Word to the wise: if you’re going to start a new job, at a pan-African business, in the middle of the biggest health crisis in our lifetime, make sure you’re the type of person who likes a challenge. Because they’ll come at you thick and fast.
I’ve just celebrated the one-year anniversary of my appointment as Group CEO of aYo Holdings – and what a year it’s been. We’ve grown our client base. Opened operations in new markets. Explored new alliances. Along the way, there was the matter of a pandemic, which is not the type of thing that you can really prepare for.
Perhaps the biggest challenge that COVID-19 has brought to the workplace is how to find the balance between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ issues. There’s no doubt that the disruptions of the pandemic have put a greater focus than ever on the need to be resilient, empathetic and self-aware. But at the same time, we’ve got to maintain productivity and engagement.
That’s been challenging at a time when we’re all working from home. For one, maintaining effective communications is harder. Not having face to face meetings means you often miss the little non-verbal cues that you get when you’re sitting in the same room as someone. And when you’re juggling several priorities at once, it’s not always possible to check in and make sure that everyone is happy and on the right track.
This is the dilemma facing many business leaders right now. If you focus too strongly on the ‘soft’ issues, the business will suffer. If you make it all about the business, your people suffer. For me, the middle ground is to find a way to maintain a healthy level of pressure in the workplace to keep achieving our goals, no matter the circumstances. We all have our own challenges, but life must go on. It is often the satisfaction of overcoming challenges despite personal circumstances that motivates us to excel and thrive in both business and at home.
An important part of staying motivated and working towards the vision is having a clear purpose. We live in an increasingly ambiguous world, and purpose is the north star that keeps us all focused on the same goal, and recognising our responsibility to help achieve that.
At aYo, we have a massive market and business opportunity evolving. At the same time, we have a clear responsibility to millions of Africans to give them peace of mind against the unknown, while bringing them into the mainstream economy through financial inclusion. We cannot lose focus. It’s tough out there for everyone – but we have to get through this together. That way, we all win.
Marius Botha is the group CEO of aYo Holdings