leaders need to be involved in role designing and forming flexible workflows to make sure that employees of all backgrounds and their requirements are considered when the business is undergoing workflow redesigns.

Read: How to Invest in Your Company’s Most Important Asset – People

A Move Towards Well-being Leadership 

It takes a massive shift in perspective from seeing well-being as something on the side-line to rather being at the heart of a business’s mission and essential to keeping up the productivity. Today, business leaders worldwide are beginning to shift their views on the role of well-being in the organization. 

Well-being leadership is taken as an approach to business and society that emphasizes maximizing outcomes through eight distinct aspects: economic, material, physical, psychological, social, cultural, environmental, and spiritual. This leadership approach states that financial success is no adequate measure of the quality of life and that all the factors mentioned above are interconnected to offer a sustained economic output. Business leaders must understand that: 

  • Both, purpose and profit, are critical to facilitate sustainable business outcomes
  • Well-being at work, in their business, and broader society are all interconnected
  • They must build a culture of well-being by surrounding themselves with people who have similar realizations

Becoming an Agile Leader

2020 has been a long and challenging year. for everyone. In such disrupting and continually evolving times, agile leadership is the need of the hour in our fast-paced business landscape. In times of ambiguity, business agility offers stability – a lucrative way to manage change and respond productively. 

Organizations with agile leadership have demonstrated advantages like increased revenue, rapid turnaround times, and supreme quality offerings. However, there always has been confusion and misinformation when it comes to comprehending agile leadership. Organizations often link agility with a framework like Scrum instead of a mindset. They often fail to understand how critical it is to learn the agile mindset and periodically practice that mindset and lead by example. As agile leaders, business leaders must delegate outcomes, encourage individuals, and offer them the space to do an exceptional job. 

Agile values and principles inspire business leaders to collaborate and encourage others to grow and share in decision-making. Agile leaders tend to perceive failures as opportunities to learn and nurture trust and psychological safety in their organizations.

Read: From “Remote Boss” To “Virtual Leader” – How to Make the Transition

Managing Remote Workforce

With the advent of COVID-19, several organizations provided permanent work from home opportunities to their employees. As businesses shift to more remote work operations, business leaders will be required to alter employee experience strategies and employees will be required to collaborate digitally. Business leaders will need to consider how to shift performance goal-setting and employee evaluations for a remote context. Leaders will need to establish clear business objectives, run great virtual meetings, communicate clearly, and make the most of team members’ individual and collective strengths.

Read: How Has the Role of Leadership Changed with COVID-19?

Leadership development fosters the human capital of a business. As we step into 2021, it is a thrilling time for a complete transformation of our departments. Which of these leadership trends are you going to put into practice to become an agile leader?

To transform your Work-from-Home (WFH) teams with AI, take a look at NumlyEngage(™). Get a live demo today!  

 

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

Attractive as it might sound; remote working has led to collective burnout among employees.

Along with the fear of the pandemic, the loss of connection with colleagues, the fear of losing jobs, the economic downturn, and the unstable socio-economic environment has added to the employees’ stress. Add that to the blurring lines between personal and professional lives and the pressure of proving productivity, and we have a perfect recipe for an upcoming disaster.

According to a survey by FlexJobs and Mental Health America, 75% of employees are experiencing burnout at work. 40% are specifically feeling it during the pandemic.

What employees need right now is not a manager who is focused solely on getting work done.

They need a leader who will reassure them and instill confidence in them that they can tide over these uncertain times.

What organizations need right now is a standout leader who will not just innovate but also inspire employees by being compassionate and leading from the front.

Let’s look at some qualities that a standout leader must possess. 

How to Be a Standout Leader in Times of Uncertainty

Be a mentor instead of a manager

The uncertain scenario is likely to make employees anxious. They might have several questions about the future of their career, the right path to achieve career goals, how to grow in the organization, etc. They need a reliable person who has the experience and has weathered several ups and downs in the industry to give sound and unbiased advice. They need a mentor who will understand their aspirations and coach on how to achieve them. While thinking about productivity and company goals, a standout leader focuses on helping employees achieve their goals. A highly motivated employee will automatically be able to achieve company goals too. 

Read: Train Managers to Become Better Coaches

Adopt an infinite mindset

Author Simon Sinek first professed the theory of infinite mindset. In his book called ‘The Infinite Game’, Sinek discusses two types of mindsets – the finite mindset and the infinite mindset. The finite mindset is apt for games like chess and football, where the rules are set, and the endpoint is clear. There is a clear distinction between winners and losers. But in the business world, leaders need to have an infinite mindset. That’s because the rules will change depending upon the environment, there will be no endpoints, and there is no winner or loser. The business is just ahead or behind in the competition. An infinite mindset will help organizations to build a sustainable business and constantly innovate to thrive in the future. In the current times, that’s what is expected from a standout leader. 

