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Survival of NPOs – saving a weakened sector

USB News

Survival of NPOs – saving a weakened sector

  • JUNE 12
  • Tags Survival of NPOs – saving a weakened sector

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Head of Social Impact Dr Armand Bam says NPOs role in leadership should be recognised by government and business.

With the impact of COVID-19 rippling through the economy with disastrous effect, the livelihoods of non-profit organisations (NPOs) are under threat at the same time as demand for their support services is rapidly escalating.

Dr Armand Bam, Head of Social Impact at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) says a world without NPOs is “unimaginable and untenable, particularly when we need to address issues of social justice and socio-economic inclusion”.

“We live in the most unequal society in the world and the COVID-19 pandemic will do much to entrench this divide.”

“The principles of dignity, equality and freedom to participate in all aspects of our society, as enshrined in the South African Constitution, are under threat. We live in the most unequal society in the world and the COVID-19 pandemic will do much to entrench this divide.

“We are pro-active as a nation when it comes to developing policies for upliftment, but we struggle to implement, monitor and hold to account the efficacy of these policies. While businesses act as suppliers of resources and government as a protector, it is NPO’s that are the proverbial glue that binds us and ensures delivery of social justice goals,” he said.

Along with the ups and downs of global and local markets and ratings downgrades, COVID-19 will further contribute to a rapid contraction in employment opportunities.

“The socio-economic inclusion of many citizens in our economy is already under threat…”

“The socio-economic inclusion of many citizens in our economy is already under threat and the coordinated effort between institutions and policies influencing productivity within our economy has been hit hard by the extended period of lockdown. Products and services from South Africa are less attractive than those in 59 other countries (The Global Competitiveness Report 2019) and as a result there will be less money available from the government through its tax collection efforts to support NPOs and promote socio-economic inclusion and justice for its citizens.”

He argues that since we live in a society, not in an economy, businesses and government should pay attention to what happens with the non-profit sector.

“Non-profits contribute to many African countries’ economies, yet we fail to recognise the multiple roles they play, especially that of intermediaries.”

“Non-profits contribute to many African countries’ economies, yet we fail to recognise the multiple roles they play, especially that of intermediaries. Together with government and business these organisations empower citizens and contribute much needed skills and infrastructure – the building blocks of any economy.”

Dr Bam said that “the new normal” had thrust NPOs into a crisis where expectations to deliver support to citizens and communities were escalating during lockdown, while many were left wondering where the support to ensure their survival would come from.

“As a result, something fundamental in the fabric of our society is being tested – the social contract that exists between NPO’s as project implementers, and business and government as suppliers of resources and grants. Traditionally this contract has been maintained through the moral agency of NPOs and their willingness to act at a cost well below what the market and government would deem viable for themselves. But this is now under threat as businesses across the country are suffering losses they had not anticipated, and invariably their support to NPOs will be curtailed.

“Self-preservation is an undeniable approach for businesses but must not be overtaken with self-interest.”

So, why should business and government care what happens to the sector?

“NPOs are important for upholding and ensuring democracy and social justice. Their recognition as a key partner alongside the public and private sectors must be acknowledged and supported. We need to ensure that the social contract that exists is maintained. Failure to safeguard this will inevitably destabilise our democracy.

“The resilience expected of the NPO sector and their ‘do good nature’ has been impacted in a similar manner to the private sector. Social distancing has played a role here. It is time for businesses and government to join hands with NPO’s and treat them not as beneficiaries but as part of transformational partnerships that move beyond the transactional.”

Dr Bam concludes by saying that business and government should include NPOs in a proactive and participatory way as we shape a post COVID-19 South Africa. “For this to occur we need to recognise the leadership roles NPOs can play in order to achieve goals which were not achievable before.”

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Entrepreneurship report reveals how startups can drive growth in a disrupted world

USB News

Entrepreneurship report reveals how startups can drive growth in a disrupted world

  • JUNE 11
  • Tags Entrepreneurship, South Africa, GEM Report, startups, entrepreneurs, economy, growth, social change

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USB launches Global Entrepreneurship Monitor South Africa (GEM SA) report in partnership with GEM SA and Seda.

