‘CARER’ Leadership in a pandemic

By Rick James

Leading during a pandemic is incredibly tough. People are worried and uncertain, so their brains are reacting neurologically to a high threat response. I find this acronym CARER (from Jon Pratlett) helpful in thinking about how we might lead:

Certainty – Strive to create certainty, wherever possible – even in minor ways. “When you give people any information at all, it activates the reward networks in the brain because the brain craves information. Any kind of ambiguity, on the flipside, creates a threat response.”  

Autonomy – At a time of uncertainty, try and offer unexpected autonomy and flexibility. Even giving people the option of choosing a time for their performance review might reduce some threat!

Relatedness (Belonging) – humans are social beings. So as leaders, “if we take a genuine interest in our people, in who they are, what’s going on at home, increases empathy and understanding and encourages effectiveness in spite of the virtual environment.”

Equity – At times of uncertainty, we need a sense of fairness in how we and others are treated. Some people will be more productive virtually, others will be less (those with home-schooling or caring responsibilities for example). Watch out for a ‘crisis of fairness’. 

Recognition – Working virtually we need recognition more than ever at the moment. We need to feel appreciated and listened to. Also when giving feedback remember that people are especially sensitive right now.

As you look to the week ahead, consider what one or two things you could do differently to increase CARER amongst the people you work with.

Leading with love

By Stanley Arumugam

Good leaders love their teams. It feels almost sacrilegious to connect work, leadership and love. Somehow we have been socialised to believe love stays outside the workplace. The Sufi poet, Kahlil Gibran, teaches us that ‘work is love made visible’. 

To some extent, the industrial revolution commoditised people and sanitised any emotion in the workplace. They become an object in a big machine. We talk about system, process and results and lose the people. Yet we know that every person coming to work is looking for an expression of love and a sense of belonging, which is our primary need. In the absence of loving workplaces, we have corporate toxicity, abuse and burnout. We can show workplace love in some practical ways: daily/weekly check-in with staff; paying full attention when speaking to staff, especially with distracting technology; giving open, honest feedback in a kind and constructive manner and being open to receiving feedback as leaders. All of our corporate wellness, diversity, inclusion and development programmes can be leveraged for good when intentionally grounded in love. 

The Forbes article, Leading With Love: An Unconventional Approach To Leadership, seeks to balance professionalism and caring. “With the right boundaries intact, showing genuine concern or compassion for the people you lead will not diminish your respectability or reputation as a strong leader, but it will instead bring out the best in them while fostering an environment that is conducive to thriving…Showing love is not a license for your team to be incompetent. Instead, it conveys that their job performance is not the only thing that matters to you as a leader. They matter too.”

This week, how practically might I lead with love?

He has overcome the world

By Rick James

2021 has started badly. As I write COVID-19 is ripping its way through Southern Africa for the first time. A very close friend has just died. Jesus’ words in John 16 “In this world you will have trouble… ” feels all too true. At hard times like this I know I have to allow Jesus to finish his sentence for me “… but take heart for I have overcome the world.”

Hope does not arise from things looking positive, nor wishful thinking, nor superficial optimism. Hope starts byacknowledging the deep pain, confusion and frustrations of the current realities. Yet it does not languish there. Hope discerns and then works towards a goal. Hope is a motivation to persevere towards that goal even when we are not sure of the outcome. Hope is a virtue, not a personality type. It is a mindset that helps us to stay in the game in the face of significant adversity. 

That mindset is based, not on circumstances, but on our faith in Jesus. Faith and hope (and love) are inextricably linked. It matters where we put our faith. 

If I really knew, deep down, that Jesus has overcome the world:

• What difference would this make to the way I see my week ahead?

• What would I do differently in the light of this knowledge?

Sideways Time

by Richard Lister, Coach and Mentor
Coaching to Thrive

Logic drives me like a wasp.  A wasp can’t bend the window glass and I can’t shift this charity.  Time to slip sideways. 