Encourage employees to upskill and future-proof themselves

Organizations have started to realize the importance of digital transformation and are increasingly using automation and other next-gen technologies to increase accuracy and productivity and to decrease overhead expenses. A standout leader will predict this change and plan ways to future-proof the employees. They understand that an employee can thrive only if they upskill themselves. They will have one-to-one discussions to understand the strength and limitations of the employees and design a personalized training map to ensure that they are updated with the latest know-how of the industry. 

Read: The Missing Piece in Reskilling Initiatives 

Improve employee engagement through personalized conversation

The absence of physical connection and water-cooler moments has led to low morale among employees. It’s important to engage employees, so they feel valued and contribute actively to the growth of the organization. 

Highly engaged employees are 480% more likely to stay committed to the organization. 

True leaders will find ways to engage actively with employees. They will not see it as a drill. They will have a 1:1 personalized, two-way conversation with employees to understand their aspirations, goals, roadblocks, and coach them on ways to achieve it. They will leverage technology to track and measure the outcome of coaching. 

Make employees feel safe by boosting their confidence

Employees are understandably worried about what lies ahead for them in the future. It is up to  leaders to step in and make employees feel safe. They will listen to the concerns and not dismiss them as irrational fears. Through personalized coaching and continuous communication, they will boost the employees’ confidence and make them feel safe at the workplace. 

Be empathetic to the needs of employees

Apart from being an employee, a person also dons multiple hats such as that of a parent or a caregiver. With the lines between work and family time blurring and employees suffering from burnout, it’s time for leaders to understand the challenges that employees face while working remotely and find ways to support them through tough times. They will lend them a patient hearing to ensure that they feel heard and valued in the organization. 

Conclusion

It’s been more than several months since the pandemic hit the world. Employees are quickly adapting to the new normal. As they traverse through the challenges of working from home and fighting the fears of the pandemic and financial losses, leaders have to create innovative solutions to prevent burnout and engage employees. 

Solutions like NumlyEngage are designed to help leaders leverage the power of coaching to enhance employee engagement and productivity, and reduce attrition!

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

Leadership is under fire. The rules that worked in the past seem broken as we move into a normal characterized by large scale remote working owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Leaders who thrived within the portals of traditional offices are having to navigate new territory. This unchartered territory of having to lead both virtually and remotely demands the emergence of a new leader – one who is no longer a ‘remote boss’ but is instead a ‘virtual leader’.

Read: How Has the Role of Leadership Changed with COVID-19?

Leadership during crisis 

When it comes to a crisis, most assume that what a leader must deliver is a robust response plan. While this is true, what happens when a crisis continues? 

We saw how COVID-19 upended the world of work, turned the economy upside down, and ballooned into a crisis of an unprecedented scale. In these times, instead of looking for predefined response plans, leaders need to develop their mindsets and behaviors that will help them look ahead and adapt. And while leaders might come under undue pressure from stakeholders and might need to come up with strategies to alleviate the financial implications of the pandemic, they need to focus on developing their empathy so that these pressures do not get placed on their employees. 

During crisis and uncertain times, compassion and empathy are two invaluable traits for leaders to develop since it is the job of the leader to placate the fears of their employees.

As the dust begins to settle on the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the workforce adapts to their remote work setting, leaders have to make sure that they not only ensure business continuity but also drive engagement and performance of their workforce. 

Leadership has to move from its traditional avatar where the leader was the boss. Consequently, leadership styles also have to move from the traditional direction-driven style and adopt a more guidance-driven approach – one that is focused on guiding employees to excel by enabling and facilitation. 

The biggest reset in the role of the leader is perhaps the shift from a ‘command and control’ approach to one that ‘inspires and coaches’. 

Leaders have to quickly adapt to new leadership styles to remain effective in this new world of work. Quite naturally this demands a shift from being the conventional and traditional boss to becoming leaders who enable and empower. 

Virtual leaders thus need to be more empathetic and greater at communicating with their employees. They need to capably guide, develop, empower, enable, and coach their teams to build authentic connections.

Leaders are now coaches

In the post-COVID world, leaders will not only have to give direction and purpose to the organization but have to also coach the employees to adapt to this new world of work. 

  • Coach to build shared purpose: Along with ensuring that the employees are achieving their goals, they have to assume the responsibility to drive employee wellbeing and drive a feeling of ‘shared purpose’. It is only when employees connect with the shared purpose that they become more invested in the organization’s growth story. And it is when employees resonate with this shared purpose that they put in discretionary effort – it is this effort that shows the quality of your employee engagement levels. 

