Managing people in the new normal

Managing people in the new normal

Stefan Lauber, CEO of iFundi

Revolutions erupt suddenly. The 4th Industrial Revolution just hit us. As the world responded to the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses were forced to pivot into the cloud. What years of deliberation could not achieve, materialised in a few weeks, much faster than anyone could have imagined.

Many of the predicted consequences of the 4th industrial revolution have become true:

  • Companies without digital delivery channels are facing ruin
  • Unemployment has sky-rocketed even in healthy economies
  • Lower skilled workers have been affected particularly hard
  • Workplace and employment relations have irreversibly changed
  • Social inequalities are more pronounced than ever
  • Uncertainty about the future remains

How will this impact on the way people are managed in companies? We do not really know what the future holds. But four issues currently stand out:

  1. The New Workplace
  2. Developing Critical Skills
  3. Leading People
  4. A New Social Contract
  • The New Workplace

Until now, few employers believed that their staff could be trusted to work from home. Covid-19 proved that it is possible.

Free from the need to commute, employees are saving time and money, lowering the burden on the environment. With less distractions from their colleagues, staff can focus better on their work. Online meetings are at least as productive. Employees enjoy more flexibility while working from home, which should allow them to better balance personal affairs and work.

Yet, for some, the workday never ends. Unfortunately, not everyone rose to the challenge of working from home equally well. The promise of working remotely has often been undermined by poor connectivity. We miss social interaction with our colleagues, the conversations over coffee that spark new ideas and give us a sense of belonging.

The future may be a combination of working between office and home. Companies will have to develop new human resource policies that take advantage of the benefits of working from home while mitigating its disadvantages.

When people work remotely, less office space is required. The purpose of an office used to be to accommodate staff. The office of tomorrow will look different. It will seek to compensate for the drawbacks of working from home. The emphasis may be on how to facilitate better communication, collaboration, community and strengthening company culture. 

As the economic crisis will continue, companies need to be nimbler and reduce fixed costs. Non-core function may well be further outsourced. Companies are expected to continue reduce headcount and engage contractors when needed. The gig economy is here. With large scale retrenchments, employees will have to reinvent themselves to become entrepreneurs.

  • Developing Critical Skills

It has been predicted that every second person will have to be retrained to keep up with the 4th Industrial Revolution. As the pandemic has been rapidly changing our lives, we require new skills faster.

Of course, new technical skills, especially IT, are essential when going digital. Covid-19 is forcing managers to adapt their style. Individuals need more resilience, adapt to change quicker, be even more innovative, and solve bigger problems.

Critically, employees will need to manage themselves, with less support from their peers and less chances to learn from others.

The deck is stacked against newcomers. Our educational systems already struggle to produce the kind of people businesses need.  Making things worse, training budgets of companies are strained.

As the pressure mounts, companies will be looking for people who can hit the ground running. However, there will simply not be enough people with tomorrows skills. Companies will have to grow their own talent.

Google has introduced training that leads to career certificates. The private sector is getting involved in the production of talent. Work Integrated Learning such as learnerships, internship and apprenticeship programme are on the leading edge.

What matters in future are not degrees, but practical skills. But how will we recognise what people know? Portfolios of Evidence and Qualification Frameworks will gain in currency and so will product certification by vendors. They are already the norm in the IT industry.

Online learning used to be resisted. Covid-19 forced schools to go online without preparation. Until recently, eLearning was mostly one-way, a tool to present content. Thanks to the rapid adoption of video conferencing, it has become much more participatory.

  • Leading people

Monitoring Time and Attendance was a central component of how companies controlled their people.  How will companies manage their people when they do not need to show up at work.

Managers will have to learn how to manage their teams virtually and use technology to collaborate more effectively.

Performance management will become even more important. Rather than working from general job descriptions, employees and contractors will be held accountable for clearly defined outcomes.

A manager will still have to plan, effectively delegate and monitor delivery. But they will also need to lead, motivate their staff and provide emotional support in times of crisis. Transactional leadership is dead.