The economic and social upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic underlines the need for a collective, and robust national strategy to unlock entrepreneurship in South Africa.

Already before the pandemic, many aspects of the country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem needed a major overhaul. This is highlighted in the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor South Africa (GEM SA) 2019/2020 report.

The University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) and the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda) launched the report on Monday, 8 June 2020.

GEM’s research output is considered the world’s most authoritative annual report on the global state of entrepreneurship. USB is the new custodian of this research in South Africa. The study included a survey sample of 3 300 people, and the national expert survey involved the input of 36 experts from diverse fields.

Angus Bowmaker-Falconer and Mike Herrington co-authored the report. Bowmaker-Falconer is a research fellow at USB. Herrington, previously the executive director of the Global Entrepreneurship Research Association, established GEM SA in 2001.

The GEM SA report – titled Igniting startups for economic growth and social change – contains the hard facts, data and figures that highlight trends in entrepreneurship in South Africa. The results of the study reveal the fundamentals to consider when developing an informed response aimed at securing economic recovery.

Bowmaker-Falconer says: “The pandemic has intensified the country’s economic challenges. We know that earnings have been affected, that further job losses are likely, and that many small, medium and micro enterprises may not survive under these extraordinary high stakes.” Most local companies are small or medium-sized enterprises and many will battle to stay afloat after one to three months with no or limited trade and income. “Early-stage entrepreneurial startups (new ventures less than 3,5 years old) are likely to be ravaged,” he says.

The economic and social recovery could take several years. GEM’s research during the 2008/2009 global financial crash showed a significant dip in early-stage entrepreneurial activity across the globe. Entrepreneurial ecosystems took two to three years to reach pre-2008 levels after this event. The recovery curve was driven directly by country-specific economic policy and financial support responses.

Unpacking the results
Here are some key findings from the report:

  • South Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem was rated one of the most challenging in the sample of participating economies in 2019 and has exhibited little sign of improvement over the past few years.
  • In 2019, South Africa ranked 49th out of 54 economies on GEM’s National Entrepreneurship Context Index, ahead of only Croatia, Guatemala, Paraguay, Puerto Rico and Iran.
  • Societal values regarding entrepreneurship show an upward trend from 2003 to 2019. Specifically, there has been an increase from 2017 to 2019 in the number of people who see entrepreneurship as a good career choice (from 69.4% to 78.8%) and one with high status (from 74.9% to 82.2%).
  • There has been a substantial increase (from 43.2% in 2017 to 60.4% in 2019) in the number of individuals who perceive that there are good entrepreneurial opportunities in South Africa and believe that they have the skills and capabilities to start a business. This number is relatively high compared to many other economies.
  • Yet fear of failure is high at 49.8% among South Africans. This factor – likely a deterrent for individuals to start a business venture – has increased significantly from 2017 to 2019.
  • Only 11.9% of respondents have entrepreneurial intentions. This means one in every eight South Africans are latent entrepreneurs who intend to start a business within the next three years.
  • There was a small increase in the total amount of early-stage entrepreneurial activity (TEA) in the country between 2016 and 2017. This momentum was not, however, carried through to 2019, which showed no real increase from 2017 at only 10.8%. This TEA rate was below the average of 12.1% for the other participating African countries in 2019.
  • South Africa’s business exit rate decreased from 6.0% in 2017 to 4.9% in 2019, but is still higher than the established business rate of 3.5%. This confirms that more businesses are being closed down, sold or otherwise discontinued than being started.
  • There is clear evidence of purpose-driven entrepreneurship taking hold at a grassroots level – an encouraging sign of a collective will for future business sustainability.

Changing gears, moving forward
Moving from startup to scale requires the right support from the government and the private sector alike. The report calls for interventions in terms of government policies and initiatives, market openness, entrepreneurship education and training, and the availability of and access to finance to foster entrepreneurship.

Bowmaker-Falconer says: “Government is an enabler and fully supports and understands the importance of entrepreneurial development for inclusive economic growth and social cohesion.”

