Change is in the air: transition and transformation to revive your business in the wake of the global pandemic is at the forefront of every business leader’s mind
With executives across North America, Europe and emerging markets struggling to mitigate coronavirus’ damaging impact on their local economies, any potential scenarios for COVID-19 recovery look gloomy and dark at their best. The workplace is now an environment where ‘growing caution and uncertainty’ define a new reality. Key findings from official data state that leaders in China, by contrast, are growing more hopeful. What is going to end the lockdown’s uncertainty of COVID-19? Who holds the key to unlock our prosperity? People, structure, technology and environment are the prime forces that affect the efficiency and the effectiveness of an organisation in today’s economy.
The important role of change in the workplace is continuously explored, and its process is influenced by human efforts rather than just by mere sets of sophisticated proceedings and methodologies. Essential in running a successful business, organisational behaviour interprets relationships between people and organisations with considerable contribution as to the survival and prospering of the business. While scholars argue that there is no precise science of behaviour, learning how to anticipate and direct human performance helps create better relationships, achieve the desired change and support individual and team objectives to secure the success of the organisation.
We reached out to an expert in transformation, Dr. Novie Johan, who is passionate about creating positive changes and transformation in the current climate and related core topics such as: leadership readiness; change, transition and transformation processes; self-perception and perceptions of others; intra- and interpersonal communication and conflict; stress and work–life balance in the workplace. We wanted to find out more about the roles of awareness, sense of enthusiasm and determination, and attitudinal learning and development that are crucial for leaders and individuals reflected in the post-COVID-19 workplace.
How has the lockdown changed you and your clients?
During the last few months, we all have had to learn new ways of living. Tranquillity at home has made me more aware of my day-to-day activities. It has given me a chance to rethink and shift my perspective on what changes I should apply to my business and personal life. I also have gained more time for cooking my own original recipes and exercising creatively and connected more profoundly with friends virtually, both locally and internationally. On all fronts, my priorities have been reordered to create a new balance in my life.
To triumph over the current adversity, clients have prepared psychologically towards new lifestyles and work habits. Some have grown accustomed and prefer to work from home to benefit from having space and serenity, which contributes to better mental clarity and decision making. Others have arrived at smarter working alternatives. The use of downtime has been optimised: to be still, to listen and to respect one’s personal aspirations have resulted in new ways of leading and managing businesses post-lockdown.
What do you think we can discern from all of these recent changes?
There is a greater need for self-awareness across the board. The entire world is changing, and we are to adapt to these changes at an individual level. Our internal and external adjustments will ultimately change us for the better, and this essentially starts with our self-awareness. While we have passed the first phase of life changes during the lockdown, we are now approaching more phases, such as economic and social impacts. We are to brace for them with open hearts, reaching out to each other as well as reaching within ourselves.
How important is self-awareness in your own life?
Since my childhood, ‘becoming a better person’ has always been compelling. I understood from early on that I needed to be self-aware in order to understand and trust myself completely. Over the years, my life has taken me through various roles in different industries. First, the airlines and travel were my home industries, which were later followed by gastronomy, hospitality, tourism and business management in Switzerland, the U.S.A., Canada and the U.K. Then, I geared towards business and management research projects, teaching and practices with businesses, universities, governmental agencies and non-profit organisations in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Indeed, at each stage of my life, wherever I was, whatever happened around me, I witnessed that being deeply aware of myself and more perceptive of my surroundings led to a more complete understanding, which was ultimately the key to more success.
For instance, working in the field internationally allows me to learn from many varied personalities in different cultures, organisations and societies. Equally, my research adds to my awareness on various important issues. As a result, I continue to gain resilience and become comfortable with change, making it an ally instead of a foe. These exposures give me viewpoints from different business dynamics, enabling me to relate and contribute to my clients’ life stories. These experiences truly enrich and inspire me to continue bringing about positive life changes.
About your business, what inspired you to start your personal and corporate consulting business?