By the way, we are now no longer dealing with resources but real people. Compassion is going to be part of our discourse. The focus of human resource managers was a company’s employees. Going forward, the whole ecosystem of people – staff, contractors and suppliers will be considered by the people manager. As companies become leaner, partnership become more important, team members will belong to multiple organisations.

Occupational health and wellness in many industries were an afterthought. We have since learned that health issues can not only bring companies, but the whole world to its knees. The threat of future pandemics is not going away. With never abating pressures, emotional health and wellness are going to receive more attention.  

  • A New Social Contract

During the lockdown, the Gross Domestic Product of many countries shrank by more than 10%. Millions of people have joined the ranks of the unemployed. It will take many years to recover.

But more than ever, we have realised that we are interdependent. One person’s lack of care threatens all our health. Individualism, the believe in the survival of the fittest, is an outdated concept.

Governments were trying to find the middle ground of how to protect lives and livelihoods. During the lockdown, there was a clear shift in focus from profits to people – something that would have been untenable before.

We have experienced a fundamental shift to a more caring paradigm.  Companies will continue to protect their staff. Job creation will be everyone’s concern. There will be no consumers if people are destitute. We will not be able to trade or survive while environmental catastrophes engulf us.

The new normal demands a new social contract. One in which people and the planet will prosper. In as much as the 4th Industrial Revolution called for technological change, we need also social innovation.

2020 was the year of disruption. Let the pain we endured become the catalyst for progress. Let us not slide back to where we came from but instead create a new normal that is better than the past. If not, the danger is that nature will catch up with us again, as a single virus has just done.

This article was published in Fast Company magazine, November 2020 edition

How will the Next Generation Lead?

How will the Next Generation Lead?

by Alex Kinmont

We are currently living in a period of rapid change. The rise of the digital has made us a more aware society, able to access and share information and news like never before. Political figures are being held accountable online, digital activist groups are calling out large corporations and updates of environmental destruction are being highlighted across social media. We are in a climate of both social fragility and social growth.

In an exponentially evolving era, it is more vital than ever that we learn how to adapt. We need to live and work in a way which is in sync with the changing world.

The key is effective leadership.

South Africa’s next generation will be working and leading in an entirely new environment. They will navigate a world of online social and political activism and environmental crises.

So how will they lead each other in this novel era?

There are many different types of leadership. Each type works better according to environment. In such a rapidly changing time, which leadership style will be best for the future?


Here are 5 common leadership types:

  • Autocratic

Absolute, authoritarian control where an individual makes decisions for the many. Countries in Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa have more Authoritarian-led governments, such as China, Libya and Saudi Arabia.

  • Democratic

A Democracy is where decisions are made by a group. An individual may offer guidance but does not have total control. South Africa is run by a democracy, as well as many developed countries such as the United Kingdom and the USA.

  • Laissez-faire

Where leaders allow others to make decisions and offer minimal guidance. Also known as free-reign, delgative or hands-off leadership.

  • Transformational

Leadership which inspires and expects change within an individual or within an organisation.

  • Transactional

A leadership style where leaders encourage cooperation and success through rewards as well as punishments.

So how do we know what leadership style will best suit the next generation?

The most prominent example of a recent student movement is the #FeesMustFall protests. Occurring predominantly between 2015 and 2017, young people prided these events as being ‘leaderless’. What kind of leadership type is no leadership at all?

The next generation is revolutionising traditional hierarchies. Whereas some say leaderless movements are not as effective as they could be, what the new generation is moving towards is a more collaborative, equal society. This is a direct rejection of our country’s separatist and unequal past.

In an age where social justice is rife, equality is the essential goal.

Young leaders will adopt equality-driven leadership styles. Democratic, transformational, even hints of laissez-faire, will be favoured. As a fluid concept, young people are no doubt going to alter, switch and mix different leadership styles in order to come up with their own for the new world of work.

