18 Jan 2021 16:32 IST

Begin 2021 by identifying key leadership competencies

Companies need to invest in building capabilities and make learning and development a priority again

2020 was a year of challenges. Yet, every individual, organisation, government and community, adapted and evolved. We have struggled, gone through ups and downs emotionally and physically, but we managed to survive. The world changed. Life changed. Ways of working changed. Consumer behaviour changed. Organisations revamped their business models and cut down expenses in pursuit of business continuity. As the news about the vaccines came out, people began to have hope. Then, came the shocker of newer strains of the virus in South Africa, UK and Nigeria. There was again a renewed sense of uncertainty.

We enter the year 2021 armed with learnings from 2020. We are far more resilient and adaptable than we give ourselves credit for. This year, we will heal and grow despite challenges that continue to exist. As much as we will gallop through, we still need to build competencies that help us deal with the upcoming challenges effectively. Here are some of them:

Emotional resilience

Each and every individual — manager, leader, home maker, business owner, or an entrepreneur — needs to be emotionally strong and resilient to be able to leverage his or her strengths and of those around. Each person is different and their response to realities around them is different. One size does not fit all, and hence enabling people to identify their own coping mechanisms and building emotional resilience will be a key priority for organisations.

Many organisations have extended work from home to April or May, and will decide when to re-open of offices as the situation unfolds. This means that managerial capability needs to be enhanced.

Accountability

Yes, business results are important, but managers need to demonstrate to their teams that they have their back. In these tough times, if results are not up to the mark, constant reprimanding can strip team members of any semblance of security and confidence. Success is not about this month’s targets or the next, it’s more long term. Managers need to balance between holding people accountable for business results and being considerate of mental health.

Listening skills

Managers need to develop listening skills. Remote working has eliminated or significantly reduced interpersonal connect. Listening carefully to team members comments, inputs, doubts and questions, responding with authenticity, and having empathy is important. Micro responses in virtual meetings stay with team members, so listening carefully, understanding the nuances and responding with care is required.

Solution oriented

As managers, demanding results is a prerogative, at the same time, providing guidance on how to achieve those results is the responsibility of a manager. If the team is struggling, the manager cannot just lay the blame on the team. The manager is just as responsible, and should be held accountable.

Building trust

If the team trusts the manager, they will break all boundaries and strive to achieve goals. Trust is built on consistent, authentic, empathetic, two-way communication, where solutions to problems are found collaboratively. The current business situation is not easy. Targets are stretched everywhere. And they will get achieved only if the team and the manager work as unit.

While all the above are critical for existing team members, they become all the more important where there are team members who are inducted in the team during the lockdown. New employees have not had a chance to work and build relationships in a pre-Covid era. In such situations, both the manager and the team members need to work extra hard to make the new inductee feel included and comfortable.

In 2020, many companies put learning and development budgets on freeze, rightly so, as there were other burning cost considerations. But 2021, they cannot afford to do so. Building the right competencies across all levels will be a key cornerstone to success. There are good costs and bad costs. Investing in building the right capabilities — individual, managerial and leadership — should be seen as an investment in building a sustainable organisation that will overcome all challenges.

(The writer is Founder, Managing Partner, Marching Sheep, an HR advisory firm.)