Coaching

USB mentor sharing advice with a student

Leading through a crisis

USB News

Leading through a crisis

USB mentor sharing advice with a student
(Source: mentatdgt)

  • October 21
  • Tags Our news, Coaching

SHARE

Business leaders, including MTN South Africa CEO Godfrey Motsa, shared their advice to lead effectively during these unprecedented times at the online 2020 USB Business Breakfast event that was hosted by the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB).

Motsa said he is a big believer in never wasting a good crisis. “Every cloud has a silver lining so even though things are tough today, I do believe if we keep our heads down and do the right things, we will emerge stronger as a company, as a country, as humanity.”

He said leaders are faced with rising infection rates among staff and customers, economic recession and job losses, the lockdown impact on business operations, and the impact on society’s anxiety and stress levels.

“These are really difficult times but the more we learn about the coronavirus, the more we encourage each other, and it’s become much easier for me to lead the organisation and to keep our teams excited and motivated,” he said.

Guidelines for leaders during the pandemic

Motsa shared five guidelines on business leadership that he is using during the Covid-19 pandemic and which he plans on using going forward. “These guidelines are not complicated but it requires a lot of work, a lot of focus and a lot of honest leadership,” he said. They are:

  • Empathy: Show love and compassionate leadership for employees. Listen with curiosity and purpose.
  • Focus on financial sustainability: As much as businesses exist to not only make money, if they do not make money, they are no longer sustainable. Keep your eyes on the main prize – making sure you satisfy your main financial stakeholders.
  • Accelerate strategic engagements: During this period and moving forward, strategic engagement would be key for business models to be sustainable as an entity, and even as a country.
  • Invest in yourself: Equally important is to look after yourself because a positive mindset also begets positive actions. When you are in the forefront leading people it’s really important to inspire them with positivity.
  • Cherish South Africa: This is the only place we can call home. For this country to go forward we all need to do our bit. Look after yourself, look after your people, and look after your country and you will be able to have a future that you always wanted to see.

Key competencies required during a crisis 

Prof Piet Naudé, Director of USB, said leadership matters during a crisis and listed social, sympathetic, interpretative and futuring competencies as key abilities to have. “What happens in a crisis is that people draw back into safe spaces of their environment because the crisis threatens us and our natural intonation.

“What happens on an organisational level is you get what we call atomism, which means instead of being a culture of cooperation and social cohesion, you get an atomistic culture where all people are extremely busy but the links between them are very weak if existing at all because you’re busy with your own survival,” he said.

“This creates a dramatic drop in the social capital of an organisation. This is an absolutely crucial element in a crisis to try as best as you can to restore and maintain an adequate level of social capital,” he said.

Naudé added that a disruptive phase disorientates leaders. “I’ve noticed in times of crisis you get a very interesting mix of emotions that are displayed by people and people respond differently. A leader must firstly be mature enough to demonstrate her or his vulnerability and communicate that as a form of sympathetic competency,” he said.

He added that decisiveness and interpretative competency is another key skill to have during a crisis. “A leader needs to do a critical assessment of the situation immediately. You have to interpret your own environment, but you also have to be sharp enough to interpret the context in which your business or organisation function. Then you must act quickly.

“Lastly, a crisis drops a curtain in front of the eyes of the organisation and it pushes you back into the immediacy of the now. What a leader need is an imaginative competency to look past this collapsed presence and see further. Leaders must keep their imaginative capabilities alive. If you have a very strong vision and mission it will probably, in most cases, withstand the crisis,” he said.

Leading with humanity

Khatija Saley, founder and director of Generative Conversations, said the Covid-19 pandemic is a humanitarian crisis. “When the crisis hit, we stumbled, and I think we all went into a place of vulnerability.

“There was a paradox through the conversations that I heard. People talked about being energised and seeing opportunity while others talked about feeling anxious and fearful. One of the deep insights I got from working with the team was this thing about being comfortable with discomfort; to embrace and understand uncertainty and recognising that we don’t have control over a lot of things,” she said.

A full recording of the event is available on USB’s YouTube channel here

SHARE

Join the USB Management Review community

Subscribe to receive an email alert for new content on USB Management Review.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Related articles

Oct 29
in-week @USB

Join the USB community

Receive updates on the latest news, events, business knowledge and blogs at USB.

SUBSCRIBE NOW


Work in the time of Corona

USB News

Work in the time of Corona

  • MAR 24
  • Tags COVID-19; Coronavirus; lockdown; work from home; MBA Healthcare Leadership; flatten the curve;

SHARE

Prof Renata Schoeman, Head of the Health Care Leadership MBA specialisation stream at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), reassures us that we can stay productive, healthy and happy while working from home during the 21-day COVID-19 lockdown.    

As South Africans face the reality of a 21-day lockdown to contain the spread of Coronavirus, working from home has become the “new normal” overnight – and if properly managed, it can be just as productive as being in the office.

South Africa’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased six-fold in just eight days to 23 March, prompting President Cyril Ramaphosa to announce the “immediate, swift and extraordinary action” of a nationwide lockdown, which will close all except essential businesses from midnight on Thursday, 26 March. 