“The Department of Small Business Development (DBSD) announced significant new measures before this crisis related to access to funding. These measures include harmonising funding applications across all developmental finance institutions and introducing a blended financing model to reduce financing costs for entrepreneurs. Overall, the focus for the government should now be on achieving policy and support initiative alignment priorities.”

The government’s economic stimulus package to help bridge COVID-19 is significant, and the impact thereof for SMME’s needs to be evaluated and made public. “Big business needs to partner with the government and play their part in opening markets and value chain participation for smaller enterprises,” Bowmaker-Falconer says.

“Financiers, together with incubators and accelerators, need to help better prepare and educate entrepreneurs on how to pitch their business ideas, how to approach funders, and to navigate what kind of funding is most appropriate to their specific enterprise. What is very clear is that a cohesive and collective response is needed to ignite economic development and social cohesion potential beyond this crisis we are now in.”

An underlying key requirement for managing South Africa’s economic recovery is data. Integrated and public information is critical in understanding and planning how best to stimulate and support the entrepreneurial ecosystem going forward.

Furthermore, there is also a need for more intense entrepreneurial education to engage with the opportunities offered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

As the sponsor of the study, Seda will now facilitate the implementation of the recommendations across the broader small enterprise development support system with its partners. One of the areas currently being pursued by Seda is identifying partners who can enhance its service offerings in research.

Bowmaker-Falconer concludes: “Entrepreneurship matters. Now, more than ever, startups, and specifically those driven by young entrepreneurs and women, need to deliver the innovation required to move us forward in a highly disruptive (and disrupted) world.”

Read the report here

About GEM
Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) is a consortium of national country teams, primarily associated with top academic institutions, that carries out survey-based research on entrepreneurship around the world. GEM is the only global research source that collects data on entrepreneurship directly from individual entrepreneurs. Visit www.gemconsortium.org for information.

About Seda
Seda is an agency of the Department of Small Business Development. It is mandated to implement the government’s small business strategy; design and implement a standard and common national delivery network for small-enterprise development; and integrate small-enterprise support agencies across all tiers of government. Visit www.seda.org.za for information.

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Township entrepreneurs fighting hunger in communities

Township entrepreneurs fighting hunger in communities

USB News

Township entrepreneurs fighting hunger in communities

Township entrepreneurs fighting hunger in communities

  • JUNE 02
  • Tags SBA, small businesses, community, COVID-19, Community Feeding Network,

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SBA participants pull together to feed disadvantaged communities.

With millions of people during COVID-19 in need of food and NPOs struggling to service the alarming rate of hunger, entrepreneurs in Cape Town’s disadvantaged areas started the Community Feeding Network, pulling forces to make a difference.

The group of small business owners in Khayelitsha, Strandfontein, Mitchell’s Plain and Mfuleni purchase fruit and vegetables from urban and township farmers, package them in family units and delivery to vulnerable people living under the bread-line in their areas.

One fruit and vegetable unit can feed a family of 10 and at R150, each of these boxes are financed through the kind donations of caring South Africans and as far afield as Belgium and Germany.

Currently they are weekly feeding over 60 families and expanding their service further as donations are received. They are also servicing a number of feeding schemes with fresh produce that can be turned into wholesome cooked meals. The network is also growing with more entrepreneurs coming forward to join the fight against hunger.

The small businesses owners who are pulling resources and supporting each other are either current or past participants of the Small Business Academy of the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) which offers sponsored tuition in order to strengthen and grow small businesses in underprivileged communities.

Community Garden

Using the knowledge acquired whilst on the programme the founders of this network had to think literally outside of the box as the businesses they had built up over many years, closed literally over night as lockdown was enforced.

Sandy Hendricks and Jackie Julie Brock (both from Mitchell’s Plain) and Kiki Bantom (from Khayelitsha) all had their own catering business. With the lockdown restricting the preparation of hot meals they were without any form of income.

In order to survive and noting a gap in the market, Sandy applied for an essential services certificate and started delivering fresh fruit and vegetables from her contracted farmers to her usual clientele, at the same time selflessly sharing produce with community feeding groups battling the huge challenge of hunger.

