No-one can deny that 2020 has been a terrible year. Quite apart from the appalling consequences of Covid-19 on global health, social structures and economies, the world of work has taken a serious body blow. In the UK, many thousands of people have already lost their jobs and many thousands more fear redundancy as the pandemic continues to force everyone to re-think how we live and work. Many jobs – even whole sectors of the UK economy – have gone forever. In this turmoil, both individuals and organisations must re-think how they work and re-invent themselves to be fit for purpose in the Covid age.
‘The new normal’
This means that organisations big and small now face huge challenges. How they respond to these challenges will define and shape either their future success or their rapid and terminal decline. The world has dramatically changed and the stressful and disruptive conditions of ‘the new normal’ mean that old rules and ways of working no longer apply. We must all get used to the newly emerging world of work. Hastened by Covid-19, this will primarily be driven by resilience, adaptability and sustainability. We cannot take these qualities for granted at either organisational, team or individual level and like a three-legged stool, these qualities depend on each other for long-term organisational stability and success.
Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly and to bounce back from difficulties or adverse conditions. It is the case that while some individuals are naturally more resilient than others, resilience skills can be learned and developed at work. Effective management can further nurture resilience by creating the conditions for individual and team learning, openness and support. Organisations need to take the time and effort to develop resilience in working practices, systems and to help their staff develop resilience skills.
Be adjustable to new conditions
Being able to adjust to new and emerging conditions has always been key component of success and adaptability applies both to organisational systems and processes, and individuals. Since it is individuals who create the systems and processes in the first place, it follows that organisations must develop cultures that allow for creativity, curiosity, moderated risk-taking and no-blame learning to be successful.
In its broadest sense, sustainability is the quality of being able to maintain and grow something over a period of time in a way that has little or no detrimental impact elsewhere in a system. For organisations this means having effective leadership and management practices that are values-led and which demonstrate care and consideration for employees, customers and the wider system or environment.
Be careful not to miss the boat
In the analogy of a three-legged stool, resilience, adaptability and sustainability are the legs, and a learning culture is the seat which pulls the legs together and keeps the whole stool ‘system’ in balance. Without the seat, the legs will fail. More than ever before, it will be organisations with the foresight to develop learning cultures which will succeed in riding the challenging waves of an emerging new world of work. This means developing leadership and management practices that empower staff, unlock talent, encourage self-reliance and develop personal responsibility. As more and more people work from home and employment becomes further de-centralised, managers will need to place more power, choice and responsibility in the hands of their staff. The skills to achieve this are coaching skills which can be readily learned and practiced with immediate application. Successful organisations emerging now are those whose leaders are mastering the art – and the skills – of engaging and unlocking individual talent, team synergy and discretionary effort.
It might be tempting to revert to command and control management during this period of change and upheaval but it’s too late for that, even if it was ever a good idea. The flow of the new work wave is now powerfully towards empowerment and staff engagement and the time to act is now.
About Sheridan Maguire
Sheridan is the author of Core Coaching. He is a member of the Association of Coaching Supervisors, the European Mentoring and Coaching Council and is a founder member of the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Coaching & Mentoring.