When premium flexible workplace provider The Executive Centre launched its flagship office in Makati, Philippines last June 2021, Country Manager Josh Alfafara knew he had his work cut out for him. “Leading a new business in the middle of a pandemic was challenging, to say the least,” he recalls. “Everyone was asking why we were selling office spaces at a time when everyone is working from home. But I said ‘Why not?’ I felt that this was the best time to do so because people are now looking for flexible ways of working.”
This mindset has helped Josh and his team ensure that TEC Philippines remains top of mind for small and medium enterprises and multinational companies looking for a truly first-class flexible workplace solution within prime locations and prestigious office addresses. “We differentiate ourselves from our competitors in the service aspect that we give to our members,” he explains. “Even when the government imposed a strict lockdown, we never stopped communicating with our members, addressing their needs, and letting them know that we are available for them all the time.”
“I don’t tell my team ‘You do this, you do that;’ instead I ask them ‘Where can I help?’ ‘What can WE do?’ And if my team member is not delivering, it’s on me. Where did I lack in terms of giving support or in providing resources?”Josh Alfafara, The Executive Centre Country Manager
Here are five leadership lessons that Josh has learned as he continues to lead his company and his team through the pandemic:
- Be flexible in your approach. “We can no longer go around publishing pictures of office spaces because no one wants to spend any money,” Josh points out. “So instead of being salespeople, we positioned ourselves as consultants of workplace strategy. We asked clients ‘What do you need at the moment? You have 2,000 square meters of office space that no one is using? Ok, that’s something we may be able to help you with.’” By building that trust and giving their expert advice on flexible workspaces, TEC was able to build loyalty with their clientele.
- Servant-leadership is the key. Josh built his team in the middle of the pandemic, and while it felt good to be able to provide people with work, he also understands that it can be demotivating for them to market something when everyone is hiding at home. “As a leader, my role is to bring out the best in my team so they can do what they need to,” he shares. “I don’t tell my team ‘You do this, you do that;’ instead I ask them ‘Where can I help?’ ‘What can WE do?’ And if my team member is not delivering, it’s on me. Where did I lack in terms of giving support or in providing resources?”
- Be transparent in communications. Josh has frequent and structured one-on-one conversations with his direct reports to align on goals and expectations. “As an employee, nothing is worse than thinking you are doing great but finding out at the end of the year during the performance review that you’re terrible at your job,” he says. “So it’s important that I meet them regularly to find out what they are lacking in, or what training they require.”
- Employee well-being drives results. To a certain extent, Josh does not believe in keeping work life separate from personal life. “People are people, and they have feelings and mental health. You can’t expect them to have mental health for home and a separate mental health for work,” he explains. He makes sure he has an open-door policy where people can just talk to him if they are struggling, not just with work but even in their personal lives. “When I talk to my team, I ask them how things are at home without getting too personal, and I believe that showing them this genuine care has helped them perform better at their job.”
This importance to employee well-being is what pushed TEC to partner with MindNation. “I believe that all businesses should have a mental health program in place. Leaders should treat it as an investment in their people because at the end of the day when you take care of your people, they take care of the business, which drives results. It’s hitting many birds with one stone and it’s absolutely necessary,” Josh says.
He recalls that during the early days of his career, mental health was not a priority; people had to pretend to be sick to take time off. “But for me, if a team member is struggling today, I’d rather they let me know right away so that they can take whatever break they need and come back stronger tomorrow, instead of dragging their feet and dragging the rest of the business down,” he says.
- Self-care is not selfish. Leading a business during a pandemic can be physically and emotionally draining. As someone who admittedly experiences anxiety, Josh makes sure he prioritizes his mental health as well. “I make sure I set limits as to when I check my phone and my work email. One of my favorite things to do is listening to a guided meditation app,” he shares. “I also make sure I have people can talk to, including a coach that I consult with on a regular basis, where I become the most vulnerable and let it all out.”
Lastly, Josh makes sure his team members know all about his self-care habits so that they follow suit and take care of themselves as well.
Josh’s professional goals for the year include seeing TEC Philippines finally take off, perhaps even expanding to another site within the country. “Business is doing very well although it’s not where we want it to be because of the pandemic and the new spate of lockdowns,” he admits. “But we are doing what we can and I always encourage my team to have patience; we’ve done it before, we’ll get through this again.”
However, he is mindful that the company’s success should never come at the expense of the team’s well-being. “Now more than ever, leaders have to be available for the team and not leave them out in the dark,” he says. “If you are present with your team, they can help you make the business succeed.”
Happier and healthier employees are productive employees. Partner with MindNation to provide your team with a well-being that is holistic, data-driven, and customized for your needs. Visit www.mindnation.com or email [email protected] to know more.