Ask any experienced people manager and they are likely to say that leading and managing people is probably the most demanding aspect of their role and the element that has caused most sleepless nights ! It is also the area which may receive least attention as a focus on technical capability is often prioritised over soft skills. Yet the people aspect of management is really where the game is won or lost because, regardless of how wonderful a strategy may be from a business perspective, it is the people who bring it to life. In my experience, many people find themselves managing a team with very little practical training to support them in this role and that can be very unnerving. No two people are the same so what will work with one individual may well fail with another. There is no one size fits all. People management is nuanced and has to be continually adapted to the person and the moment and therein lies the challenge. On top of this the culture of the organisation can help or hinder the situation; some cultures are very supportive and actively encourage their people to avail of L & D supports, unfortunately in other environments individuals are reluctant to seek help, perceiving it (incorrectly ) as a sign of weakness. Having worked in leadership development for over twenty years I can say hand on heart that I have yet to meet anyone who claims to be a naturally gifted leader who gets it right 100% of the time. Leadership is a journey of learning, not a destination. Motivated learners can acquire the knowledge, skills and behaviours that can make all the difference to both confidence and capability. We all perform better when we know what we are doing and can be sure-footed in our approach.
In the present Covid environment the challenges are even more pronounced as people adapt to the demands of remote working, maintaining motivation in isolation, coping with unprecedented levels of change and mastering the new communications platforms. Many people are missing the structure that the office environment provides while others are thriving while working from home. What began as a short term measure, is now evolving into a longer term initiative and things are unlikely to go back to the way they were before. While everyone would wish Covid-19 had never shown its face, it has provided a positive opportunity for change and a crash course in crisis management. It has also heightened our awareness of the need for effective leadership when our environment has so many uncertainties. Pubilius Syrus once observed that ‘ Anyone can steer the ship when the sea is calm’ and now we can all appreciate what he was getting at. The test of leadership is when the sea is choppy and at the moment many people feel that they are bobbing around on a somewhat unstable raft! We judge leaders on how they cope with crisis and what we hope for are people who are credible, expert and trustworthy. How do you measure up?
In an emergency we have proven ourselves to be adaptable beyond our wildest dreams, now let’s build on that momentum. We need to reflect on our collective experiences of the past six months and use our insights to shape the future of how we work together. Open the dialogue with your team – what worked well? What were the upsides/downsides of remote working? Where have I /we struggled? How have we met our deliverables? What have we missed or lost in the transition? What can we do to build our team collaboration? What is our vision for the next 12 months ?
Surely a conversation worth having?
Ashley Hughes is a driven professional with 20 years’ experience in the People Development arena working across public, private and voluntary sectors. She has exemplary learning and development credentials offering a proven track record of success in the design and delivery of engaging learning programmes. Her specialisms include soft-skill training, personality profiling workshops, leadership development, organisational effectiveness, building high performance teams, managing virtual teams, managing change and creating enabling organisational cultures.
Ashley has worked with Public Affairs Ireland for over ten years and is the programme designed and leader for the ILM accredited Leadership in the Public Sector Programme. As a qualified Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Practitioner she runs personality profiling workshops to raise individual self-awareness and enhance team collaboration. Ashley attended Yale School of Management, New Haven, Connecticut, where she studied the management of virtual teams and the behavioural science of management. The insights gained have equipped her with the knowledge and skills to support people now working in virtual environments.
Ashley has also designed bespoke programmes to address specific client needs across the Public Sector.
She holds an M.Sc in Management from Trinity College and is a HETAC qualified Master Trainer. She has practitioner qualifications in MBTI (step 1 & 2) and Blanchard Situational Leadership. She has lectured in leadership at MBA level for the past ten years at Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.