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Five major challenges to leaders in post-pandemic organisational management

By G. Balasubramanian

The Pandemic has indeed been a major assault to the health of many organizations. While it did not uproot any, but it did shake the roots of many. With their business models and targets of achievement going haywire, a large number of organizational leaders kept their laptops engaging for several nights (and days too!) over an additional cup of coffee. Classical models of problem solving and decision making to which they had stayed tuned for a number of years became irrelevant forcing them to look for contextual, geo-specific, time-bound models which have been synchronous to their earlier flow charts for action. Though the kind of challenges faced by the leaders varied depending on the type of business and universe of operation, they could be captured in five major heads.

Showing Financial Prudence

The most critical skill the leaders needed was administering prudence in fiscal management. With a powerful onslaught on the inflow of financial resources, the leaders had to refabricate their financial infrastructures – regulating the outflow, cutting the headcounts, reviewing the new projects, controlling the overheads, reducing the rewards, moderating their advertisements, re-sizing their infrastructures, zeroing down their travel expenses and looking for ways to enhance the income through alternate gateways. The task of exercising financial prudence was not all that easy, as it had to be done taking into confidence several of the units operating in the organization. Conveying a powerful and effective message down the line, without letting the team press a panic button, demanded powerful communication skills – to keep their functional dynamics alive, engaging and at the same time seeking an enhanced productivity profile from each of them.

Managing the Logistics Turbulence

In several of the organizations, the logistics on which their operational profile was embedded was disturbed significantly. The logistics which helped them to manage the lifeline of the organization became no more valid in the pandemic background, as the total psyche of the consumer universe was haunted by factors which were negative – fear, anxiety, uncertainty, helplessness, financial crunches, minimalism, social disconnects and reduced mobility. The leaders had to put in place a much more sensitive, localized, conscious, time-bound, result oriented and resource friendly logistics. This had to be done as a collaborative experiment keeping the several verticals of operating line as participants so that the design and the flow of logistics was fluid, yet stable, informed and pragmatic.

Dealing with Employees' Work-life conflicts

The pandemic essentially was not a business problem. Business was indeed one of the victims of the several domains which was impacted by it, as it spread its arms like an Octopus. Hence it affected the mental, social, and professional health of all the components of the organization, leave alone their financial health. Lockdown restrictions immobilizing everyone from entry to office premises, rescheduling of working time, attending meetings and work from home with an entirely different psychological infrastructure, extended working time to reach out to commitments and the like, penetrated the domestic personal life designs and relationships. This impacted every single member of the family system and oftentimes intervening with their personal space leading to an emotional disquiet, intangible tensions in relationships and healthy family life. The infringement into the personal space of many homes was not received well by all. The inadequacy of support systems for effective work from home led to panic situations, stress, and avoidable additional expenditure. Many leaders of organizations, though conscious of such impacts to their staff, found themselves helpless. Many organizations could not support the employees either financially or by scaffolding structures due to their own financial challenges. The cut-down in salaries in many cases led to psychological depression. The fear of loss of job was haunting the mind in view of the dip in the growth curve of the organizations. Leaders had to work with their HR verticals more closely and effectively to examine issues from time to time. The residues of the impact of the pandemic on the work-life balance has not yet been removed from its space. Lessons in Emotional Intelligence in workstations would go a long way to put the situation on track. Leaders indeed need enough time to restore the health of the work-life balance equation.

Sustaining Brand and its Management

Brand Management was indeed a challenging issue to many top leaders. Both due to pandemic and its resultant market impacts, the value of the brand started declining in many cases, either on stocks or in terms of the numbers in which they were operant. With low reach out through advertisements, with removal of the brand ambassadors as a part of cost-cutting, withdrawal of subsidies to distributors and customers for their functions, events, seminars, and measured engagements with the media from time to time, the organizations were fighting with their established patterns of brand management. Brand Management called for a conscious design thinking. The leaders had to review many of their consultancy practices and agencies to avoid additional costs, and hence the load and the stress for conscious and productive decision making emerged as a challenge to the leaders. The twin challenges of sustaining the brand and growing the brand in a compelling negative environment called for excellent articulation of the leadership skills.

Collaborating with Leadership Teams

Most organizations have multiple leadership verticals depending on their functional patterns. Collaborating and coordinating with the team of leaders from remote was a new challenge. The level and the quality of communication within the team suffered some amount of inadequacy and mismatch. Bringing all leaders in the same matrix to think together, to engage with a shared vision, to have open dialogues on possibilities and challenges, to work with empathy and understanding, supporting each other in their growth profile called for newer life skills in leadership. Bringing ‘win-win’ approaches in trying times of performance needed wisdom in leadership. The message of a formidable team in organizational leadership conveys to the markets a healthy message building trust and confidence.

The post-pandemic situation indeed calls for articulated skills in leadership in all organizations. It may be essential to some organizations to put in place a comprehensive training to their leaders to become relevant and competent and to stand tall through these turbulent times.