In most circumstances, even the most intricate ones, I am still able to capture my inner voice. This aptitude, which I have learnt and developed throughout my life, is more critically needed now than ever before. In the current circumstances, many people wish for someone they can fully trust and relate to. At times, people feel overwhelmed or confused, surrounded by too many people and with so many voices to listen to. My role is to enhance people’s ability to listen to themselves and recognise their own voice in a more neutral space – regardless of their current positioning – for their own well-being. When they can be their own person, they feel content and more fulfilled in life and at work. I recognise this ability to help people as my calling.
How do you currently help the corporate clients that you work with?
Corporations typically come to me for assistance with incorporating a healthier approach to running their businesses or if they need to make internal changes to their business. Organisations that pay attention to their workforce’s well-being and creativity and incorporate holistic habits into their day-to-day business operations have an easier time adjusting to external changes. Consequently, they will have better chances of success. In the current climate, fixing these fundamentals is critical in recreating balance and finding solutions.
At an individual level, we often overburden ourselves with unnecessary and unrealistic expectations by not looking at the big picture. This leads to either undervaluing or overvaluing our position, which could cause unnecessary workplace strain and stress. Before our sessions, many corporate clients fail to realise that some aspects of our lives are controllable but others are less so. When we accept this, we become more in control of those controllable aspects and inherently more optimistic about our choices and plans of action, regardless of what happens externally.
With clients’ mental and emotional readiness being a pressing necessity, many of our current sessions focus on clients becoming more circumspect about all possible alternatives, as well as encouraging their critical decision-making abilities. This is particularly crucial for business leaders who require a significant amount of concentration, enthusiasm and energy to give to their visions and to become exemplary in leading the workforce.
What would you say makes your business different from others?
My business concentrates on the following principles. First, the focus is on both the personal and professional aspects and their interrelationship for the benefits of an individual, a team or a company. Second, we trust our clients’ own intrinsic capabilities. Third, clients take the lead with the directions towards their goals. Finally, while the ultimate target is transformation, the aim is also for that transformation to permeate a wider transformation of others and society.
In recognition that each individual (person), team and company is unique, all of our sessions, programmes and projects are highly personalised and custom-made. Indeed, each case is different. For instance, one client, who was an agent of success from the start, needed to secure new funding from major corporations. During the exploration, he articulated that while he believed in his idea, he did not realise how brilliant it really was until it started to take shape. To match and convey this brilliance, he optimised his innate ability. This took his business to a higher level: the corporate funders signed prolonged contracts for his upcoming product–development stages.
What steps do we need to take to revive our businesses, and what is to be prioritized?
Today’s climate is rapidly changing, meaning that the ability to manage this change is the most sought-after currency. What worked in the past will no longer work in the future. Our perspectives are becoming obsolete quickly as we keep up with the changing needs, desires and traits of customers and the workforce. We need to change our perspectives, take new initiatives and forge meaningful relationships. While speed is crucial, since time seems to be running out, taking the right steps is even more critical in achieving enduring results.
We can reduce risk and prepare more accurately for our success through reflection and self-assessment, which challenge previously given assumptions. The endurance of the company’s achievements ultimately rests on the workforce itself: the managers and the employees. Indeed, people are the priority. They can switch on their intellects and creativities, impacting all activities of their companies. If you allow time and space to reconfigure fundamental human elements, the potential to recreate and sustain the new future of any business or career for the long-haul is heightened.
What challenges have you faced as a female entrepreneur, and how did you overcome them?
As a woman, I rarely see myself as different from my male counterparts. I feel that I need to face the world on my own merit rather than my gender. What I (and every woman) need to do is be ourselves. When we are our own selves and become the best versions of ourselves, we can only win. That is the way I see it. There is no need for comparison, and there is no need to settle for what other people think based on our gender. The mastery we must practise is to be an upgraded version of ourselves every single day. And that is plenty enough to do, don’t you think?
What can be a challenge is choosing the best people to work with. For me, it is especially important to work with people who aspire to be the best version of themselves and with whom I can also do the best for them because it is interrelated and works both ways. When there is no synchronicity in attitudes or work ethics, then being open and honest as early as possible is the best approach to achieve common goals.
