A comment by Peter Majer
Who are the right managers to navigate companies safely through the storm and rough sea of corona waves? How do you deal with employees' fears of the future? How does leadership over distance to the home office look like? How do you deal with employees for whom the daily commute to work and presence in the office already poses a potential danger of infection? But even for very pragmatic problems, such as conducting meetings with mouth-nose protection that impairs breathing and speaking and obscures the important facial expressions, solutions are needed.
The key words are empathy, resilience, ambiguity and above all authenticity. Empathy and resilience are terms from psychology and thus characteristics that are essentially already inherent in the personality itself and cannot be learned at expensive business schools.
Empathy, which Wikipedia describes as the ability and willingness to recognise, understand and empathise with the sensations, emotions, thoughts, motives and personality traits of another person. It also states that the basis of empathy is self-perception. The more open a person is to their own emotions, the better they can perceive the feelings of others.
This is where the dilemma of managers with narcissistic tendencies already begins. The discrepancy between self-perception and external perception is huge. It is mostly managers who expect 24/7 availability from employees, who lead in an authoritarian and landlordlike manner, for whom only performance counts and who find the only valid truth exclusively in themselves. Their self-built throne has suffered significant cracks because they have also lost their seemingly secure predictability of the future in the form of double digit growth and employees have long since ceased to accept their self-created authority. They are still struggling for status and retention of power, but do not have any solution templates that fit the current, unprecedented situation.
Rather, what is needed now are managers who are resilient and can deal with uncertainty and ambiguity. They remain capable of action because they are open to new solutions. They remain calm, reassess themselves and the situation realistically and constantly and adapt their strategy.
Managers who cultivate a management style based on trust and appreciation and who can be sure that their employees will also call on their performance in the home office. Regular, results-oriented feedback and joint online meetings are essential as distance management tools. More than just hygiene concepts are required for the return to the workplace. Even the way to work with public transport poses the first risk of infection. Open communication about fears, monitoring compliance with corona safety regulations and acceptance of the individual personal situation are particularly important. It is the manager's task to convey to employees that everything is done to ensure the greatest possible safety at the workplace. However, the quality of work should not suffer in the process. For example, the quality of meetings can be severely affected by wearing mouth and nose protection and observing distance rules. In case of doubt, it is therefore better to use video conferencing on the PC, even with employees who are present in the office, in order to be able to concentrate on factual issues instead of following distance rules.
However, the most important characteristic of good leadership is authenticity. The dominant leader, who has ruled like a lion with clear rules and the greatest possible social distance, and who now takes care of his employees' concerns patiently and lamblike, is not credible. He will be seen through and the employees will probably make bets on when the wolf will throw off the sheep's clothing and show his true face.
Of course, it will be difficult if the current leaders in the company do not have the personality traits and leadership styles required in the crisis. Fortunately for the company, which has already built up a pool of managers with different talents within the company. They can react accordingly at short notice.
For all others, there are obviously two options. The hope that the crisis will be over as quickly as possible and the lion can roar again, or the targeted search for new, contemporary managers to be better prepared for the post-Corona period and future, hopefully non-occurring pandemics, or even certain exceptional corporate situations.
It is to be expected, however, that even after the pandemic, the far-reaching cuts and changes in all areas of life triggered by it will not allow a simple return to the status quo before the crisis began. This also applies to the management of employees.
Peter Majer holds a degree in business administration and is Senior Partner Pharma / Life Science at BESTMINDS GmbH Freiburg. He places specialists and executives in the pharmaceutical and life science industry and deals with the topic of leadership. He has worked as a manager in the pharmaceutical industry for more than 25 years and has successfully led teams of up to 200 employees. You are welcome to contact him for a free initial consultation. Peter Majer will dedicate himself with passion to your challenges.
Graduate in Business Administration, Senior Partner
M +49 172 68 404 58
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