Ostrich Management: why it doesn’t work

Author Justin Byrne

Ostrich Management

​​We humans are an interesting bunch – despite there being no scientific evidence that ostriches do in fact bury their heads in the sand, the term “being an ostrich” has become synonymous with doing exactly that. Fun fact – ostriches do no such thing.

But managers do. The running of a business isn’t always a process without its challenges and bumps in the road; problems are going to arise which you need to face head-on, rather than pretending you’re unaware or hoping they’ll disappear of their own accord. I think the situation which is fast-blooming here in the UK with regards to Covid-19, and around the world for that matter, speaks enough to this cause.

Myriad issues can arise in the workplace, both those which can be avoided in future and those which are entirely unprecedented, as we’re all quickly learning; the key is, as a manager, not to bury your head in the sand and hope it’ll all blow over.

Here are some key tips on how to stay conscious in your leadership whilst trying to manage through a period of conflict.

Know when to step in.

There are tiers of leadership for a reason, sure – it’s so that when an immediate manager feels unable, they too have someone to turn to. As a business leader it’s crucial that you understand what’s going on, when it’s gone beyond your subordinate’s power, and when it requires you to take the matter into your own hands.

We could be talking about a clash of personalities for instance, creative differences between employees, or even staff who get on well but don’t play benefit to one another in the workplace; rather than waiting to see if it can be handled by another, know when it’s your turn to step in and bring about a solution.

Leave discussions open.

A problem arose, and you solved it – well done, pat on the back. But, that doesn’t mean it’ll forever be so; in the fast-changing world of business, it’s important that your team understand that any subject is still open. One of the worst things you can do as a manager is to leave employees feeling as though they’re unable to bring something up, for fear of ‘dwelling’ or bringing negativity back into play.

When it comes to new processes and systems where problems have been perceived, ongoing awareness and monitoring is needed; new insights, ideas and therefore obstacles are inevitable. As a manager, be willing to admit that your original solution may have been temporary – take the bull by the horns and focus on finding new solutions, for the now and for the long-term. The longer you bury your head in the sand, the worse things will become.

Know when to get serious.

As we’re all learning – Mr Johnson the UK PM included, I’d imagine – it’s tough to know when a concern becomes an issue, and when an issue becomes a problem – one which requires action, and immediately.

But the fact is, if you deign always to be an informed, open leader – one who’s abreast of the inner goings-on of your business, current affairs and industry trends – it’s less likely that you’ll be taken unawares. When facing a problem head on, it’s important to know when to get serious; stop putting things off, stop employing the ‘wait and see’ method, and take action when it’s most needed.

Do you tend to bury your head in the sand as a manager? Whilst we can all agree that optimism is paramount and finding the bright side key, being able to admit to an issue and find solutions quickly is tantamount to success across all aspects of your business.

False optimism in a time of struggle is more likely to hinder rather than help, especially if your employees feel as though you’ve been ignoring it thus far. Transparency in business is a huge trend for 2020 and it’s never been more important to face issues with an open, forward-thinking viewpoint.

Whilst this always applies, with such divided opinion as to the UK government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s never been more relevant.

As business leaders, it’s our time to face the music and do as best as we can by the businesses we’re responsible for, whether that be by implementing home working systems, offering support to our employees or simply trying our best to go on as normal in a safe manner. Whatever you’re able to do, don’t bury your head in the sand: this is happening, it will affect us all, and we can only tackle it as we must.

Sending well wishes to our blog community and beyond under these challenging circumstances!