Flat leadership seems to be a probable choice, or at least variations thereof. Flat leadership ignores hierarchy and fixed job labels. It is more fluid, open to collaboration and equal opinion. The New York Times describes it as being “characterized by arbitrary labels in place of concrete titles, and an emphasis on an overall goal, but without a delineated hierarchical or “class” system”.

Whatever the next generation chooses, it will no doubt be unique in order to fit with the near future’s technological landscape. Between Global Warming and 4IR, how we live, whether we like it or not, is going to change. It’s already changing, and our leaders will bear the burden of leading us through it.


Leader as Coach with Aletta Raju and Linda Aiyer

Leader as Coach with Aletta Raju and Linda Aiyer

Why does a tennis player practice with a coach? Why does a bodybuilder work with a trainer? Aspiring and professional athletes work with instructors in order to reach their ultimate potential. In the sporting world, having a coach is a no-brainer.

So did you know that coaching is not just limited to sweatier occupations?

In today’s era of fast-paced development, spurred on by the onset of technology, employees and managers alike are under increasing pressure to keep their skills and businesses up with the times. If we are to stay ahead as innovative leaders and fill in the gaps where machines cannot, we have to work continuously on ourselves and our people.

Coaching is the fashionable new way of achieving Personal and Leadership Mastery. It is not teaching – it is guiding the action of learning. Coaching is a process wherein a guide will help a client achieve their full potential.

A coach is a facilitator for inner learning.

Accredited coaches Linda Aiyer and Aletta Raju came to i-Fundi to share their expertise on coaching for Personal and Leadership Mastery. In a two hour workshop, Linda and Aletta spoke to us about coaching as the ideal tool for helping us improve our personal effectiveness.

Linda Aiyer has over 20 years of corporate experience, but always felt like there was something missing in her career. Realising her passion for working with people, she has been focused on coaching for the last 6 years, with clients such as Times Media, Transnet and Media 24.

Aletta Raju’s knowledge and expertise on employee laws and relations is extensive, as she was admitted as an Attorney of the High Court in 1999 attained a Masters in International Human Rights Law in 2007. Aletta has been coaching for 7 years.

Linda and Aletta describe a coach as a “thinking and accountability partner”. With a coach, you will be guided with questions and insights along your personal journey. On a leadership level, you will be able to apply the same coaching methodologies to managing your team and be a coach yourself.

The advantage of this is having an expert opinion and influence on your decision-making and thought processes, giving you the opportunity to grow and build on your personal methodologies. Coaching in leadership is about helping your employees improve their individual and team performance from the roots level in order to improve your business. Coaching is for those who want their businesses to thrive in the competitive age by upskilling your workers from the foundation level.

Coaching is the tool you need to move you and your business to the next level. It is useful in how it pushes your business forward by individually upgrading each component – each member. Coaching is for those who want their businesses to thrive in the competitive age by upskilling your workers from the foundation level. Coaching is a leading style which recognises the value in helping your people prosper, because leading is more than simply delegating and dictating.

Leading as a coach is about leading from the ground up.

Aletta first focused on Personal Mastery and how a coach is there to facilitate private growth. Coaching is an equal partnership and, as Aletta explains, is about “creating a sense of awareness and fostering a sense of responsibility”.

In order to find a starting point for such a journey, Aletta had us fill in the Wheel of Life – a chart where we got to visually map our satisfaction with various aspects of our lives. This gave us an idea of where we should start our focus. Aletta then described the various pathways of change, from tangible changes in our behaviours to subtle changes in our motives. She explained how a coach can assist in this process by being a guide and asking the right questions to prompt effective answers.

Linda then built on this idea by elaborating on how coaching can be implemented as a leadership strategy. She first brought attention to the changing working landscape in terms of technology and how, in today’s economy, we have up to four generations working together in a single environment. These changes pose a challenge to any leader.