Prof Renata Schoeman, head of the MBA in Healthcare Leadership programme at USB, said that South African companies now join millions of businesses across the globe forced to “learn fast and on-the-job how to manage a completely remote workforce”. 

At the same time, scores of employees suddenly experiencing the ‘freedom’ of working from home may also be experiencing anxiety sparked by a lack of supervision and direction, having little time to adjust to a new way of working, fears of job losses, along with challenges of managing technology, keeping productive, staying connected and juggling family and work responsibilities. 

Work in the time of Corona – remaining productive while staying home to flatten the curve to contain impact on a strained healthcare system – presents unprecedented challenges for workers, business and the economy as a whole. 

“The spread of COVID-19 has made the adoption of technology and remote and flexible working inevitable, with a likely lasting change in the way we work,” Prof Schoeman said. 

Being coopedup with children, spouses, pets and even extended family also poses additional challenges and requires us “to become masters of adaptability and agility overnight”, she said. 

“Successful working from home is dependent on an individual’s self-sufficiency (such as time-management skills, self-discipline and motivation), communication skills, adaptability and technological skills,” Prof Schoeman said. 

Keep to your daily routine. Get ready for work as you would on a normal day (don’t work in your pyjamas) and don’t be too comfortable and laid back. This will negatively impact your motivation and productivity. Make a to-do list at the beginning of the day, prioritise the tasks you need to accomplish, and plan your time accordingly.

For those suddenly adapting to the new reality of working from home, Prof Schoeman says it is easy to fall into the trap of poor discipline – ditch your daily routine, eat junk food, take ‘power naps or tackle those DIY projects that there’s never been time for.  

To stay on track while working from home, she advises: 

  • Operate in a business-like manner. Set aside a separate, dedicated workspace, free from distractions, and customise it with the equipment and connectivity you need to be productive. 
  • Limit and manage disruptions and interruptions. Set down clear boundaries for family and friends and establish a routine. 
  • Keep to your daily routine. Get ready for work as you would on a normal day (don’t work in your pyjamas) and don’t be too comfortable and laid back. This will negatively impact your motivation and productivity. Make a to-do list at the beginning of the day, prioritise the tasks you need to accomplish, and plan your time accordingly.  Stay ‘in the loop. When working from home, it is very easy to miss out on the casual exchange opassage information and to feel isolated. Keep up the corridor chat and tea-break conversations with colleagues in a virtual way – by phone, online chat or social media – and make the effort for daily check-ins with teams and co-workers using online work platforms or just a WhatsApp group. Technology makes it possible to stay connected as though we were sitting in our office, rather than at home. 
  • Stay professional and be connected. Use video-conferencing (set reminders to show up on time and remember to mute yourself when not talking), and make sure to be reachable and responsive during working hours.  
  • Maintain your physical and emotional health. Very diligent workers are at risk for burnout as the boundaries between work and home blur, and employees may also feel the need to prove that they are being trustworthy and productive. Set boundaries for when your workday starts and ends.  
  • Eat healthily, exercise regularly, keep to your sleeping routine, limit non-work-related screen time and connect with your family and friends, even if via phone, online chat or social media.

Employees are less stressed due to avoiding traffic and commuting time (which also saves time, money and environmental impact), having the ability to stay at home with children, especially with the current shutdown of schools, and better work-life balance due to more flexibility in how they allocate their time,

For employers fearing lack of productivity in employees working out of sight and without conventional supervision, Prof Schoeman said several studies had shown remote workers having greater productivity (separate studies from Stanford University found productivity levels increasing between 13 and 21%) due to less interruptions, such as colleagues popping in for a chat, and fewer inefficient meetings.  

Employees are less stressed due to avoiding traffic and commuting time (which also saves time, money and environmental impact), having the ability to stay at home with children, especially with the current shutdown of schools, and better work-life balance due to more flexibility in how they allocate their time,” she said. 

Prof Schoeman said the greater independence of remote or flexible work helped employees to develop skills in self-management (self-motivation, self-discipline, focus, and concentration), communication, and the use of technology. 

“Less stress, healthier eating habits and more physical activity means healthier, happier employees who take fewer sick days and don’t put others at risk when ill – especially important at this time,” she said. 

“A final thought for employees working from home: always strive to be a better worker – be responsible and accountable. You are the master of your integrity.  

“And for the employers? Develop measurable goals and metrics for work to be performed during this time and make a determined effort to improve communication and technological capabilities. That will make remote working a win:win experience for all – not only in the time of a global pandemic,” Prof Schoeman said. 

Prof Renata Schoeman | Head: Health Care Leadership MBA, USB 

Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist since 2008. As a psychiatrist, she has special interests in cognition and has been particularly active in raising awareness for ADHD in adults and children. She also holds appointments as associate professor in Leadership (USB), as head of the Health Care Leadership MBA specialisation stream, and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation. 

In the media

This article has been featured on the Radio.

SHARE

Join the USB Management Review community

Subscribe to receive an email alert for new content on USB Management Review.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Join the USB community

Receive updates on the latest news, events, business knowledge and blogs at USB.

SUBSCRIBE NOW