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Meaningful moments for leadership

An unprecedented experiment is taking place, globally

We are now part of the world’s most massive workplace experiment. But it isn’t taking place in a ‘workplace’ per se. It is taking place from our elected bubbles.

Many of us experienced new ways of working in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes, and more recently, those in the lower North Island. These moments of crisis created a springboard for change to the ways that many of us worked. And we haven’t looked back.

We have since adopted flexible working practices as common-place, and to some degree, we now expect flexibility at work. This has been further reinforced with the New Zealand public sector declaring all its roles to be flexible by default by mid-this year, and through the recent strengthening of our employment legislation. 

Many of our organisations have adopted flexible working practices to a point but have stopped shy of adopting full flexibility. The options available to the workforce generally sit within existing, traditional workforce policies, terms and conditions, for example, flexibility within normal business hours, or based on whether a specific role can easily be delivered from afar.

As a result, many of our organisations are underprepared for what it means to move to a fully flexible workforce. Full flexibility goes beyond the provision of technology and tools for our people to work away from the office. It extends to ensuring that we also rethink how jobs are designed, how performance is assessed and how we work as teams. It also requires a different and strengthened leadership approach.

This brings us to today. As we start to make sense of coming out of lockdown, our people leaders are facing an unprecedented leadership challenge. How they create meaningful leadership moments when many no longer see their people face to face.

‘Meaningful’ by its very definition is the act of sharing something worthwhile, that may not be expressly said but is felt by the receiver. Meaningful leadership moments are the small things that leaders do that speak louder than words. Our people remember these things because they are associated with a feeling; positive or negative. Whether our leaders are conscious in their efforts to create meaningful moments, they will occur.

There are a few easy steps for our leaders to take to ensure that they are creating decisive, meaningful leadership moments.

The best place to start is to reach out to individuals. During times of crisis, it can be easy to fall into the trap of communicating at, and not with, individuals especially when we are sending out update emails, and holding virtual team meetings. Our leaders must prioritise the informal personal conversations and one on one check-ins with their people, because these matter.

It’s during these meaningful moments that our leaders get a sense of how their people are really getting on. As we are finding out, working from home doesn’t necessarily mean having more time and less stress. In the current environment, it has become more.

Guest writer, Danni Williams, is an Associate Director in PwC’s People and Organisation consulting practice.