I have been spending a little time amongst content and resources addressing leadership, management and personal development recently. These are not my forte as a specialism but I do have some experience as a manager and as a person. Understandably, there is a lot of material being created and gathered around themes of working in the COVID world. These orbit topics such as remote working, remote managing, communication, managing time, problem solving, critical thinking, wellbeing and resilience etc.
A great deal of the content I have looked at focuses on the capabilities and attitudes to succeed in professional and working life – how to make the most of ourselves and our circumstances to make the progress we see as most important. The thread running through much of this material is one of personal growth. Of being more personally effective. I wonder, as we exit 2020 and wobble our way towards 2021, whether this is solving the right problem. I wonder whether this focuses too much on the positive and assumes too much clarity of purpose. Maybe what we really care about now is less shiny and casts more shadows.
What is the most important problem to solve for a work based learning audience now? Is it “how can I make the most of my role and career in these circumstances?” or “how can I handle and overcome my enduring sense of anxiety, uncertainty and fear?” (Can I overcome it, or should I just try and deal with it?). I realise that this might not make a good marketing message (or might it?). It’s quite likely that the skills, tools and techniques covered in a learning experience aimed at these needs could be the same as the traditional, old world fayre. The challenge is whether that pre-COVID articulation and packaging meets the current motivation and sensibilities of the audience. I am not sure it does. Survival skills perhaps?
I wonder, further, whether it hits the mark for organisations either. In the spring, helping us make the swift and jarring transition to remote/home working and managing felt right. There was a clear and immediate need and there were practical problems to solve. In the winter of 2020, peering on to 2021, I suspect that many organisations are struggling with more existential questions (and if they aren’t there is cause for concern). They recognise that workforces are alienated, confused and anxious. They are struggling to connect and communicate usefully. They are knackered. Managers are the same. Productivity needs clarity of thought and deed, after all and commercial opportunity is under threat as trusted tactics of the past seem to evaporate. This is a time of deep worry and uncertainty for organisations as well. It’s not an unusual diagnosis.
Maybe pitching right at that fear and anxiety for leadership is a sound approach as well? Support the workforce in making some sense of how it feels. Help it cope first. It can, hopefully, grow thereafter. Helping us understand it and work amongst it all is a good contribution. Survival skills. Maybe that’s a better organisation problem to solve as well?
All this is to say nothing of this seemingly endless waiting. I have never waited so long for so many things in my life…