 

  • Coach to develop the leadership pipeline: One of the key responsibilities of leaders is that of creating a robust leadership and succession pipeline. In the absence of physical connections, leaders also have to now become actively invested in coaching their employees to move further along their career paths. 

In this virtual setting, leaders have to also ensure that this pipeline is filled with the right candidates. In this new normal, leaders have to now leverage data to identify the right candidates to plug into the pipeline. While the high-performing employees do rank higher in the eligibility criteria, leaders have to dig deeper and assess if they have the skills to lead. Leveraging tests like 16-Personality Factor tests or behavioral skills assessments, leaders can gain insights into the skill gaps and give them the tools to navigate the chasm via coaching.

 

  • Coach to become self-motivated and action-oriented: In this virtual environment, leaders also have to coach employees to map expectations and outcomes. Helping employees to look at the big picture, understanding how they contribute to this picture and how they make a difference helps the employees remain motivated and connected with the organization. 

 

Unlike a physical office where news on the latest developments gets around easily, in remote environments, leaders have to help employees understand and manage their goals and expectations and help them become more action-oriented instead of instruction-driven.

 

  • Coach to drive agility and responsiveness to change: Leaders have to coach their teams to become more agile to change and drive adaptability as they settle into this new world of work. Empowering them with the right tools, technologies, platforms, and coaching resources will play an important role in driving engagement and consequent organizational success. They need to help employees devise ways to become more visible, help them drive impactful work, and ensure their career progression. 

 

  • Coach to make the workforce more independent: Leaders have to coach employees and team members to improve their planning and communication skills to ensure the right expectation setting. For this, helping remote workers identify the correct mechanisms to set the right deadlines, margins and expectations go a long way to make the workforce more independent in their work without resorting to micromanaging. Helping employees become better decision-makers gives them more autonomy in their work.

 

Leaders need coaching to coach right 

Even a cursory glance at the above makes it clear that leaders now need to develop a new vocabulary – one that is authentic and is rooted in empathy. Organizations thus need to take a close look at their leadership coaching strategies so that leaders can foster employee and organizational growth by helping their teams manage their work better. 

Read: Want to Create A Pipeline of Leaders? Train Managers to Become Better Coaches

Day-long leadership coaching sessions are unlikely to help leaders, especially because the rules of the game have changed completely. Virtual leaders need to focus on driving authenticity. They need to become more observant, trusting, caring, and empathetic in their leadership styles and build the right connections with their employees. To achieve all this, there has to be a change in the mindsets and behaviors of leaders. 

As leaders also become coaches to their teams, they have to learn to communicate more clearly and with empathy. They have to demonstrate that they are not only interested in employee performance but are equally invested in employee well-being. This brand of leadership becomes all the more essential as in a remote setting, leaders have to guide work relationships with clarity so that others are inspired to become deeply invested in their work. 

One of the most important things virtual leaders have to build is trust. They can build and enjoy this trust when they learn to trust themselves. Hence, they have to learn to let go of the art of micromanaging and inspiring the team to become more accountable towards their work. Along with this, leaders have to adopt a growth mindset and enable the same for their employees. They also have to learn new methods to individualize interactions and empower employees to work with autonomy to drive accountability and ownership in a virtual setting. 

It is thus essential to coach leaders to mobilize their existing environments to enable new competencies in their workforce by using data. They have to develop their emotional intelligence to build resilient teams. Leaders also have to be coached to drive a sense of shared purpose across the organization’s value chain and become more authentic and intentional in their leadership styles. 

Connect with us to evaluate how our AI-powered coaching platform can help your organization leaders prepare to lead the workforce in the new world of work and develop their leadership vocabulary to lead the employees and the organization to success. 

By Madhukar Govindaraju, Founder & CEO

“Crisis does not build character. It reveals it”.

The strength of a true leader is revealed when it comes under fire. And it can be safe to say that the past few months have been an extremely testing period for leaders across organizations. 

As the lockdowns are gradually being lifted across the world, we are just about realizing what our new normal is going to be like. The term, ‘responsible leadership’ takes on a deeper meaning as employees and customers try to settle into the new rhythm of things. 

The global environment that was already fast-moving now has become unfamiliar as well. Virtually all organizations are identifying how to get back to ‘normal,’ but speed is also of the essence. 

Leadership has to work quickly to redistribute disrupted supply chains, they need to safeguard employees, have to enable a remote workforce with no time in hand to ease people into it, and also have to be the bearers of bad news. All of this, while maintaining their own energy so that they can inspire confidence and continue to motivate their employees.

