The past year, with its attendant pandemic, has taught us to take a day at a time and live purposefully. It has compelled us to be innovative and re-adjust various aspects of our lives, which includes the manner in which we do business across the globe.

Corporate work has dramatically changed in recent times. Flexible working arrangements and agility in working, which was introduced some years back has become the order of the day. Personally, I know some C-Suite executives, who vehemently opposed flexible and remote working arrangements, because, in their scheme of things, this was highly impossible, ineffective and rather detrimental to the performance of the business.

To such leaders, an employee has to be physically present, literally from 8 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday to prove himself or, herself productive and anything other than that is unacceptable. That was the lens from which they viewed work, their team’s effectiveness, performance and engagement. Their “lenses” with regards to work was very myopic because these leaders were definitely not thinking about unanticipated disruptions to our way of life, long term and out of the so-called “box”.

Several studies over the past few months show productivity while working remotely from home is better than working in an office setting. On average, those who work from home spend 10 minutes less a day being unproductive, work one more day a week, and are 47% more productive. A survey by Boston Consulting Group found that despite the challenges of the pandemic, 75% of employees feel that they have maintained or improved their productivity.

It is therefore time, for the leadership lens to change. An employee’s lifecycle has to be managed differently to meet the times we are in. There is an adage in Akan (a local language in Ghana) that literally translates as “when times change, you ought to change too”. Thus, reinforcing the statement that you either change or die.

It is imperative to note that flexy working arrangements have come to stay. These include:

  • Hybrid work 
  • Tele-commuting 
  • Remote work
  • Shift work
  • Job share
  • Part-time work
  • Condensed work weeks

Given that these practices are here to stay, how then should performance, team effectiveness and engagement be managed and viewed? This calls for a change in the Leadership Lenses in the following areas.

  • Managing performance: This,  which generally begins with the goal-setting process, needs to be done effectively, with the focus on SMART short-term objectives, which spells out clearly, key deliverables which can be measured.
  • Evaluation of performance: Leaders and managers do not necessarily have to see their team members evaluate their performance. Performance has to be measured by the agreed deliverables that are communicated by both parties. Therefore, emphasis is on the key milestones being delivered, through whatever digital means and per designated timelines as opposed to “presenteeism”. It is evident that whatever does not get measured and is never done.
  • Contingency planning: Of course, leaders or managers ought to plan, however, clear contingency plans have to be in place to forestall any eventualities. Unfortunately, as much as threats to strategic plans are often highlighted in the boardroom, the very little emphasis being placed on mitigating factors. More attention should be paid to business continuity plans.
  • Engaging employees: Engaging team members is no longer a” touch and go affair”. Instead,  employee check-ins need to be done more frequently through various means of technology and should be fun.
  • Feedback: Asking and giving feedback to team members, demonstrates that you care about them and the things that are important to them, such as family, challenges etc.
  • Learning: Offer learning and development opportunities to employees with the use of technology and ensure their participation for growth.
  • In-person retreats: From time to time, consider an in-person retreat to connect, re-fuel and take feedback on how to be innovative to make things work better and be more productive.

The challenge of keeping up with the new normal and changing the leadership lens which has been used over the years can be daunting. However, it is possible, with a change in mindset, continuous innovation, ingenuity, uncompromising determination and practice, the results of these changes could be phenomenal and transformational to our businesses.

Amma Korantema Ansah