Meanwhile Kiki applied for an essential services certificate to open a Spaza Shop, and upon speaking one day to Sandy, decided that together with Jackie they can expand their reach of supplying nutritious food to those in need, whilst having some form of income, albeit minimal, to keep their own families fed.

They were soon joined by Alfred Sonandi from Mfuleni who’s waste picking business came to an abrupt halt and was desperate for income. Together with a friend who used to own a fish and chip shop, they are now delivering fresh produce to families in need as well as preparing soup to try and assist in alleviating the dire need for meals. Jody Morris, who has a graphic design business in Strandfontein, also joined the network to distribute food to 20 vulnerable families from the Strandfontein Children’s Cricket Club that he supports. Alfred, Kiki and Jody are also planning to teach the recipients to start their own backyard gardens to supply fresh fruit and vegetables post lockdown.

Giving-back has always stood out as a central theme amongst all our participants over the past six years of running this programme.

Coordinating the efforts of the entrepreneurs and creating a central hub for the network is Edith Kennedy, lecturer at USB’s SBA programme. She said the lockdown has pushed small businesses into uncharted waters, especially in the informal settlements, and she realised the desperate need for them to during this trying time to find some form of income whilst supporting their communities.

“Giving-back has always stood out as a central theme amongst all our participants over the past six years of running this programme. Naturally, they want to see their business grow and succeed but not at the expense of supporting their communities and sharing skills, time or money to uplift those who are struggling. During the lockdown I helped them to look for new opportunities, how to pull resources and find solutions with the assistance of other entrepreneurs, all whilst providing a service to the community.”

If you would like to sponsor a box please contact Edith Kennedy on edith.kennedy@erunway.co.za

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Transparency on pay could close the gap for women

Transparency on pay could close the gap for women

USB News

Transparency on pay could close the gap for women

(Source: Designed by Freepik)

  • MAY 26
  • Tags Gender Economic Equality, Gender Pay Gap, Pay Equality, Women, Normalise Pay Equality, Mind the Gap, Economic Empowerment, COVID-19, research, Women at Work

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Journal Article

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for progressive economic policies to address deep socio-economic inequalities in South Africa, including transparent pay reporting towards closing the persistent gender pay gap. Currently the gender pay gap sees South African women still earning up to 35% less¹ than men for doing the same work.

If South Africa is to dislodge its stagnant gender pay gap, mandatory pay transparency – making gender differences in pay known to employees, government and the public – can be the means to compel employers to remunerate fairly and equally, according to a new study by the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB).

Despite South Africa’s significant strides in preventing workplace discrimination, the gender pay gap has remained stubbornly stagnant for over two decades…

“Despite South Africa’s significant strides in preventing workplace discrimination, the gender pay gap has remained stubbornly stagnant for over two decades², and is well above the global average pay gap of 20% reported by the ILO³,” said the study’s lead author, Prof Anita Bosch, the USB Research Chair for Women at Work.

In the study published in the South African Journal of Science in March 2020, Bosch and USB Research Fellow Shimon Barit analysed global trends on enforcement of mandatory transparent pay reporting in order to give direction to strengthening South Africa’s mechanisms for achieving gender economic equality.

Their recommendations for greater transparency on pay include more detailed, gender pay-related information captured in existing reporting required from companies on employment and remuneration, mandatory pay audits and requiring pay information to be made available to unions and employees, as well as penalties for non-compliance.

While collective bargaining and the introduction of the national minimum wage have seen the gap narrowing for women in lower-earning jobs, Bosch said that for women in middle and upper pay levels the gap has actually widened and continues to do so.

Enforcing SA legislation and governance codes on equal pay and transparent reporting could strengthen the existing collective bargaining framework to demonstrate that SA sees gender equality as an achievable reality, not an improbable ideology.

The problem is greater in the private sector where pay is market-driven, since public sector pay are largely standardised, she added.

“Enforcing South African legislation and governance codes on equal pay and transparent reporting could strengthen the existing collective bargaining framework and provide the impetus to demonstrate that South Africa sees gender equality as an achievable reality, not an improbable ideology,” Prof Bosch said.