Linda led the conversation on the possible impacts these changes will have on our businesses, and then compelled us to discuss how a leader could accommodate such changes using coaching. She initiated this discussion by asking us to reflect on our past managers and what made them good or bad. Essentially, the managers who invested in us and our goals were the ones who were most successful in getting the most out of us.

This ‘investment’ in people is the essence of coaching.

Verena Armstrong from Discovery says the most significant takeaway for her from the workshop was the discussion around generational difference in the workplace, something which she hadn’t previously considered. Linda got us to think about the specific challenges we may be unknowingly facing regarding having three or four generations in a single office.

For tips on how to manage younger colleagues, read our article on understanding Generation Z here.

So how will coaching work for you in your business?

To lead as a coach will benefit any work environment as it is investing in the individuals who make up that team. To coach is to facilitate learning and growth. A leader with knowledge of coaching will know what questions to ask in order to prompt innovation and insight from their employees. By enforcing the foundation of your company, you are setting it up for exponential growth.

We are living in an extremely competitive and fast developing age. The evolution of technology is propelling the advancement of business and people, and because of its velocity, progress is becoming a race. Coaching is your fundamental weapon in pushing forwards. Coaching is the water for the roots of your business that will make it flourish.

For more information on leadership, management and coaching, click here.

We need a new generation of leaders

Article written by: Shalene Sogoni

The complexity, volatility and unpredictability of emerging markets, along with other market dynamics, are forcing organisations to critically reflect on new approaches to leadership development training and talent management.

There is an urgent need for a new generation of leaders with complex and adaptive thinking skills, and individuals who can unlock growth for their companies in creative ways.

Importantly, leadership which unlocks growth and innovation must also be mindful of social and environmental justice.

The speed of growth in emerging markets often renders our traditional leadership development models redundant. New approaches to leadership development are required.Today, human resources (HR), skills development practitioners and talent managers have to develop the leadership pipeline fast, and when external recruitment is not an option, the talent pool can either be new emerging talent or long-serving employees.

This can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, upcoming young executives with high potential are hastily promoted into senior leadership positions, and often their leadership capabilities are undeveloped and they lack emotional intelligence.

On the other hand, and perhaps as a result of the talent wars, organisations often promote long-serving employees to senior leadership positions. And, while they are strong performers in a chosen vocation, this does not mean that they are good leaders. The impact of both these dynamics can have a devastating effect on organisations with an undesired trickle-down effect of smothering staff morale and innovation, often impacting on bottom-line performance.

In an extensive research project involving 150 executives and their staff across the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa, authors Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown in their book Multipliers categorise leaders as either multipliers or diminishers. Diminishers underutilise people and leave capacity on the table, while multipliers leverage resources by increasing intelligence in people throughout organisations, leaving employees smarter and more capable.

Profiling leadership

Professor Kim Cameron – a pioneer of the positive organisational development school of thought – differentiates between positively and negatively energised leaders. His research indicates significant organisational benefits from energy networks created by positively energised leaders, while viewing negatively energised leaders as toxins.

The importance of accurately profiling leadership candidates then becomes very clear with the question arising: What does a positively energised and multiplier future leader in an emerging market look like? This question is important, because it will help organisations and HR practitioners to realign their outlook and approaches to leadership development, talent identification and staff promotion.

Firstly, emerging market leaders are visionary and imaginative. They are thinkers who dream big and find solutions to problems affecting their organisations, teams, products and services.

Next, good leaders for emerging markets create an environment where collective leadership flourishes. In short, the best leaders are those who understand that collective action, dialogue and collaboration are absolutely necessary to achieve organisational goals.

An additional feature of good leadership is the ability to create happy, stimulating and safe working environments for employees and their teams. Good leaders are experts in creating experiences and events that bind team members together, and they understand how critical these experiences are for talent retention.

Closely related to this is empathy. Empathetic leaders can view situations from many different vantage points. This enables them to understand perspectives other than their own, enabling them to create more authentic relationships and stronger engagements with colleagues and team members.

