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Aug 12, 2019 | NEWS2USE

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To hear such a statement would make any manager’s heart sing. And it does for those who create the conditions for their team to be fully engaged in their work. In these times of constant change and economic challenge, managers can easily get caught up in the anxiety of survival. That’s when they might forget their all-important role of building the team to ensure an engaged spirit of ‘rising to the challenge’, rather than the slog of ‘trying to stay alive’.

Let’s face it, it’s challenging out there. 139 South African companies closed down in January due to bankruptcy. This rose to 216 in May this year, according to the Trading Economics report.To hear such a statement would make any manager’s heart sing. And it does for those who create the conditions for their team to be fully engaged in their work. In these times of constant change and economic challenge, managers can easily get caught up in the anxiety of survival. That’s when they might forget their all-important role of building the team to ensure an engaged spirit of ‘rising to the challenge’, rather than the slog of ‘trying to stay alive’.

In March the IMF lowered South Africa’s projected GDP growth to 1.2%, an economic performance rated amongst the worst in sub-Saharan Africa. The IMF lowered growth in GDP for 2020 to 1.5%.  See here 

With a population of 58 million, Stats SA  revealed that 62,000 fewer people were employed in the first quarter of 2019 than in the fourth quarter of 2018. Unemployment stands at 27.6%.

With declining employment and low economic growth, and inflation forecast at 5.2%, it means more people out of work, and higher prices – a toxic mix. See Business Tech report.

President Ramaphosa is doing what he can to stabilise business confidence, standing at a low of 28 points in the second quarter 2019. So, with South Africa still a long way from coming out of the economic woods, the question to employers is:

How will you improve the link between your ‘resources’, especially your workforce, and your ‘opportunities’, to survive and thrive in these challenging times?

In difficult times, many tend to focus on cost-saving and retrenchment. This might be penny wise and pound foolish. Productivity remains the key, and customer satisfaction, not short-term profit, is the long-term performance indicator. So, to continue to survive and thrive and establish a firmer foundation for future growth, you need an even sharper focus on quality and competitiveness of your products and services. That again demands a renewed focus on customer and stakeholder relations.

Workplace coherence


Ultimately, such ‘relations’ are about people, especially with your frontline employees. While production lines and quality control are increasingly automated, you can still encourage proactive employee engagement to ‘walk the extra mile’. At this time, you need to do even more to develop a culture of workplace coherence. This might be the ultimate measure of your leadership capacity. Whether it applies to the individual or the group, coherence is where people work well together. You as team leader can now pay attention to enable four vital qualities of workplace experience:

• Encourage a sense of appreciation – help employees recognise the good stuff in the opportunity they have to work in the business.
• Encourage positive expectation – create a vision that enables employees to look forward to their future with the organisation.
• Instill a sense of self-confidence – help employees develop an attitude with which they feel capable of ‘taking it on’.
• Encourage good relationships with colleagues – like any successful coach, promote great teamwork.

Medical sociologist, Aaron Antonovsky, described three conditions for workplace coherence, where you as team leader can further empower your employees:

• First is ‘comprehensibility’: help employees understand what the business is about and their personal role in contributing to its achievement. When they feel appreciated, they in turn appreciate the opportunity. Richard Branson of the Virgin Group ensures that his employees feel significant in the team.

• Second is ‘manageability’: boost your employees’ confidence in their skills through training and creating opportunities to gain experience. Amazon offered to cover the full costs of training all its employees in any personal choice related to their skills-upgrading – even learning to become future Amazon pilots!

• Third is ‘meaningfulness’: Help employees find value in doing their jobs beyond merely getting a paycheck. Paul Pohlman of Unilever discourages speculative investment in their shares. ‘Invest in the company’, he insists, ‘…because you believe in the quality and value we bring to the market and to society’. He encourages the same attitude from his employees. Coming third after Google and Apple, and before Microsoft and Facebook, Unilever is one of the most sought-after places of employment. Pohlman claims it’s because they are seen as a place of purpose. Since he took over as CEO employee satisfaction rose by 12%. Read the full article here.

If you want proactive engagement from your employees, first get them to consider this simple question:

“How does my personal role as employee contribute to the ultimate company outcome – and how, in turn, does the company success benefit me?”

Finally, the fourth condition for coherence we identified was optimizing working relationships with colleagues. So, invite your employees to consider these questions:

“How good is my relationship with the people, or the department, from whom I receive my work, and how can I improve that?”

“How good is my relationship with the people, or the department, receiving my work to progress it further – how can I improve that?”

“How well do I understand their expectations, and do they understand mine – and what can I do about that?”

As with any successful winning team, organisational performance is about ‘wholeness’. The greater their coherence, the more effective proactive engagement will become. In these challenging times, ultimately, management and leadership need to rise to the next level. This is explored in more depth in the following article.

Keeping your team plugged in – 4 tips


Tip 1: Applaud the positive

In challenging times avoid being like many who fixate on the difficulties. ‘Every cloud has a silver lining’ can become true when you actively look for that ‘silver lining’. Develop an attitude of appreciation and share this with your team to help them see the good stuff.



Tip 2: Dwell on the good and it will grow 

‘What you focus on is what you get’. Instead of dwelling on what has gone wrong, cultivate an attitude of positive expectation. Imagining and sharing good outcomes generates enthusiasm and creativity.


Tip 3: Speak the positive you want to see

Complimenting people on, their abilities helps build self-confidence and a willingness to improve areas needing improvement. Appropriate praise encourages employees with enthusiasm to ‘take it on’!


Tip 4: Cultivate a collaborative culture

In stressful times those ‘office politics’ often result in teams being riddled with competitiveness and jealousies – draining enthusiasm. Focus on the interdependence of their roles to build togetherness and achieve success.



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