…female-headed households are approximately 40% poorer than those headed by men.

She said the importance of equal pay for equal work was highlighted by the fact that more than a third of South African households are headed by women⁴ and female-headed households are approximately 40% poorer than those headed by men⁵. Almost half of female-headed households support extended family, compared to just over 20% of male-headed households⁶.

“Since women support greater numbers of children and extended family members and are more likely to be employed in lower-paying occupations, their lack of pay equality has arguably a greater negative impact on the socio-economic wellbeing of families and communities.”

“This is all the more reason to amend and enforce policies on transparent pay reporting, with the end goal of closing the gender pay gap,” Prof Bosch said.

The research, analysed the impact of practices in 16 countries where employers are legally obliged to provide transparent reporting on pay and gender, as well as South Africa’s existing equality legislation and the King IV Code on corporate governance.

The study makes recommendations to guide legislators, activists, board members, trade unions and organisational leaders in improving transparent pay reporting.

“The first is to strengthen the pay reports already required from employers by the Employment Equity Act (EEA) by including data on the total remuneration, including performance incentives, paid to men and to women at each level. This would highlight gender pay gaps, enabling accurate comparison at national level and identification of patterns, so that policies can be formulated and targets set to close gaps in specific areas and levels of work,” Prof Bosch said.

She advised that the JSE should “expand its interpretation” of the King IV Code requirement that listed companies remunerate fairly, responsibly and transparently, by including mandatory gender pay reporting in annual reports as part of its listing requirements.

South African legislation doesn’t require employers to share pay reports with employees and trade unions or employee representatives, and Prof Bosch said this should be considered.

The introduction of a right to query another employee’s pay could be difficult to achieve given South Africa’s constitutional right to privacy and privacy laws, but Prof Bosch said this should be pursued, as it would be critical for employees in proving a claim under the equal pay for equal work clause of the EEA.

Pay audits and equal gender pay should form part of collective bargaining…

Mandatory pay audits at the designated employer level (more than 50 employees) would enable analysis of pay differentials, identifying problem areas and developing measures to rectify gaps, she said.

Pay audits and equal gender pay should form part of collective bargaining, Prof Bosch said, recommending that “a soft law stipulating that these topics be discussed during collective bargaining be introduced into the King codes as a matter of good remuneration governance”.

“Diligent monitoring for non-compliance, along with enforcement of penalties, is essential for transparency mechanisms to be effective. It is recommended that a financial penalty be levied for unjustifiable and stagnant gender pay gaps among the employees of the same employer, one that is sufficient to act as a deterrent to non-compliance.

“Penalties should thus promote compliance with gender pay legislation and transparency mechanisms, and ultimately disincentivise discriminatory pay practices,” Prof Bosch said.

ABOUT THE RESEARCH

The full article can be downloaded from the SAJS website: Gender pay transparency mechanisms: Future directions for South Africa

Tables showing comparisons between 16 countries can be downloaded from here 

In addition to the study, USB has partnered with by WDB Investment Holdings (WDBIH) – the women-owned and -operated group focused on advancing the meaningful participation of women in the economy – to produce the The gender pay gap guide for the already converted as a means to aid responsible managers to implement fair pay practices.

About WDB Investment Holding (WDBIH)

WDB Investment Holdings (WDBIH) is women founded, women–led Investment Company and has been operating successfully since 1996. The main purpose of the company is to be a game changer in women advancement and empowerment in South Africa, impacting the African Continent. One of their key objectives is being a catalyst by influencing public opinions and legislation to create an environment that supports opportunities for women advancement.


References

¹Mosomi J. Distributional changes in the gender wage gap in the post-apartheid South African labour market [Internet]. Helsinki: UNU-WIDER; 2019. WIDER Working Paper 2019/17.