Good moral judgments

Good leaders have solid values and make good moral judgments, and this is becoming a very rare commodity in the market place – at least in South Africa. Corruption is an explosive issue in emerging markets, according to the study findings and research projects which show that corruption is higher in emerging markets than developed nations.

In South Africa, we are all too familiar with corruption in all forms. Bribery, nepotism and fraud. It is a general cancer eating away at many organisations and establishments, even on an international level. Perhaps the most clear and global example this year was Fifagate. Good leaders will not succumb to temptations, because they have solid integrity.

As indicated earlier, emerging markets are intricate and unpredictable ecosystems in which the organisations and leaders have to operate. The best leader is a clairvoyant who taps into his or her instinctive leadership. This individual uses intuitive intelligence for decision-making. In the past, leadership was logical and rational, and decision-making was based on data and evidence. But mounting evidence through neuroscience is moving intuition higher up the leadership ladder. Intuitive leadership allows leaders to anticipate and forecast change, which puts the organisation in a better position to exploit new opportunities and management threats.

Finally self-aware of their own limitations, strengths, weaknesses, and prejudices – this realistic assessment of the self and its effect on others helps leaders to fill the gaps. Should a candidate be lacking in the qualities of a “positively energised leader” or “multiplier”, coaching and mentorship interventions would in most cases assist with the personal transformation required. Unfortunately a small percentage of individuals are not coachable, because they lack the capacity for honest self-observation, reflection and behavioural modification. Such individuals should be guided away from positions of influence within organisations.

New ways

There are also three future trends for leadership development in emerging markets, which require vertical development. This will include awakening leaders to do things in new ways and encouraging them to analyse and challenge old assumptions.

This process is also accompanied by testing and experimentation with new assumptions to explore alternatives. The processes will unlock a new level of development or leadership logic, which kicks in after some trial and error.

* Shalene Sogoni is a KwaZulu-Natal business development executive for the NMMU Business School.

Article sourced: Business Report

Coaching as a Leadership Skill

Coaching as a Leadership Skill

How coaching can help your leadership skills

Managing people is never easy. When all else fails many a manager will start to think how to manage a non-performer out of his or her job. The question for Kerry Craig is not “how to manage people out, but rather how to manage people in. We need to know how to make people passionate about their work and show them how to get the work done.”

Download the presentation here: Coaching as a Leadership Skill

Coaching CoE 3Craig believes that coaching can help a great deal. Many companies, especially in the contact centre industry, agree with Craig. However most struggle with its implementation. One of the main reasons why managers do not coach is because they feel that they do not have the time to do it. “Ultimately, this is short-sighted. If you coach your staff, you will be able to delegate more, which will save you time.”

Like any other major change initiative, coaching needs to be visibly championed by senior management. It needs to become part and parcel a company’s culture. Craig proposes that this should be done in three phases.

  • Phase 1 is to create awareness and engagement. Staff need to be told what the programme entails and how it works. This is done when the programme is introduced but also each time  a new employee joins.
  • Phase 2 is about growing the capability to coach.  At this point, the emphasis is on linking the coaching outcomes with the company’s strategic goals. “We need to be able to track how coaching makes a difference in the business. For example, we may coach staff on how to following a certain process, we can thereafter show how a new process can contribute to the reduction of complaints or an increase in productivity.” Kerry explains.
  • Phase 3 is about sustaining and maintaining. One of the biggest problems in coaching is the lack of follow up. Craig reminded the participants that “we may agree on what needs to be done, but forget to check on progress and what still needs to be done.” The result is that people become cynical and will conclude that coaching is a waste of time.

When conducting a coaching session four factors are vital for coaching to be successful: sufficient preparation, insight and empathy, creating a sense of discovery and constructive behavioural feedback.

