The current pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the importance of both leadership and employee commitment. Where in the past the work of key workers has increasingly been defined in productive and quantitative terms the nation is not (literally) applauding their commitment. For small companies the commitment that can flow out of the relationship between leadership and engagement is key.
Management writer Daniel Pink has argued for some time that real performance flows out of intrinsic motivation and not material rewards and fear of sanctions. He argues that the key drivers of motivation are autonomy, mastery and purpose. Well, working from home has provided far more autonomy for most people. Remote working, to be successful, has required employees to assume a far greater mastery of their own work than previously when there were managers and processes to ensure visible compliance. The uncertainty of the crisis has exposed the fragility of economics and life, which has caused many people to think about the purpose of the work that they do and the lives that they lead. Organisations that have been able to align and re-purpose their businesses towards supporting others have gained much respect with employees and customers.
Key to surviving disruptive times is to start by shifting the organisational culture from what Argyris calls single loop learning; where people ask ‘how do we do things right?’ to the far more challenging double loop learning question of ‘what are the right things?’. This means to question fundamental assumptions about what we do and how we do it. In disruptive times, simply leaning harder upon established best practices may well prove disastrous. Evidence of this taking place often appears through people working harder but organisational performance continues to decline. When this happens its time to stop and apply double loop learning.
Some employees find adapting to new working practices deeply unsettling and this requires leadership that is not just visionary, but also caring. One of the great discoveries of this crisis has been that many people that were on very low wages with poor career prospects have seized this moment to step up and show, through their actions, that they can and will do more, if provided the opportunity and encouragement. Think about care workers, farm labourers and delivery drivers. My experience suggests that very often the most innovative and profitable ideas to improve performance are found within the company. If managers can create an environment where it is okay to question assumptions and speak up, rather than simply told to get on with their work, the results can be surprising. Whatever you have done before this crisis is a defining moment. Would you like to learn how to leverage your businesses core competence in new ways and build employee commitment? What kind of leader will you be? Let us help you be the best that you can be.
Develop and master core competencies in support of your management and leadership ambitions. The Staffordshire University MBA is designed to accelerate your professional and personal development and to contribute to the journey of being the best you can be. You can also study the MBA via our Level 7 Senior Leader Apprenticeship where you will also gain a Chartered Management Institute (CMI) Level 7 Diploma.