This is part two of the blog with TPCL managing partners in India and Southeast Asia.
Coronavirus was a bolt from the blue for the business world. Manufacturing ground to a halt, the service industry stalled, high street shops sat shuttered. Yet, for the leadership sector, there have been unforeseen positives from the pandemic.
Virtual, the new normal
Though some face-to-face coaching had to be cancelled, “new opportunities have opened up for TPCL” in the last year, says Southeast Asia managing partner, Deva Param.
“Delivering programmes virtually has become the new accepted norm, so we can work across borders much more easily now. No longer do we need to fly to Indonesia, or Singapore, or even China for a session, they can just join us online in a virtual classroom.”
This extended reach fits well with TPCL’s marketing model, Deva says, being able to offer a truly international service irrespective of geography. The pandemic has opened a whole new avenue for the company, too: educating clients on the merits of virtual working.
“Today, we can show clients that virtual, Zoom for example, works as well as face-to-face, and a lot of time and money can be saved on travelling,” Deva explains.
Relocating to the digital realm has presented some challenges for leaders, however. No longer can they just knock on an employee’s door when a problem arises, says TPCL’s India managing partner Deep Sharma, but instead have to schedule an online meeting and hope that calendars sync up.
“How do I get people together? That’s the key question that has come out of the pandemic,” Deep says. “How do I, as a boss, virtually facilitate impactful conversations and drive results as well as I would in person?”
The answer to these testing questions is deceptively simple: flexibility. This is an important leadership trait at the best of times; but during a global pandemic, it’s absolutely critical, Deep believes.
Flexibility is key
“Leaders must appreciate that it’s OK for timeframes to be fluid. They must be OK with trusting their staff to get on and complete the work without constant supervision. Yes, they need to track milestones and keep a measure of success,” Deep added, “but micromanaging shouldn’t be a priority at the moment.”
For Deva’s team in Kuala Lumpur, the pandemic is the latest in a long list of “unprecedented new challenges.” In the past it was geopolitics and trade wars, now global warming, cybersecurity concerns, and technology disruptions take centre-stage in leadership challenges. . When engaging CEOs, he talks about the danger of becoming consumed by these outside forces at the expense of their own leadership development.
“The challenges leaders face today are enormous, but they are slowly getting into the groove of how to manage scenarios like this in a shorter time frame,” Deva says.
“The turbulence will come, whether it’s a financial crisis or health crisis, or whatever. These crises are occurring in much shorter intervals; it used to be every ten years, now they seem to appear every three to five years, interjected by the smaller crisis in between.
“Therefore leaders need to always be prepared. They will definitely be challenged on their leadership capability and the best way to be prepared is to build skills to confront these issues.”
Cater to your team
A key element of this is understanding that their foremost duty isn’t always to the customer, Deva explains, but for employers to train their teams to be the best employees for their customers. (This will, in turn, cater to bringing in business).
In today’s practice, this includes a health and safety policy and a better work-life balance (now that more and more are working from home) — something TPCL has been helping facilitate for decades. We generally work around building employee resilience and rigour so that when the next crisis appears, employees are better prepared to tackle it with confidence.
“I think it’s extremely important for leaders to constantly look at how they prepare for the future. How do they prepare themselves and their team for the next, so-called pandemic scenario?”
Deep agrees. In times of unrest, the companies with a strong ethic of teamwork and collaboration do best, she believes.
“Leaders with strong teams can sail through turbulence, and they come out with the flying colours. But those who don’t keep their teams together, they’re going to be in trouble.”
It’s okay to fail and rise again
To future-proof her clients, Deep teaches them entrepreneurial and enterprising skills, driving home the need for adaptability in the face of unexpected upsets. She also emphasises the need for “coaching muscle”, so they can relay these lessons to their own staff. Most importantly, though, she works to encourage leadership in women.
“We have women entrepreneurs, women in leadership, women who want to become leaders. We work with them to increase their confidence so they can navigate through their vision and goals. We teach them that it’s OK to fail and rise again,” Deep says.
In an unpredictable world, having the skills to adapt to unforeseen challenges is vital. This has always been the TPCL philosophy, and it’s more relevant now than ever before. Follow our social channels and sign up for our newsletter to keep updated with the latest leadership insights — and if you’re ready to develop your own leadership skills, don’t hesitate to get in touch.