Closing the gap between expected performance and actual performance is what coaching is all about. People are much less defensive if they are confident that a coach is objective. That requires preparation “By having our facts on hand we are commenting on the behaviour and not attacking the person. Which allows us to give proper feedbacks. Instead of telling a person that s/he is always late, we need to gather the facts and be able to tell a person when s/he was late and by how much”, says Craig.

Part of coaching is to ask the right questions and then to listen.  At times the other person may not come forward. A coach must be comfortable with silence, sit with the silence until the other person replies. Only then will that person own the recommendation and become accountable for it.

We need to listen emphatically. “Being empathic is not about being sympathetic and feeling sorry for people, making their problem your own. Instead it requires that we ask probing questions and then confirm for understanding.”

But how can we understand others, if we do not understand ourselves? Coaching requires self-awareness. A coach needs to be aware of “how my own values interfere with the way I see the other person? Our own biases may get in the way of how we relate to others, which is very important if we consider how diverse the South African culture is. We need to be mindful of our own state of mind. Our feelings about others influence their behaviour, if you feel negatively about another person, you are unlikely going to be able to influence that person, because unconsciously our feeling show”.

A coach also needs to be adaptable and positive. “Given the fast pace of business today, a coach may him or herself struggle to accept change. How can I promote change, if I struggle myself?

Coaching is expected to help people improve and change their behaviour. Instead of telling people what to do, we need to help people find the way forward for themselves. “We cannot force anyone to change unless they want to change themselves. We need to promote a sense of discovery, get people to think for themselves, get them to experience a sense of control that is within them.”

“If you have an inner locus of control, you accept responsibility for your own behaviour. If that sense of control is external, you blame everyone else for what is going on. You do not accept personal responsibility, you will constantly blame others, and that means others will also not accept responsibility,” Craig elaborates. “When people say something, you need to ask yourself, what is that the person telling you, listen and reflect what you understand back to the other person. In that way you can help a person adjust their thinking. Ask probing question. Why is something happening?  Do you understand what the impact of your behaviour is on others? What does it mean for others”

All too often managers assume that their staff know what is expected from them. “They may have been told what their Key Performance Indicators are and they may have received their job description. However do they really understand them? People do not want to be the odd one out on the team, if a person understands what is expected, s/he is more likely to fit in. We need to constantly communicate what is expected to our staff, especially if there is change.”

Coaching CoE 2


CoE- Coaching as a leadership skill There are numerous ways of how we can communicate and provide feedback to people.

  • No communication is the worst. People do not know what to expect and will begin to speculate and be influenced by fear
  • Criticism makes people defensive and is unlikely to lead to behavioural change
  • Advice must be given correctly. Don’t give people the answers or spoon feed them rather help people to come up with their own solutions
  • Positive feedback is powerful. People crave attention and to be appreciated and valued. Unfortunately much more attention is given to people with performance problems instead of praising those who excel.

People often struggle with giving feedback. But there are a few rules that can make it easier:

  • Make your feedback specific, focus on the behaviour and refer to facts
  • Try to ask questions
  • Focus on a particular issue at a time. There is only so much a person can absorb at once.
  • Clarify what you want to achieve
  • Create a supportive environment, do not make people feel small, support people through your positive body language and voice.
Coaching is not limited to formally structured and scheduled sessions. There are other non-conventional coaching opportunities that are less time consuming and therefore valuable in time pressured environments such as contact centres. Amongst these opportunities are:
  • Working side by side with a person
  • Management by walk about
  • Giving people opportunities to participate on projects that allow them to learn new things
  • Performance management sessions
  • Buzz session where the team discusses progress and problem solves issues as they arise
  • Role modelling and working with a buddy
“To reap all the rewards of coaching it is essential that the coach successfully integrates coaching in the essence of every activity. This will ensure that coaching is not a once a week or monthly activity, that it is not disjointed from the employees day to day experience of the coach as a leader. It is something that you do not think about something that you do constantly. Coaching and building people must become part of your leadership style”, Craig concludes.
Download the presentation here: Coaching as a Leadership Skill
 Coaching CoE 1