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Rising to the management challenge of today

From the 19th July, the Government decided that all legal restrictions, which have underpinned England’s public health response to the Covid-19 pandemic, will lapse.

With this decision, significant responsibility has been shifted to individual citizens and businesses for combatting the spread of the virus. There
is now an emphasis on us all to exercise both personal and social responsibility.

Although government guidance will be available, businesses could find themselves in a position where a clear but restrictive black and white situation, will now become one made up of many shades of grey. This will place added burdens on managers especially in the short term as the peak of the current wave of infections is not forecast to arrive for 4 to 6 weeks and this could be exacerbated by any dramatic shift in behaviours post the 19th July.

Along with the COVID-19 response there are various organisational challenges confronting managers including:

  • Adjusting to Brexit and new trading relationships,
  • Managing talent requirements as labour and skills shortages grow in some sectors,
  • Adopting new technologies as the exponential growth of new technologies
  • Continues apace and workforces become much more tech literate, embracing and
  • Managing new patterns and ways of working, adjusting organisational cultures and
  • Practices to fit the new demographics of the modern workplace, bridging the
  • Boomer-Millennial and Gen X-Gen Z divides as regards their different ways of thinking and differing experiences of the world of work,
  • Developing the capability of the organisation to learn, and ensuring that organisations evolve in line with emerging social trends.

In addition to these multiple challenges, managers are also confronted with challenges associated with organisational dynamics. For the most senior managers, leadership is a lonely place and in small and medium size enterprises there are often no mechanisms, such as coaching, to enable leaders to confide in others about the dilemmas they face.

Middle managers are always in a difficult position, where they are stuck between the aspirations of their leaders, the demands of their subordinates and the realities of the working environment.

Managers should try to find a ‘critical friend’; somebody who they can confide in, bounce ideas off and who can provide constructive challenge.

Ambidextrous leadership is the aspiration in the new world we face today. Ambidextrous leadership is about providing stability in the present and exploiting current situations to improve business performance and deliver optimum results, whilst transforming the organisation for the future. This is a tough ask on managers and leaders, especially when considering the scale and the pace of the change which confronts them in 2021 and beyond.  

What advice can be given to management and leaders in this situation? 

It needs to be recognised that many managers will be experiencing stress in this situation, feeling unable to cope, and convincing themselves that the problem is their personal inadequacies. Imposter syndrome comes to mind. It may be the only time they have ever felt like this in their career. The first and most important thing is for managers to realise that this is normal under these circumstances. They have not suddenly become bad managers over night, but that this is the new norm.  


Secondly though, managers must recognise that they will need to adapt to this new post-pandemic norm. They should take heart by reflecting that they have probably adapted successfully many times before on their journey to becoming a manager. They have the personal capability to adapt. 

Confront and Embrace 

The third piece of advice, is that managers need to confront and embrace this new reality. They should not delude themselves that this is a phase and that normal business will be resumed shortly. It will not. There should be an honest and thorough assessment of the current situation and the evolving challenges should be laid out in full.  

Take direction 

The next stage is to decide on direction, prioritisation and strategy. This is a normal business process, which managers will be familiar with. However, this needs to be accompanied by an honest assessment of the capability of the organisation and the manager to deliver on the changes required. This should not just embrace the skills needs, but should also consider the well-being aspects of capability. How will the individual manager and the organisation develop the physical and mental stamina to stay the course? 

Change management 

In terms of managers, it is likely they will need to develop a high level of understanding of change management. How to make organisations change ready and how to position organisations to manage change successfully. Additionally, managers should try to find a ‘critical friend’; somebody who they can confide in, bounce ideas off and who can provide constructive challenge. If this cannot be achieved internally, then external options could be considered. 

Finally, in terms of the future, it is important that managers are not fatalistic in the face of it. The future depends on the actions taken today. Managers need to embrace the future and recognise that through their actions, they can shape it for the betterment of themselves, their staff, their organisations, society and our planet.  

If managers or organisations need assistance with any of these challenges, they can contact our HR consultancy, Forbury People or our employment lawyers.  

About this article

This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

About this article

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