I head out and ease into the rhythm of walking.  At the top of the hill I catch sight of a kestrel, our smallest bird of prey.  It’s hanging in the air, hardly moving, held up by the breeze.

As I ponder the kestrel I am reminded of the verse: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD Almighty’ Zechariah 4v6.  I rethink my approach: less slog, more nudging allies and being nudged.  When did this sideways thought come?

When I’d moved.  Alain de Botton says:

‘Journeys are the midwives of thought .. . There is an almost quaint correlation between what is in front of our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times requiring large views, new thoughts new places. 

Introspective reflections which are liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape.

The mind may be reluctant to think properly when thinking is all it is supposed to do.  The task can be as paralyzing as having to tell a joke or mimic an accent on demand.  Thinking improves when parts of the mind are given other tasks, are charged with listening to music or following a line of trees.’  (The Art of Travel).

Where might you need to go to get a larger, smaller or unusual perspective?  Or what other activity may prompt a sideways thought?

Candles in a dark world

By Nick Wright

Last night I was speaking with Jasmin in the Philippines. She told me about an incident that really moved me. That day Jasmin saw old woman, who lived on the pavement, trying to eek out an existence by selling candles on the street. As Jasmin approached, this stooped woman beckoned to her with a smile.

‘Would you like to buy a candle?’ she asked. The tone in her voice suggested that she was bracing herself for disappointment, that same disappointment she had felt day after day, year after year, on so many occasions. After all, there were other people selling candles too, so what hope did she have? ‘How much for a candle?’, Jasmin asked. ‘2 pesos’, she replied. Jasmin said, ‘I will take 10 candles’, then, as if secretly, slipped a 500 pesos note into the woman’s hand.

‘But I don’t have any change for such a large amount’, the woman said. ‘How about you keep the candles and pay me next time you pass by, when you have some smaller change?’ Jasmin replied softly, ‘This is a gift to you from Jesus. Please accept it as a gift from Him.’ At that, the woman threw her arms around Jasmin’s neck, burst into tears, and cried, ‘Maam, thank you for helping me!!’ Jasmin hugged her back and whispered gently, ‘Pray and say thank you to Jesus.’

As she finished relating this story, I asked Jasmin why she did what she did. She welled up and said: ‘I remember selling candles as a child, how hard it was. I wasn’t good with maths and so, if I made a mistake when giving people change, I had to pay it back out of my own tiny earnings. I know what it is to be poor.’ So, I asked specifically about this woman, this one person, this stranger. Jasmin replied, ‘At least, for one day in her life, she knows how it feels to be loved, to be blessed by God.’

I fell silent. All I could see were images of Jesus, touching the lives of the poor and most vulnerable in the world. ‘I come to bring good news to the poor!’ He’s still doing it now. It challenges me:

  • How can I bring good news to the poor this week?

Confidence is the key

By William Ogara

What most people call mentorship is actually mostly about building people’s confidence. In one week alone, I have received the following requests:

“I am a member of an international board and we have just appointed a CEO who would like mentorship support from a fellow Christian. Can you assist him grow in his job?”

“I am keenly interested in pursuing a Doctorate, but I need your help to decide the area to specialise in”.

“We haven’t spoken for quite a long time… By the way, are you in a position to be my mentor?”

As I followed-up with each one, it turned out that people were primarily looking to build their confidence. It is about accompanying our fellow workers in achieving their assigned tasks in challenging situations. This reminded me of growing up in the village and learning to ride a bicycle with a large box of dried fish on the back. Initially I hid in the bush, hoping my father would not find me. But as I gradually understood how we needed this income for school fees and as I got more confident wobbling along the track, I began to enjoy it more and more. My father sometimes held my hands, sometimes let go, sometimes encouraged, at other times even punished. But he was always patient. It is like Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to pass on whatever he had witnessed to those who are ready in turn to share with others.

This week:
Who are we accompanying in their tasks? How can we build their confidence?