Integrity is an important character trait in the business world, and I always consider this first and foremost. I believe in running life and business in a happy way, and this stems from the kind of people I choose to work with and the kind of person I want to be, too. In real life-business integration, only people with good acumen and business character will persist in life no matter the situation.
What advice do you have for female entrepreneurs?
The lady in us knows who is in charge! Let’s leave it at that [laugh]. What I mean by that is if we run a business, we are in charge, aren’t we? So…we are in charge! That’s it. In fact, thinking of ourselves as women or men is not that useful. We must make decisions based on the wisdom we have internally. Believe in that wisdom more than we believe in anything else – even facts.
The world can be a crowded place through which we can learn from life. At the same time, we must listen to our own internal voice. If we believe in our internal capabilities more than our external actions, we will be properly guided towards a better understanding of our present, the direction things are heading and what to do next. We are our own compasses, so we should be wise in the way we direct ourselves. That is my advice to female entrepreneurs and, likewise, to all entrepreneurs.
What positive impact have you made, and continue to strive for in your community?
At its core, my business is about addressing positivity and hope – bringing the possibility of brighter prospects to clients, their families, and their businesses, and hence bringing positive impacts to their immediate and wider communities. Given current circumstances, lately we may have found ourselves asking, what can I do for those around me? Or, indeed, what can I do that no one else in the world can do? For me, the answer was to make myself available to those who may need to reinvent and transform themselves in order to stand strong in the current climate. I do this by reserving some sessions to support the emotional health and well-being of the local community. I have made similar efforts in the past in various cities where I have lived or visited.
Have you experienced any particular setbacks due to COVID-19 pandemic? If so, how do you manage them?
A slight set-back was experienced when all in-person sessions had to be made into virtual ones. Nevertheless, we had breakthroughs and steps forward after some initial adjustments. Some luxury elements of the business such as those involving faraway places to visit needed to be temporarily put on hold. For now, we prioritise our local and regional offerings to maintain the necessary health and safety measures until all activities can be resumed.
To meet the fast-changing needs and expectations of our clients and to reach and benefit more people internationally, we are adding more online sessions, offering alternative formats, along with a new delivery of classes, and in the future there will be more exciting programmes. These will involve and impact more people in the process, while allowing the delivery of our products and services from afar. Stay tuned, and we shall see you all again in person. Between now and then, if clients wish to discuss their requirements with me, I can get back to them with a few ideas for their personal and professional development.
What advice would you like to give to businesses that are currently impacted?
The previous industries I have been in are the hardest hit: travel, tourism, gastronomy, hospitality and event management. I can understand how difficult it is not knowing what will happen next: To what extent will the customers and business volume return? Will it last, and for how long? Similar thinking process is relevant for all industries around the world with the main questions remaining the same: How will the world change its habits, lifestyles, and consumption behaviours? How will this change the way your company does business? What are the best ways to cope with these changes? What can your company do to flourish despite these adversities? While all seems exhausting and chaotic, the hope is here that we can adjust! My advice is to take an internal inventory of your desire to soar as well as your business skills and abilities to serve others.
Whether you are doing well or not at this precise moment, we all take a turn on the wheel of life. My take on it is: when you are up, now is the right time to help others; when you are down, you help yourself and be the best you can be. When we do just that, life is going to be a chain of positivity, joy and radiance. We should never forget that we were born brilliant, and exist for a reason. We already have all the resources within! No one else can be you, nor me, in this entire world. From the beginning until the end, there will only be one you and one me. Capitalise on that, and we will always shine!
About Dr. Novie Johan
Dr Novie Johan, Ph.D., M.B.A., B.A. is an expert in organisational behaviour, specialising in transition and transformation. She facilitates and advances individuals’ personal and professional development through her personal and corporate consulting and coaching practice. She has published and presented internationally in the field of business management and related interdisciplinary subject areas and has worked, lived and travelled extensively on five continents. As she brings out the best in individuals, teams and organisations, her aspiration is to bring the joy and happiness of a work–life balance approach to the lives of her clients and the wider community. During this unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, her work has focused on the holistic well-being of her clients. Companies engage her with individual consultations for their employees to leverage their human resource capabilities towards better action plans for coping with COVID-19 and its aftermath.