From the moment the COVID-19 pandemic hit us all, I suspected we would no longer be able to do things as we had before. This virus has definitely changed us forever, creating new insights into how we work and live..
After the initial shock, many organisations realised they could continue with day-to-day operations, even if things were different. People could still receive leadership training, but from start to finish in an entirely virtual environment. Some may have experienced this well before this period, but being coached online, attending webinars, receiving feedback, and having video chats was pretty new, particularly for some companies.
When Hicham Kabaj, Managing Director for JESA, in Casablanca, Morocco, contacted me in early 2020 about doing a leadership program for his team, I was ecstatic. Delving deep into the minds of a group of executives worldwide, who were asked to work from home with heavy government restrictions, was a new experience for me. They had to lead big teams and inspire them despite the conditions while maintaining the balance between work and family responsibilities. This was not a simple scenario.
I had met Hicham in Sydney the year before during a Leadership Program that I conducted for the ‘John Grill Centre for Project Leadership’, part of the University of Sydney. We had a few conversations during the program, and I admired his inquisitiveness about becoming a better leader and taking this knowledge back to his colleagues. We never thought we would be working together again, this time to develop his executive team.
Hicham’s main priorities were for everyone to understand that they needed to go through these challenges together and that it was acceptable to feel the disconnection and the isolation. They also had to support their teams and continue to grow the company in a very complex environment.
He was adamant about the importance of knowing ‘self’ through seeking feedback from various stakeholders. We used the i4 Neuroleader Assessment, which provided participants with feedback from several stakeholder groups, including family and friends. Every member of the team found this feedback an eye-opener, as they were able to compare how they were dealing with the people in their lives and what groups they needed to improve their relationship with.
From the competencies of Performance, Collaboration, Innovation and Agility that make up the i4 Neuroleader Model, Hicham found Agility was crucial during the Pandemic lockdown. Not getting stuck in one way of looking at the world and becoming more flexible were key conversation points throughout our sessions.
Collaboration, and in particular communicating openly with each other, their teams and families also took prevalence. They had to learn the importance of expressing their needs and showing vulnerability to survive these conditions and continue to achieve.
In an interview I conducted with Hicham after the program, he highlighted the importance of investing in ourselves and our people. Anxiety, isolation and frustration were better understood and discussed from a completely new angle.
At the same time, more time at home meant time to reflect and gain a new understanding of how sometimes they would behave reactively and consequently less thoughtful and considerate towards others.
From this experience, I would like to share (with Hicham’s permission) these key learnings:
- Understanding that as people and leaders, we need to work on ourselves, take the time to do it and have the right tools and the right attitude.
- As leaders, they needed to inspire and communicate effectively with their teams. They realised this work never ends.
- They also found out that as an executive team, they could not afford to work in isolation. They needed to listen to each other better and be curious about each other’s challenges and personalities so they could get along better.
In summary, through this experience, I learnt the in’s and out’s of running the i4 Neuroleader Program for Executives in a full online mode and how to best present available resources to certified i4 Practitioners and their clients.