Effective leadership and engagement through COVID, with Steven Colligan
18 August 2020

Effective leadership and engagement through COVID, with Steven Colligan

Published on 18 August 2020

Running a “business as usual” during the “new normal” presents a range of constant and varied challenges. Organisations are working through a downturn that is affecting both commercial demand and personal resilience. More than ever, teams and leaders are being put to the test.

In the midst of rapid change, the College of Law is working closely with Emovare, a specialist provider of Leadership Development and Resilience workshops to help legal teams, leaders, and lawyers navigate a time of crisis. Founded in New Zealand by Steven Colligan and Glenys Gwynne, the College of Law is helping to bring Emovare’s expertise to Australian legal practitioners.

Understanding the “whole” individual to target training

Steven Colligan knows what it means to help high-performance through turbulent times. He has helped organisations including Minter Ellison, Air New Zealand, and NAB, taking a holistic approach to leadership development.

This means understanding what a specific leader or leader-in-training might need to perform at their peak. This could range from specialist coaching to refresh a specific skill set or improve a budding talent, working through a major life event, or working on an entrenched behaviour.

“To lead in a post-COVID future, you need to put leadership and engagement capabilities in place today,” said Steven. This means embracing a holistic approach to developing leaders and teams, one which accounts for the physical, emotional, and intellectual health of an individual in the context of the teams they lead.

Focus on effectiveness, performance, and well-being

“Organisations and leaders need to create the time to focus on effectiveness, performance, and well-being,” said Steven. “Paying attention to the environment, the clients, and your staff is vital. Make a concerted effort to communicate effectively and listen carefully to clients and staff.”

This creates a culture in which all key stakeholders - those requiring your services and those delivering your services- are engaged in the process.

“These practises will ensure that the organisations remain relevant, engaged, agile, and flexible.”

In a practical sense, this means investing in people so you can build resilient and adaptive teams who in turn focus on delivering what a client really needs.

Soft skills represent the biggest skills gap

Mastering this approach requires a mastery of skills traditionally regarded as ‘soft skills.’ In Steven’s twenty years in organisational development, leadership coaching, and HR, he has seen ‘soft skills’ emerge as one of the most valuable skill sets, essential to engaging staff and clients.

“These skills are transferable across industry and professions,” observed Steven. “We are seeing an increasing focus on these skills, not only in the legal profession but across the board.”

Steven noted that the Wall Street Journal has deemed soft skills to reflect the biggest skills gap in the United States.

According to Steven, organisations that are agile, stay relevant, and focus on performance and wellbeing prioritise the following soft skills:

  • Adaptability
  • Flexibility
  • Creativity
  • Leadership
  • Resilience
  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Responsibility
  • Critical Thinking
  • Decisiveness
  • Ability to work under pressure

Many law firms have traditionally focused on technical skills,” observed Steven. “However, real competitive and commercial advantage lies in developing and growing social skills. These skills engage staff and clients creating loyalty, discretionary effort, and discretionary spend.

Compassionate leadership and realistic optimism will mark the ‘return phase’

As COVID throws the commercial world into a state of almost constant uncertainty, the ‘new normal’ for many means keeping pace with rapid and unprecedented change.

“In order to survive and thrive, organisations are increasingly emphasising engagement, performance, and wellbeing,” said Steven.

“Organisations have an opportunity to improve employee experience during the return phase of the COVID-19 crisis,” observed Steven. “This means shifting from a focus on meeting health and safety needs to a more nuanced approach that recognises wellbeing and performance.”

Citing Harvard Business Review, Steven said that organisations that focus on employee and client experience will create meaningful impact now and well into the future.

This includes, among a range of skills, focusing on compassionate leadership, investing in relationships, and exhibiting a deliberate sense of calm and realistic optimism. Ensuring accountability and leveraging the use of data and technology would also help organisations improve and thrive.

The ability to adapt and be nimble is crucial to surviving and thriving in an ever-changing economic climate,” said Steven. Much of what Steven delivers through Emovare targets the development of these skills.

“Our programmes and workshops focus on these skills from an evidence-based perspective,” explained Steven. Programmes cover topics including the Neuroscience of Resilience, Building Resilient Teams, The Adaptive Leader, Coaching for Performance, and Cultural and Emotional Intelligence.