2022 Trends: Deep Emotional Change and More Compassionate Leadership
“COVID put the whole work population through a very deep emotional change that is still unfolding,” says Jay Campbell, senior vice president of products and content for The Ken Blanchard Companies.
“For a lot of people, the upheaval of the last 18 months was the straw that broke the camel's back. Their working situation was okay, but the additional strain of going through COVID pushed many workers further than they wanted to go. The virus jerked everyone out of their day-to-day routines and gave them a chance to reevaluate their work lives. For some, this meant realising their professional groove may have been more of a rut, which contributed to the ‘Great Resignation’ trend.”
This has implications for leaders and leadership development, says Campbell, and is one of the factors his company is following via its 2022 HR / L&D Trends Survey.
“We are expecting to see a shift toward more compassionate leadership, which requires a new level of adaptation to these new situations. We teach that it’s the leader's job to adapt to the needs and realities of their people—and those needs and realities are shifting.”
The rapid move to remote working arrangements has changed many aspects of work. “Lots of people like working remotely far better than commuting to the office, yet managers are still uneasy about the effects on productivity and team cohesion,” says Campbell. “Culturally, things feel very tenuous right now compared with pre-COVID times. Leaders must cook up a virtual equivalent of their cultures that works for people and sustains them over time.”
Campbell believes finding the right balance between results and people still needs to be addressed.
“For a lot of leaders, even ones who identify as servant leaders, there’s always been a tension between people and performance. They might say, ‘I care about my people. I want to be a servant leader. But when push comes to shove and there’s an important deadline, I really can't put my people first.’
“I think a lot of leaders are struggling with this, because COVID has left some people exhausted, demotivated, and traumatised. I suspect leaders are going to increasingly push back on deadlines to give their people the support and time they need to recover.”
In addition to the shift toward compassionate leadership, Campbell believes the best leadership development programs will make the shift from event-based learning to learning that’s integrated into people’s daily and weekly work lives.
“You could say we have entered a heightened evolutionary cycle for the training industry, with COVID creating a spike in this change. I think the industry responded quickly to the need to shift from face-to-face training to virtual training. But we are still early in the process of evolving from event-based learning to learning/working integration.
“Workshops are a great choice for deep injections of content to get people excited. And they are very useful to create a consistent movement across a company where everybody has gone through the same learning experience.
“But in some cases, workshops aren’t the best tool. Increasingly, we’re seeing the integration of learning into the workday as the best way to change behaviours and achieve leadership outcomes.”
Campbell points out that integrating learning with work is not easy—and some parts of the puzzle are just coming into view. “One of the biggest challenges is mindfulness, because people can only practice new skills if they find an opportunity and can recall the steps they need. One way to boost this type of mindfulness is by inserting daily practices that boost intentionality, like looking ahead at your day to identify potential leadership opportunities and figuring out how you want to show up. New ways to reinforce training and sustain training on the job are so critical now. That’s what I’m most excited about as we step into a new learning environment together.”
About the author:
David Witt is a Program Director for The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is an award-winning researcher and host of the companies’ monthly webinar series. David has also authored or coauthored articles in Fast Company, Human Resource Development Review, Chief Learning Officer and US Business Review.