A new report commissioned by Havelock North-based business consultants AskYourTeam is a ‘must read’ for Hawke’s Bay business owners and managers.

Drawing upon the insights of organisations engaging AskYourTeam, the report – NZ Business Leaders’ Effectiveness 2019-2021: Navigating Through Disruption – focuses on company leaders and their effectiveness in the current business environment.

A key aspect of the report, capturing insights from over 100,000 employees, is that it looks at the difference in perceptions of company effectiveness and behaviour as seen by company employers and managers versus their employees.

The headline of the report is that leaders are affected by three key factors:

  • The uncertainty of the business environment and the need to balance business outcomes with caring for staff wellbeing;
  • Increased disconnection from their team due to expanded responsibilities; and
  • Living in a good news bubble, preventing issues being raised.

AskYourTeam’s CEO Chris O’Reilly comments: “While they might have a wealth of talent and experience, our leaders have taken on the management of additional physical and operational tasks, as well as supporting the mental health challenges of their teams, as part of their day job. It’s a precarious balancing act, and it’s unsustainable over the long term.”

Given our focus on mental health in the current BayBuzz magazine, we asked O’Reilly to comment on his sense of the anxiety level of employees across the businesses his company is involved with. He observes:

“Among employees we are seeing increasing sensitivity, as well as higher rates of frustration and anxiety due to the length of time of restrictions, as well as uncertainty brought about by Covid. This is a very dynamic and volatile environment that has changed a lot and will continue to change. It has placed huge demands on organisations, leaders and their workforces and the increasing sensitivity, frustration and anxiety are very normal and human responses to this very difficult situation.”

We were struck by the report’s point about “living in a good news bubble”. With employees more worried about their future, one might expect them to be less vocal to managers about issues of concern regarding company direction and more reluctant to put forward constructive ideas for change.

The report notes that 81% of employees rated their company overall “a great place to work”, but at the same time 64% said the felt “unsafe to speak up”. 

Arguably now is the time for companies to be re-examining everything they do and putting a premium on employees’ contributing ideas for change and improvement. So we asked O’Reilly to comment on this also. He says:

“There could be a number of reasons that are contributing, including:

  • Not wanting to load “more stress on the boss” whom they may like, when everyone can see the increased pressure they are under;
  • Loving what they do and their immediate work colleagues/team but feeling less connection to the overall organisation and decisions being made;
  • Seeing leaders trying their best and being more accepting of (of the leader’s)  less openness to challenge;
  • Decision making being less visible (or actually lower) in terms of consultation and involvement;
  • Feeling leaders under stress might be more likely to “react badly” to challenges, so workers decide to “hold back”;
  • An overall change in the environment where there is less challenge/feedback on how to improve…..in all parts of the business i.e. everyone being more tolerant/less demanding;
  • Leaders being more directive and “firm” than normal and having to make more decisions,  and the team accepting the decision making might not be as considered and robust as normal…but being prepared to accept it rather than risk challenging;
  • People themselves feeling more sensitive and not wanting peers to think they’re “that” person who is making life difficult in an already difficult environment.”

These seem like excellent observations to share with HB business owners and managers. Do they fit your perceptions?

The disruptions and cracks in the pavement exposed by Covid mean one thing: BAU is DOA. 

That suggests company leaders should seize the opportunity to welcome and encourage employees to fully and frankly contribute to the re-build needed to emerge successfully from these stressful times.

The full AskYourTeam report is here.

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