The thing with leadership is that it has leaders, even the highly successful ones, to be in a mode of continuous improvement. They have to look at ways to reinvent themselves to stay relevant and have to embrace change faster or run the risk of being outrun. 

Irrespective of their effectiveness, yesterday, today and tomorrow will make new demands on the leaders. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that clearly. And there is no playbook to refer to what to do and how to change leadership styles in the face of a 21st-century pandemic. 

While there might not be any silver bullet suggestions on how to navigate the challenges of the new reality, it is clear that leadership has to become more accommodating than ever before.

‘Building Trust’ was important before – it is essential now

The definition of a good leader has always included an element of trust. A leader can only be considered a good one when the workforce expresses trust in them. With COVID-19, this has assumed deeper importance. The workforce is looking to trust its leaders, and this trust can now be inspired only with clear and focused actions.

The actions of the leaders have to show their employees that they care for each individual. They are not mere cogs in the wheel. Along with caring, leadership has to become more transparent about their plans, how they plan to navigate the treacherous business landscape and communicate clearly with their employees. Establishing strong communication and governance principles, and the tone becomes important to build trust.

Increase focus on shared purpose

Leaders also work on building ‘shared purpose’ with their employees now. With teams operating remotely and with uncertainty looming large, employees need an anchor to get a sense of connection and belonging.

Once President John F. Kennedy visited a NASA space center. He met a janitor and asked him, “what are you doing”. He replied, “Well, Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.” When people are connected to their work, when they have a sense of shared purpose, they become more committed to their work.

Given the upheaval that COVID-19 has had on people, how it has impacted them at a professional and personal level, how it has changed the world of work, how isolated the entire experience has been, leadership has a lot of work to do. They have to help employees reconnect with their work, find a sense of purpose and excitement in their roles and relearn how it ties back to the business goals. Irrespective of how big or small their role is, leadership has to work on helping employees understand how they are contributing to the larger picture.

Also Read: Engaged Employees Are Driven by Shared Values and Vision

Over Communication – there’s no such word anymore

There is no such word as ‘over-communication’ in the vocabulary of the leadership anymore. Establishing new guidelines as the world of work hobbles back to its older pace and with uncertainty looming large, the focus falls heavily on leadership communication skills to keep their teams connected.

While leadership had to always maintain clear communication, today this communication needs to be more detailed, transparent, emphatic, and continuous. Ambiguity is overwhelming in the minds of the employees. It becomes the task of the leadership to rally around clear and consistent communication. Leadership across the organization also has to also be in sync with each other, and thus establishing strong communication guidelines and protocols are now even more essential.

Leadership has to step down from its altar and get down into the trenches. This means becoming more visible in even standard meetings (think everyday sprint sessions or client calls) to establish their presence and make the workforce feel like they are a part of the crowd.

Take tough decisions

When the pandemic hit the world with all its force, leaders across the globe were compelled to act urgently to enable remote working. Many organizations in the pre-pandemic time were already aware that they would have to enable some form of remote working. The pandemic just shows us that we need to accelerate human and machine collaboration to support people to adopt a more digital way of working.

Those in leadership roles have to now take many such tough decisions. Whether it is to restructure and realign the workforce, identify new revenue streams, refocus the business, or include more automation, the road ahead involves taking several new and tough  decisions. These have to be taken with integrity, intention, and without guilt.

Increase flexibility, agility, and empathy

Flexibility, agility, and empathy – these are venerable traits in the new world. If leaders are not already working with cross-functional, agile teams, the time to do so would be now. There is no place for functional silos anymore.

The world is only going to become more VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous). As leaders face this new world, past experiences might not be enough to navigate through the current scenarios. Leadership development has already been focused on increasing the capacity of leaders to deal with VUCA. 

For this, developing traits of flexibility to accept challenges, agility to deal with such challenges easily, and empathy to help others to overcome rapidly changing realities become essential arsenal in the leadership kitty.

Also Read: The 3 Most In-Demand Power Skills for Managers Today

Learning intelligence and growth mindset

Leadership also has to now take a deeper dive into the growth mindset. They have to actively invite and objectively evaluate information and ideas not only from within their own organization but also from peers and colleagues in other organizations.

Leadership has to believe in ‘learning intelligence’. They have to develop the ability to look for help and learn and leverage others’ expertise and experiences to increase their ability to make better and well-informed decisions.  

It is time for leadership to gear up and increase their stamina and build resilience for the long haul now. Given the way the world is shaping up, it is clear that they need to build their capacity to run a grueling marathon over a sprint.