CHRO Community Conversation discusses managing, performing and mental resilience in a crisis

Henley’s Jon Foster-Pedley explored how leaders have had to change how they manage people.

In this week’s CHRO Community Conversation, hosted by CHRO SA in partnership with Workday, dean and director of Henley Business School Africa Jon Foster-Pedley explored how leaders have had to change the way they manage people.

He also touched on managing KPIs and deliverables, managing burnout, and how to develop mental resilience – remotely – while also teaching it to team members.

Make reality your friend and get off autopilot

Jon said Henley Business school changed all their face-to-face learning to online learning two weeks before the lockdown and have since managed their budget, and increased their staff complement. Everyone remained employed and they received high customer satisfaction rates.

“A big part of what we’ve had to do was to teach ourselves to stay awake,” he said, “which means making reality your friend. Everything in our lives pulls us away from reality.

“We have to train ourselves to understand what’s coming, and not be scared by it, be present and take the uncomfortable thing we are facing (which is reality) and understand it rather than be overtaken by it.”

He said in the face of uncertainty we have a craving for certainty or some sort of rational explanation because explanation makes enough sense for us to move forward. That’s why we become so open to conspiracy theories, which make us vulnerable.

Big picture thinking
Jon said in order to see the bigger picture, we must be detached, conspiracy-proof and not get sucked into a particular interpretation of life.

“Even if we love the interpretation, we must hold it in suspense. We must have strong opinions, lightly held, not strong opinions, strongly held.”

He added that to be detached, we need to have emotional control and poise, be able to reason, and force ourselves to see the bigger picture and reality. This can sometimes be uncomfortable, he pointed out, because we will need to go against our beliefs and values, and assumptions about life.

“You have to understand systemic things – or the relationship between things – and teach systems thinking, which allows you to deal with complex problems. We also need the capacity to imagine and visualise and innovate to build the future, adding a strong sense of purpose and vision beyond the individual and organisation.”

Skill up – build your own academy
Jon highlighted the importance of sharpening your skills and always learning.

“You can do numerous online courses; you can apply your learning to your real life and get a coach or mentor to help you. You also need to choose what you read and watch to push and develop your brain, try new skills and if you do all these things, you will learn and whatever you learn will be much richer than before,” he said.

Understand safety – it’ll teach you wisdom systems thinking
Jon said understanding the root causes of problems helps. “If you have a headache, you can take an aspirin. That will cure the headache for a day, but it does not take the problem away. Because it could be that you are not mindful, you are not meditating or you’ve got strain or you need to find someone you can talk to more often.”

He adds that when you understand the kind of problem you have, you can react to the events, adapt or plan for the patterns, and prevent any faulty underlying structures and mindsets.

Have substance in your voice and be an activist
“We need to have substance, impact and voice,” he said, explaining that voice is impact, change, substance and it moves people, “Voice is not complaining, it is speaking from a stance of human equality and not of a lesser or victim. It involves optimism.

“Having a voice is having initiative and capacity to act when outcomes are uncertain and taking ownership of end results and completion,” he explained.

Cycling between stagnation and innovation
Jon said organisations often stagnate because they think they have core systems, values, stability and everything is wonderful. So they stick with that and don’t add anything, which leads to their downfall.

He said they lose energy and miss opportunities; they lose people because their people are bored and unmotivated and they also lose profits.

So they create innovation programmes and there is new energy and direction, new creativity and new wisdom, and after a while it ends again when people lose continuity, take foolish risks and lose core values.

“So, we cycle around these trends and that’s why we have consultants and they make money out of organisations. We have innovation consultants and business process engineering consultants and process management consultants and each one is waiting for the cycle to change for you to employ them.”

He added that what organisations need to do is hold the dynamic balance between competitive advantage cycles.