²Mosomi J. Distributional changes in the gender wage gap in the post-apartheid South African labour market [Internet]. Helsinki: UNU-WIDER; 2019. WIDER Working Paper 2019/17. Available from: https://www.wider.unu.edu/publication/distributional-changes-gender-wage-gap-post-apartheid-south-african-labour-market

³International Labour Organization. Global Wage Report 2018/19: What lies behind gender pay gaps [Internet]. Geneva: International Labour Organization; 2018 [cited 2019 Jul 6]. Available from: https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/—publ/documents/publication/wcms_650553.pdf

⁴Statistics South Africa. General Household Survey 2018 [Internet]. Pretoria: Statistics South Africa; 2019. Statistical Release P0318 [cited 2019 Jul 16]. Available from: http://www.statssa.gov.za/publications/P0318/P03182018.pdf

⁵Statistics South Africa. Living conditions of households in South Africa: An analysis of household expenditure and income data using the LCS 2014/2015 [Internet]. Pretoria: Statistics South Africa; 2017. Statistical Release P0310 [cited 2019 Jul 16]. Available from: http://www.statssa.gov.za/publications/P0310/P03102014.pdf

⁶South African Institute of Race Relations. South Africa’s family fabric. Free Facts. 2018;5:1-5. Available at: https://irr.org.za/reports/freefacts/files/free-ff-2014-september-2018.pdf

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Not all leaders are equally well during COVID-19

USB News

Not all leaders are equally well during COVID-19

  • APR 30
  • Tags COVID-19, coronavirus, pandemic, lockdown, leadership, mental health, coaching

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USB’s Dr Nicky Terblanche explores the underlying truth of leadership during a pandemic.

Not all business leaders are handling the workplace crises of COVID-19 as well as they should, with those who combine a war-like approach tempered with humanity and compassion proving the most effective, say their executive coaches in a recent study.

Dr Nicky Terblanche, Senior Lecturer in Management Coaching at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) interviewed 26 executive coaches across South Africa, the UK, USA and Australia to uncover the underlying truth of leadership in a real-time crisis.

“In times of crisis, leaders are severely tested. What is evident is that not everyone coping.”

“The saying ‘when the tide goes out, you see who’s been swimming naked’ appears to be true from a leadership perspective during this pandemic. In times of crisis, leaders are severely tested. What is evident is that not everyone coping,” observes Dr Terblanche.

He says a common theme emerged of a notable increase in weak leaders being exposed by this pandemic.

“Some senior leaders who were able to ‘hide’ before, have already been demoted or pushed aside because they are not up to the job. This of course places enormous pressure on the people who have to take over their roles.”

Dr Terblanche said he was surprised to learn that a number of middle managers in large South African organisations were not receiving the expected guidance, communication and support from their superiors – with management coaches filling the gap instead.

“Their leaders were ‘missing in action’, leaving it up to managers to figure things out. Many coaches in the USA found themselves fulfilling the role of a manager in having to assist their clients in thinking through and finding answers to operational problems due to leaders’ inability to think through options and alternatives available.”

“In a crisis, followers want a reassuring leader who can point the way. However, war-like directiveness must not be confused with control.”

Dr Terblanche found a ‘war-time’ leadership stance during this catastrophic time seems to be effective.

 

“By communicating frequently and clearly, leaders are able to be directive and provide focus to the team. In a crisis, followers want a reassuring leader who can point the way. However, war-like directiveness must not be confused with control. A war commander cannot control all aspects of a war, but instead, after communicating uniform direction, setting clear values and expectation of how we’re going to function, leaders must know when to step aside and trust that their followers will execute.

“This is certainly not a comfortable space for those who have a micro-management style. With remote working, anxiety can build up if leaders are used to relying on ‘looking over their staff’s shoulders’ in order to stay in control.”

Dr Terblanche uncovered that a war-like directive leadership should not come at the price of showing a humane, compassionate side.

“People may forget what you said, but they will remember how it made them feel. If the leader has always showed compassion for staff long before the pandemic, their caring stance should pay off during this uncertain time and reduce levels of anxiety.”

Leaders who show their vulnerable side in confessing that even though they don’t have all the answers, yet are working collectively with the entire team on solutions and coping strategies, will instil a sense of focus and reassurance amongst staff.

“In such instances it is important though for leaders to be mindful of not sub-consciously projecting their fear onto the situation. Make sure you understand your own fear and anxieties before you communicate with your team,” says Dr Terblanche.

