New Leadership Challenges in 2020 and beyond

23 August 2020 Agnes Villanyi

Agi Blog

​New Leadership Challenges in 2020 and beyond

2020 has thrown many challenges and one of them is the way we lead.

The COVID 19 pandemic has put extraordinary pressure and demand on leaders - managing teams and keeping up productivity remotely during unpredictable, uncertain and unprecedented circumstances is something that not many leaders have been skilled for.

Without being conclusive on the topic, here are a few challenges that have been raised by corporate leaders and their team members during my conversations since the global pandemic started:

Listening.The art of listening, not just to those more senior in an organisation, but to internal and cross matrix teams has never before been brought to the fore like it has today. As we work remotely and do not have the usual day to day connection points which often allow us to feel the pulse of an organisation and industry, we now have to encourage and adapt communication during this time of the ‘new normal’. The days of closing an office door or an informal chat as we walk to a meeting/café are almost non-existent. These informal mediums are important as team members feel more relaxed and can open up about issues or seek guidance without formally requesting information through an email or online team call. Even working one or two days a week in the office means these opportunities are much fewer than before, which can cause havoc for individuals, teams and leaders.

Workload and efficiency.Workload shared among a team is where a manager decides which members are better suited for each task. This is much harder to do in our current environment and therefore it is now more important than ever that we develop leadership skills to adapt to this challenge. Knowing how an employee is coping with workload is particularly challenging in the current environment. No one wants to look like they are struggling and no one wants to appear as though they can’t do their job unsupervised. A perpetual challenge of leadership is allocating workload and now is the time to look closer into this. This does not mean micromanaging teams, but rather asking individuals for task completion estimates and managing your expectations as a leader/manager, and later revisiting them again with the employee will help align when a person needs assistance or support.

Isolation and engagement. Keeping the team engaged both on individual and team levels was one of the first challenges that were mentioned in the early days of working from home and it keeps coming up in my conversations still. Without having the face to face interaction in the office environment it has been hard for managers to understand the right balance between giving the right amount of support and being perceived as micromanaging. Encouraging people to open up to colleagues to bounce ideas is something they can usually work out themselves, but formally asking team members to do this by grouping or pairing them will take it to another level and ensure that no one is being left entirely alone. This will pay dividends for the individuals and for the company as better output will be achieved. We have been practicing this at Parity with 2 consultants working in teams on each role since this pandemic started and we really saw the benefits in terms of shorter turnaround, motivation, spirit at work, and overall productivity. Be mindful of the dynamics of the individuals though when asking for this and check in occasionally to understand progress.

Rapidly changing environment.The global crisis has brought rapid and constant changes and we have seen situations change by the day or even by the hour. We are adapting to many changes so fast on both individual and corporate levels - changes that effect our work, personal and family life, well-being and health. These changes that are coming from every direction, government, health authorities, workplace and community, and it is a role of leaders to manage through these changes making sure that their team is supported, flexible and up to date with new technologies. Reskilling and upskilling employees can also help to adapt to the changing environment.

All these abrupt changes and uncertainty has required us all to be supportive of one another, step up in our roles, be more flexible and resilient. With all the “social” distancing (that really is physical) we have been building more adaptive teams, encouraging more connections, and looking out for each other. We have successfully navigated to where we are so let’s ensure the journey improves as we build on what we have learnt!

Agnes Villanyi is a Senior Consultant at Parity Consulting – specialising in Product Management and Product Development roles across Asset and Wealth Management. An avid ice skater, experimental Italian cook and trained personal stylist, Agnes is passionate about identifying great talent and helping them achieve their ambitions and progress their careers in Product.

For a confidential discussion about opportunities in Product Management and Product Development in 2020, contact Agnes Villanyi on +61 405 395 021 or avillanyi@parityconsulting.com.au.