Monday, 27 June 2016

3 top tips for leadership during turmoil

The UK is in a mess.  That seems to be the general consensus of opinion amongst the 'experts' that no one wanted to listen to, who predicted slumps in the pound, stock market crashes and everything else as a result of Brexit.  And it seems that the doom mongers are right.  Or are they?

Whatever the longer-term outcomes arising from Brexit the reality is that we are going through turmoil and this is a period when leaders are needed more than ever before.

It's not easy though, especially when there is so much uncertainty, so much 'mess' around.  It's difficult to get things into focus.  If it's not easy when you have a superior to report to who can act as your guide or signpost, then it's hugely difficult when you're at the top on your own with others expecting you to have all the answers.

Here's 3 top tips for those who are in that position.

Step away from the hysteria
The present situation has been whipped up over the weeks, mainly by a media that likes stark headlines, and reinforced by reporting over the last few days. Individuals can be caught in the subliminal message that's being portrayed that catastrophe is just around the corner and when enough people get sucked into that you get group hysteria which feeds upon itself.  Time will stop it but as a leader you don't have time.  Step away from the group to maintain perspective.  Resist the conversations that merely reinforce a negative scenario and introduce a reasonable, tone neutral clarification of what's happening. Beak the hysteria loop and model calm thinking for others to follow.

Keep an eye on the facts
Leaders have to have an umbrella view, to scan their own horizons and to do that you need to know the true facts and figures.   Ignore the hyperbole and focus on the specifics for your business. Ensure that others know the facts relevant to the business and discussions are held on the realities of the situation.  If your business doesn't rely on activity within the stock market then be aware but park it and ensure others do too.  If you're reliant on a certain exchange rate for your profit margins, analyse what will happen when it changes from x to y or z and have plans in place for that.  If a major customer is exposed as a result of Brexit then you'll put contingency plans in place in case they crash - as you would do for any client who might be at risk at any other time.  Good horizon scanning is a critical part of leadership and Brexit is just one of the factors that you should have been looking at in any event.

Show empathy
In a period of turmoil people look for certainty.  They're afraid of what might happen because they feel they're not in control.  They'll be worried about their own job security, their mortgages, savings, whether they can still go on holiday, that their neighbour or family member voted the other way and there's the possibility of division because of it.  Show that you understand their uncertainty, offer them options wherever possible so they can start to get a little control in their lives: let them explore how they can react if there is disharmony with their neighbours for example, how they can defuse an argument before it begins (it'll be useful within the business too!), include them in your own planning for the future of the business.  Show them a bit more attention, use your emotional intelligence and it will pay dividends.

Of course it's more complex than that and you'll have your own uncertainties.  How can you be that rock of support and leadership when you're not sure if you're doing the right thing?

So here's an extra tip for you - appoint a coach because now is the time when they come into their own.  Now, more than ever you need someone who can provide you with a protected space where you can explore the complexities of things to come, have accountability and focus on what's important for your business so you can ride the waves of turmoil in the months and years to come.

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