The research uncovered that by being authentic and honest, and putting oneself in the shoes of employees, leaders can help staff to, in some ways, normalise the situation.

“Each person’s reality at home is different and as a leader you are now invited into your employees’ home through virtual meetings. Put your staff at ease about working from home by acknowledging for example the additional stressors of having to care for children whilst attending to deadlines, or that disruptions of family members or pets walking in during a meeting is a given.”

“Good leaders in this time are the ones who can sift through the piles of information and use holistic and systems thinking to try and see the bigger picture.”

Dr Terblanche says the research clearly warns against information overload versus radio silence.

“Good leaders in this time are the ones who can sift through the piles of information and use holistic and systems thinking to try and see the bigger picture. This is not the time to be overwhelmed, become insular as a result whilst trying to frantically plan without communicating to the team, leaving staff in a state of limbo.”

During this time of crises coaches are observing the levels at which leaders are struggling with their own identity. In some instances, leaders are confronted to act in a way that may violate their own value system.  Dr Terblanche says one USA coach’s client was questioning herself after having to fire 200 staff over Zoom, asking herself “Who am I? Is this what I signed up for?’

“On a very pragmatic level, leaders are struggling with their identity due to the physical change in their work environment. Some identify strongly with their corner office or the respect shown by staff when they enter the building, but now they are at home, in cases having to share domestic duties and schooling children from home. No more jetting off, business class, all over the world. It’s about moving off one’s pedestal towards ‘we are all in the same boat – or at least, trying to weather the same storm’.

“The coaches interviewed observed that leaders who know themselves, have a sense of centeredness and calm and are able to take a step back and look at the bigger picture are coping far better than those who are traditionally mostly task focused.”

The study showed that resilience is most probably the deciding factor in whether leaders will be able to weather the storm or not.

“Resilient leaders are those able to consider the bigger picture, are able to look beyond the doom and gloom and seek opportunities. Leaders who have studied and understand systems thinking and complexity theory seem to manage better and are able to see opportunities.  Also, those who draw on their experience from challenges faced such as civil wars or the 2008 financial crisis, are far better placed. ‘Never waste a good crisis’ is how one USA coach’s client is relating to the pandemic, actively looking for new opportunities for his organisation.”

Dr Terblanche says part of maintaining resilience is looking after one self. “Coaches from all four countries shared how the leaders they are coaching and who are coping well with this pandemic, are making a concrete effort to maintain their personal well-being. Strategies include exercise, eating healthy, and finding the right balance between working from home and family responsibilities.”

“Coaching has always been a powerful space to reflect – guided by a professional who can use theories and frameworks from psychology and adult learning.”

The major benefit of coaching in this time has been the ability to assist leaders to stop and reflect, in a way ‘moving from the dance floor to the balcony’ as one of the interviewed coaches aptly described.

“Coaches guide leaders to not only think and make plans but first to make as much sense as possible of what is happening on multiple levels. Coaching has always been a powerful space to reflect – guided by a professional who can use theories and frameworks from psychology and adult learning – to sift through information, offer different perspectives and challenge assumptions. By assisting leaders to be self-aware, coaching can help to identify stressors, shape responses and leadership styles. Only once a situation is properly understood can effective plans be made.”

The following recommendations, in summary, from the research, provide practical advice to leaders:

  • Communicate often with your team and personally with each individual that reports to you
  • Provide direction and reassurance based on what you know and be candid about what is unknown, without projecting your own personal anxieties
  • Harness the collective wisdom and knowledge of your team
  • Acknowledge what is in and out of your control and trust your team to execute the vision and direction you have set
  • Show compassion and understanding on an individual level towards your team
  • Re-evaluate who you are as a leader. What is your identity now and what is expected of you?
  • Take a holistic view on this pandemic. Use Systems Thinking and Complexity Theory tools
  • Actively seek opportunities
  • Draw on previous experience in similar crisis situations
  • Look after your own emotional wellbeing and health.
  • Employ the services of a professional coach to help you with the above and more.

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