In the United States, Boss’s Day is celebrated on the 16th of October. This year however, it would be amiss not to address the changes that COVID-19 has brought to our working environments and the unique challenges facing business owners. Remote working, new technologies, new and different work/life balances, security of tenure and complex HR issues are just some of them. To make matters even harder, leaders are also facing declining sales and revenue, reduced cash-flow and for some, the trauma of a complete business shutdown. There is no doubt that it is difficult for business owners and employees to stay positive during all of this,” says Jay Owens, Business Director at corporate culture experts, The Human Edge.
“However, the term ‘boss’ is archaic and redundant and should be relegated to the management theory archives. Now, the focus should be on leadership and providing a meaningful picture of the organisation’s future, the value to society and focussing on employee energy.”
4 Tips to foster loyalty, positivity, and productivity
Owens provides some practices that leaders should be implementing at this time:
- Connection before content: During challenging times human connection is paramount. Employees need to know that their leaders care about them as much as they care about the business.
- Clarity around content: Because interaction is limited and virtual, leaders need to be far more specific about their expectations.
- Champion collaboration: People can feel isolated and disconnected during these times. Leaders need to create mechanisms for engagement and collaboration where colleagues, clients and other stakeholders can connect. Isolation under these conditions promotes uncertainty, fear, and resentment.
- Focus on performance and productivity: Challenging times can also offer great opportunities for new ways of thinking, eliminating redundant practices and challenging people in terms of the value of their contribution to the success of the business.
Employees’ expectations of management during this time also warrants a change in thinking. Owens advises employees to be tough on their leaders. “Seek clarity, ask for guidance and help, and articulate your expectations. Employees need to make their contribution felt, enhance their potential and make sure that their organisation cannot do without them. In conclusion, he adds, “Irrespective of level, respect the individual and the value and sanctity of work – it is both a right and a privilege.”
‘Cultureneering’ to build a future-fit business
Ian Fuhr, Founder of The Hatch Institute echoes this sentiment. “Your people are key to determining the success or failure of business in agile, ever-changing markets. I believe businesses can make a real difference to our economy, country and society as a whole. This change begins with culture-driven leaders who believe that ‘cultureneering’, or focusing on culture first and foremost is the only way to build a future-fit business that is adaptable and able to deliver exceptional customer service.”
“Bear in mind that the customer experience will never be better than the employee experience. The simple reason for this is that you cannot expect people to look after your customers if they don’t have a sense of belonging or feel cared for themselves. And customer service is critical. It builds customer loyalty, which directly increases revenue without requiring costs to be trimmed (or people or salaries to be cut),” says Fuhr.
Commitment, loyalty and customer service will slip fast and furiously when your people don’t have a reason to believe in you, the leadership team, the business or in your purpose.
Earn the moral authority to lead
From a leadership perspective, there are a number of things that you can do to earn the moral authority to lead. First, show genuine concern for the well-being of everyone in your organisation. Show a commitment to their development and growth, and create a place of safety where people can speak up if they have any problems or grievances without fear of retaliation. In particular, work hard on all the socio-political and diversity elements of the company to make sure that no polarisation or discrimination exists. In the South African context, good race relations and diversity inclusion form an important part of any business culture.
Linking purpose to create service-focused teams
Everyone in the organisation, starting from the top, needs to be crystal clear about why the company exists, why we are here, and why we come to work every day. The answers to these questions should always begin and end with meeting and exceeding the needs of the customer – purpose can never be about money, because money is the result or reward of achieving your purpose. Everything and everyone should be aligned with your purpose. It should become your guiding light for every decision that gets made. The key is to link what they do on a day-to-day basis to a larger purpose. For example, if someone is on a production line, show them the bigger picture. Who is the customer? What problem are they helping to solve or what joy are they bringing because of the important role they play?
“We all need a purpose in our lives, now more than ever. I’m hopeful that this is the beginning of the next world – a world in which business takes on a more human face. Business leaders have a financial and moral obligation to uplift the people of this country. A narrow focus on profit won’t achieve that, but a culture that puts people first can,” concludes Fuhr.