As we round out 2020, it’s only fitting to reflect on the year that was, and in the business realm, it’s been a year full of great trials and even greater learnings.
The sudden shift to remote working left many businesses scrambling to implement new processes and practices, maintain culture, and support employees.
And as we move into the new year, the way we work is unlikely to return to pre-COVID-19 ways.
With that in mind, business leaders must reflect on how they survived the year that was, and what valuable learnings they can take with them into the future.
The CEO must lead
A big title must rest on sturdy shoulders.
While organisations are made up of technology, systems, processes and rules, at the core, they are made up of people — and groups of people look to the chief to rally them in times of trouble, to model the behaviours of success, and to lead them to victory.
If leaders want their influence over the purpose, culture and process of the organisation to be positive and productive, then they must ensure their own actions model and support that.
More than that, leaders must clearly communicate clear objectives and goals at every level of the business to ensure that employees are moving collectively toward one purpose and vision.
Compassion is trending
Compassion is ‘caring for self and others in the pursuit of the greater good’, with an understanding of others’ lives and experiences.
Compassionate leaders recognise that every team member is a significant individual, with a significant contribution to make to the greater good of the organisation.
It’s important to note, however, that understanding the pressure your employees are collectively feeling is not the same as having the willingness to relieve the stress of those delivering the work. The latter would be an unsustainable burden for leaders to carry.
Instead, leaders must adopt this style of leadership to release their employees to feel valued, be productive and perform well with the absence of fear.
Trust is key
Our recent report, The Australian Workforce Response to COVID-19, found that during the pandemic there was a blissful delusion of leadership trust between leaders and staff.
Leaders believed 16.5% of their staff’s level of trust in others decreased due to COVID-19 in comparison to 32% of staff who said their trust in others was lower as a result of the pandemic.
There’s no question that distrust has increased the longer people have worked from home. Therefore, the permanency of the virtual or hybrid workplace gives leaders good cause to invest in trust-building efforts.
Restabilising trust will require steadiness, compassion, integrity, connection, and purpose from leadership.
Resilience is gold
Resilient organisations are made up of resilient people. And resilient people have the ability to effectively navigate challenges and bounce forward after setbacks.
More than that, resilience acts as a buffer during particularly stressful or busy periods, helping employees to maintain strong wellbeing and performance, and mitigate against the onset of burnout.
Building resilience capabilities right throughout the organisation will ensure the business is better prepared for the unpredictable changes that will undoubtedly unfold into the new year.
Remote working interrupted the constant stream of social interactions that influenced the wellbeing and sense of belonging of workers.
Identifying colleagues who are disconnected, isolated and lonely, and supporting them, became an essential part of the leadership role.
An individual’s wellbeing is deeply influenced by their opportunity to engage positively with other people.
Remember, isolation isn’t just bad for your employees, it’s bad for business. Employees who feel isolated and disconnected at work have lower motivation, lower performance, and lower productivity.
Connection with work colleagues is a key driver in positivity and optimism.
Finding the balance between purposeful connection and video-call burnout will be critical in the upcoming year. And multi-modal communication will become essential to how we drive workplace belonging.
If 2020 has taught business leaders anything, it’s that there is no longer a one-size-fits-all option when it comes to addressing the needs of an organisation.
What remains steady is the need to lead by example, with clarity and compassion, alongside the need to foster relationships and trust in order to build a healthy, resilient workforce into the new year and beyond.