A critical examination in times of crisis by Martina Stolz (People Development & Learning).
How a value-oriented management culture makes organizations more resilient
Long suspected, but never really tested. As we know today, we have fortunately never experienced a crisis like the one we are experiencing right now. We can no longer be so sure that we will never again experience a situation of this magnitude. Security, to feel safe, to be safe, we are all no longer sure what that means.
One thing is certain, to the question "What does organizational resilience mean", the Iso Norm has at least a knowledge-providing answer:
"Organizational resilience is the ability of an organization to cushion and adapt in a changing environment in order to achieve its goals, survive and thrive. More resilient organizations can anticipate and respond to risks and opportunities - due to sudden or gradual changes in the internal and external context". - ISO Standard 22316:2017, Translation Jutta Heller
Corona currently demands exactly that from companies and managers: to be adaptable without any time in advance. Switch to remote working from now on. Reuniting teams and individuals in very different places on this planet (with guests of different sizes in the background) in a virtual space. Preferably of course without loss of results, efficiency, loyalty and identity. A tour de force, as many German companies now know.
Any manager who still thinks he or she can achieve results with people through control or micro-management is probably slowly but surely reaching the limits of his or her powers. What worked for centuries is no longer in demand.
Rather, managers who lived true leadership even before Corona are now able to make a much easier transition to current forms of work and work models. Because to achieve results with people, space and time are dissolved. The 9 to 5 rule, loved by all Germans, has lost its meaning for the time being. "Work is done because you have to work" has become "Work is done when you can work", and here not only the time dimension is meant, but also all basic conditions for independent work.
Empathy is not only for women
Empathy and trust, inherent values of mankind, along with the competence to set structure and goals and to provide the famous safe framework, become the most important leadership skills of this time. Anyone who knew this before Corona has a clear advantage today. But what really matters here is the perfect mix ratio. Trusting employees to take responsibility for their own work should not end in doing nothing and being out of touch, just as well as well-prioritised goals should not end in exaggerated actionism. It is not the time to prove that you have what it takes right now.
And what about empathy? This is where it gets particularly exciting. Because in an organizational context, it does not mean unlimited charity or even pure pity. What is meant is to understand as a manager what the individual employee needs in the current situation. To perceive the individual and his or her needs, regardless of position, age or status.
A closer look at a classic situation in remote working is already revealing here: a team update, a video conference, 10 employees, a (mostly) well-functioning technical tool, more or less pronounced security in technical handling, 10 different workplaces, from a perfectly designed home office to a free corner in the broom closet (because at least there is peace and quiet), at least one dog, one child and a postman who appear in the picture in between, 10 different personalities with 10 different life situations. On many days, this is the only contact point between manager and employee and therefore the only visual and/or communicative anchor.
Clearly in advantage is the manager, who can interpret gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice and posture correctly. This is because he or she develops a good feeling for how best to deal with which employee in order to achieve goals together. But also about when help and support is needed, especially with people who rarely and extremely reluctantly ask for help.
Because empathy also means anticipation to a large extent. This means actively intervening, giving feedback, making a decision or simply being there when the need arises. One of the most difficult undertakings of human existence. How lucky that there are now effective training programs available for this. Because what was previously attributed as a core competence primarily to women and people in educational, psychological or nursing professions is now becoming the elixir of survival for companies and their managers.
Corona as an evolutionary accelerator in the field of leadership
Value-oriented leadership, i.e. leadership through security/structure/clear goals, as well as trust and empathy are no world novelties. Terms such as Agile Leadership, Management 3.0, or even the concept of value-oriented leadership, have been talked about, coached, rehearsed, rejected and trained a lot, especially when dealing with VUCA or the notorious Generation Z.
The current corona situation gives a real boost to the further development and change of leadership behaviour, which is difficult to reverse. Because it is not a choice, not an option among many others, but a real paradigm of our time. And in many an existence-threatening situation it is even crucial for survival.
The futurologist Matthias Horx even speaks of Corana as an "evolutionary accelerator". While some employees who act on their own responsibility already dream of extreme scenes such as holocracy or the abolition of the construct "leadership", hope for a noticeable further development can at least currently be found. After all, leadership behaviour, which was previously only found in a few companies, is after a short time now almost indispensable. And there could even be more empirical evidence about the topic of resilience.
The crisis is a productive state
So what should companies, small or large, start-up or long-established group, invest in the future? Clearly in a conscious, resilience-promoting type of management. Because the fact remains - people make the difference. And in times of remote working, forced or freely chosen, the necessary trust in employees, that time is used in a goal-oriented way and results are achieved, takes on a significance never before imagined. The old saying has been replaced. In individually created basic conditions, the motto of a self-responsible employee today and in the future is: "If you can work, you work".
If we dare to look into the future, resilience will increasingly become a core competence for organisations, even independently of Corona. After all, markets, customer requirements and technical progress will always be able to develop again in an unforeseen, rapid and volatile manner. "The crisis is a productive state, you just have to take away the bitter aftertaste of the catastrophe", Max Frisch already said.
What is the result of your management work? Productivity and creativity or chaos and fire extinguishing? Have the courage to take a closer look! Even if it hurts sometimes - you will thank yourself during the next crisis!