EXPERTS IN BUSINESS EDUCATION

Interview with Pilar Cabral Majerovic: How to deal with COVID-19?

We interviewed our lecturer Pilar Cabral Majerovic, who is a consultant and an executive coach and trainer with more than 20 years of experience.
SSBM’s Lecturer, Pilar Cabral Majerovic

From your perspective, what do you think are the main effects that COVID-19 will impose on the overall organization and its employees?

The COVID-19 outbreak has faced the employers with a need of a fast reaction to an unprecedented disruption in business, as well as a need to protect employees’ health and security in the workplace. Healthy employees are crucial to their companies. The Covid-19 outbreak imposed a quick business reorganisation and from what we can see, most of the companies responded to the required adjustments thanks to remote work with flexible policies, including leaves to avoid firing people whenever possible. While these measures mainly relate to medium and big companies, the survival of smaller companies is unfortunately more complex. Now it will be interesting to observe how organizations will handle the ease of lockdown and the after Covid-19.

In regards to leadership, how do you think leaders can support and lead their employees in this unpredictable time?

Leadership is the key success factor to any organisation. During times of crisis, employees look up even more for guidance, security, and support. Clear, transparent and continuous communication are more than ever required.

Mental well-being has become even more important nowadays. Checking in individually with teams is the best way to show presence and support. Genuinely caring and being present for every single team member, will definitely make the difference. For some people assistance will be more on an emotional level, for others the work-life balance might be a challenge, not to mention the potential financial challenges related to salary reductions or worse, forced unemployment.

Team conversations won’t be enough, an individual and personalized approach is required to support each employee in the best possible way. Coaching, for example, can be a very useful as it can help engage, support and empower individuals and teams to overcome the obstacles and challenging circumstances during these unpredictable times. An investment which does not only support the now, but also prepares for the after.

How can leaders empower their teams/employees during COVID-19?

If your teams haven’t been taught to be empowered in “normal times” I think that it will be difficult to expect changes in challenging times, where a lot of stress, fear and unknown is at stake.

Empowered teams are used to clear two-way communication, open to creativity, used to thinking “out of the box” and therefore prepared to approaching projects and challenges from different angles. This type of agile thinking will highly be needed nowadays. To support it, additional resources might be required to encourage employee development (ex: how to create interactive meetings/webinars/workshops, on various platforms, including various presentation tools, etc …). A positive work environment will also support creative thinking. And maybe even more importantly, self-initiative, in an environment where making mistakes is ok, will feel very empowering. Finally, no matter the circumstances, one shouldn’t forget encouragement and recognition on both an individual and team level.

In terms of emotion, what is its role in times of change? How to cope with emotion in this difficult time?

Each person reacts differently to a crisis. It’s an individual experience which brings up a variety of emotions from which some of the most common are: anxiety, anger, grief, depression and frustration. The first step is to acknowledge the emotion, meaning to name it for what it is. Emotions are neither good or bad, it’s what we make out of them that turns them into a so called “positive” or “negative” emotion. So, recognizing our emotions and naming them allows us to acknowledge them for what they are and then we can decide what we want to do about them. A useful tool could, for example be to journal your emotions on a daily base; to see how your emotions come and go at different moments of the day. You might recognize some patterns which lead you to be feeling those recurring emotions. Understanding what triggers our emotions is as important as the emotion itself; because again, if we know what triggers our “anger” or “anxiety” for example; we can find ways to better handle them; in view to eventually letting them go.

Recognizing and acknowledging our emotions is a vital skill, especially in times of crisis. If you haven’t given this much thought; you might want to get started as everybody has his unique way of processing emotions. Without understanding what you’re feeling; it will be difficult to know what you’ll need to be able to move forward.

Having leaders prepared to talk about emotions with their employees is therefore so important nowadays. However, this requires being aware of the importance of emotions in the first place and being prepared to talk about them in a workplace environment.

How to move forward during the COVID-19 pandemic and stay in business?

It’s a reality check opportunity and an invitation for change. Nagging about the past and the missed opportunities won’t lead anywhere. Companies which will have found their gift behind the drama will come out of this crisis as winners. These winners will have gone beyond just catching up, they’ll be leading the future in a more transformative and inclusive way, where core values will have been re-thought and genuine caring and simplicity will be an ally.

Any feedback/recommendations for the students at SSBM in this situation?

As we are slowly introducing measures of release from lockdown, I hope that students will be feeling a sense of return to life. Things will never be as before, therefore looking at this situation as a learning opportunity will be useful:

What have I learned from this global lock down? How have I coped with it? What went well? What could have been different? What would be required to handle things better in the future? How do I feel? Which emotions are coming up? Etc …

Are only some of the many questions. I invite you to take some time to think about them.

As an additional contribution; I am offering five 1:1 coaching sessions to the first 5 students reaching out to me via SSBM ([email protected]).

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