Recap your learnings
Being convinced that change is always an opportunity for growth, it is necessary to think about aspects we have learnt during the crisis. On the other hand, neglecting this view and simply going back to “work as usual” would be a big mistake. What can leaders do to prepare their organisation for the post-corona era and ensure sustainable success? The first step into the future includes an assessment of the status quo. Now it is time to recap your lessons learnt to make well-informed decisions in the future.
Given that everybody has faced the consequences of the current corona-pandemic to a considerable extent, it is reasonable to assume that we now share a common wealth of experience. What could this be?
Strong competition, frequent technological advances and the pressure to innovate constantly expose organisations with unclear and ambiguous situations that have no definite solutions (O’connor, Becker, & Fewster, 2018). Thus, ambiguous situations or contexts are defined as those which “cannot be adequately structured or categorised by an individual because of the lack of sufficient cues” (Budner, 1962, p. 30). Although leaders are constantly required to handle uncertain and complex situations on strategic decision-making level, the lockdown in many cities over the world may have brought a new dimension of ambiguity to the social perspective of leadership. In day-to-day conversations, nonverbal signals (e.g. facial expressions, eye contact, gestures etc.) are key for us to evaluate the social situation at hand, gauge our relationships to others correctly and adapt our own behavior accordingly (Frith, 2008; Wang & Hamilton, 2012). Thus, these bodily cues make it easy for us to navigate in social situations – the business context included. The need to “fill in the blanks” might be the reason why we perceive video and phone calls as more exhausting compared to personal meetings. Moreover, leaders could have experienced that they reach their subordinates to a limited extent, paving the way for misunderstandings and perceived loss of control. Speaking about ourselves, these times have taught us to implement a transparent information workflow and to introduce an increasingly explicit management of personal thoughts and expectations.
On the other hand, some employees may have developed strategies to work more efficiently from home, seem to be more focused during meetings and have gained insights about ways to organise themselves. Given that a lot of teams are made up of diverse personalities working together from all over the world, being able to connect with team mates so easily seems like a precious gift that we want to keep without spending a remarkable amount of time travelling. Even if the digital workplace transformation had started long before the corona virus changed our way to work, some organisations are less successful in implementing new technologies into the workplace in a way that boosts work performance and facilitates communication among employees. A current study demonstrated that digital tools only unfold their full potential if leaders enable their employees to inspire the way these technologies are concretely implemented into their work environment. Testing more than 150,000 employees of a global enterprise, the researchers uncovered that the perception of autonomy, competence and relatedness determined the willingness to adopt new technologies and participate in the change process (Meske & Junglas, 2020). These findings suggest that we need to define the adoption of new technologies all together -leaders as well as employees – to ensure their successful implementation above and beyond the current situation. Reflecting on our own experiences, we have learnt which tools serve our purpose and have gained ideas how we can use them to develop new products for our clients.
Although this list could certainly be extended, we would like to take a step further now by taking a look at your organization and the specific learnings you have gained from the crisis. For this purpose, you can try to answer the following questions with your team. This may help to keep track of the implicit approaches and hidden perspectives you have gained during the past few months.
· How did you experience the last few months on a personal level? What did you learn about yourself?
· What are you proud of? What did your team accomplish during the last few months?
· Which measures or strategies have helped you to cope with the situation? Which did not? Think about an organisational level as well as on a team- and individual level.
· What did you miss at work? What are you looking forward to coming back into the office?
· Which aspects will you miss at work? What would you like to transfer into the future? How can you integrate these aspects into daily practices?
Apart from reflecting on the skills needed to deal with a lack of social cues, the experience of enhanced productivity and the thoughtful use of digital tools, it may be time to stop thinking about the past and start to prepare for the future. But how can leaders take on a more global perspective? Find the answer in the next article in which you will start to think more strategically.
Budner, S. N. (1962). Intolerance of ambiguity as a personality variable. Journal of Personality, 30(1),29-50.
Frith, C. D. (2008). Social cognition. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 363(1499), 2033-2039.
Meske, C., & Junglas, I. (2020). Investigating the elicitation of employees’ support towards digital workplace transformation. , (0), 1–17. doi.org/10.1080/0144929X.2020.1742382
O’connor, P., Becker, K., & Fewster, K. (2018). . (July), 1–5. Retrieved from eprints.qut.edu.au/120614/1/Tolerance of Ambiguity_2018.pdf
Wang, Y., & Hamilton, A. F. de C. (2012). Social top-down response modulation (STORM): a model of the control of mimicry in social interaction. , (June), 1–10. doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2012.00153