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Ways to navigate and lead in uncertain times

Virtual Leadership Series shares insight on managing during COVID-19 pandemic 

April 28, 2020 — 

At a time when the word “pivot” is overused and disliked by many people in business, the James W. Burns Executive Education Centre has had to do just that. 

For the first time, Executive Education is offering a virtual webinar series after the coronavirus forced them to postpone classes at their Lombard Avenue offices. 

Irene Merie is executive director of Executive Education, part of the University of Manitoba’s Asper School of Business. She says the Virtual Leadership Series will keep faculty and clients connected and help business leaders cope with some of their most critical, imminent challenges. 

“Whether you’ve been asked to stop working or shut down for a while or suspend, or whether you’ve been instructed to continue to keep working as an essential service, there’s anxiety, maybe for different reasons, but there’s anxiety,” Merie says. “And in addition to that, a lot of organizations are being forced to reduce their workforces. Really, really difficult decisions are having to be made.  

The Virtual Leadership Series is six one-hour webinars to run Thursday, April 30 and then every Wednesday to June 3, from 2 to 3 p.m. Participants must register for the lectures, but they are being offered free of charge. Participants will join the classes through Zoom. 

The webinars explore topics which include leading and managing in a virtual environment, negotiating in a time of crisis, federal government incentives to keep companies afloat, and personal and corporate brand building during the pandemic crisis. 

Organizational behavior professor Lukas Neville is presenting a webinar on supporting staff psychologically in uncertain times and Asper professor Jieying Chen has created a webinar on mindfulness for leaders.  

Merie says psychology and mindfulness are not what you’d typically find in a business repertoire, but both webinars have been popular choices. 

“Those filled up really quickly,” Merie says. “What that tells me is that business leaders right now are looking for ways to manage the certainty of the uncertainty. Because the one thing that’s certain, is everything is uncertain. And they’re looking for ways to cope and manage. 

When classes had to be postponed, Merie thought there must be some other way to keep her team engaged and to stay connected with business clientele. 

There’s an unprecedented level of anxiety in the workplace right now. We don’t have a playbook for this. People right now are reaching out for any assistance they can get to help them navigate through this uncharted territory,” Merie says. “Our hope is the Virtual Leadership Series we’ve developed may be able, in some small way, to assist them with that navigation. 

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