Creative Rebel CIC, Mansions of the Future, 12 St Mary Street, Lincoln, LN5 7EQ

Creative Rebel CIC is incorporated in England & Wales, Company Number 10926105


ARTICLE: Finding a Way to Grow when the Future is Uncertain

Churchill famously said:

“Keep calm & carry on!”

Sounds simple but is it really when faced with so much uncertainty?

Regardless of whether we find ourselves employed or self-employed, we are all faced with unprecedented challenges today, many of which are outside of our control. The uncertainty that is affecting organisations of any size and all sectors, whether a Private, Public or Third Sector, is impacting us as business leaders, causing overwhelm & diverting our focus away from our organisation's mission to watching our finances like a hawk. Sound familiar?

Focusing on what is outside of our control often leads to feelings of injustice & even perceptions that others are sabotaging our success. This distrust initially may lead to building small circles of partners to work with to the exclusion of everyone else, but soon will stop many business leaders from working, collaborating and networking with others as relationships start to crumble and paranoia & distrust seeps in when things don't go to plan or promises are broken. We fight, we flee and we freeze when faced with conflict, keeping us awake at night. These are the choices our neurological survival mode makes for us at times of uncertainty, but there are other choices available to us that help us build better relationships and make better business decisions.

As with decisions in our personal lives, we have 7 choices, all of which require us to let go & change our focus, and none of which are mutually exclusive. They are:

1. Accept Reality - This is an important first step, but definitely much easier said than done. When something used to be within our control but then changes, it is not unusual for people to struggle to let go. When faced with any change, we each have to work through an emotional process of grief & loss to accept that what has changed. Some believe that there are no short-cuts to the process as we each work through it at our own pace. This is based on a fixed mindset and can prevent us from growing.

When we do not accept reality, we suffer and our relationships with others suffer. We start questioning whether we can cope, affecting our happiness & well-being. Business leaders and their teams may benefit from accessing opportunities to learn about Emotional Intelligence & Better Ways to Lead Change.

2. Change yourself - In an ever-changing and often uncertain world, it helps to know ourselves first and to grow our ability to cope with change. Brene Brown, American Scholar of Vulnerability, speaks of our need to feel at ease with our own vulnerability, wise advice that helps us to steer clear of perfectionism and helps us to act with self-compassion and compassion for others when things don't go to plan. We must learn to accept that making mistakes and failing are powerful ways to learn, and not opportunities to blame ourselves or others.

Caring for ourselves and others also means accessing experiences, relationships & activities that help us to learn more about ourselves and make us feel whole again, and helping us to manage our stresses, grow our resilience and opening our minds to solutions and new possibilities. Self Awareness, Self-Care and Resilience are great areas of reflection where each of us can lead by example.

3. Change the way you see & run your business - Our business is the vehicle in which we choose to travel to achieve our mission. Many businesses however have been designed & structured to deliver value at times of certainty, but the world has changed. Just as we do well to focus on our own and our team's resilience at this time of uncertainty, it also helps to reflect on how we can help our business to become more resilient. Our organisation's mission may not change, but a fresh look at our business model may better support the organisation's resilience at this time of uncertainty.

This is a skill rarely covered in Senior Leadership & Management qualifications, yet with new enterprises springing up in the market, it is an important skill to take an interest in. Alexander Shuhmacher, who wrote the book 'The Business Model Navigator', has noted 55 Business & Service Delivery Models in existence to-date. The progress made around technology & automation may well give rise to others in the near future. Human-Centred Design & Business Model Innovation is becoming a key driver in designing sustainable businesses.

4. Grow your influence - Some call it grit, others call it being stoic or gaining wisdom. Whatever the principle you identify with, it is important to become more familiar with why things are as they are & understanding the patterns within the social, economic & environmental systems. We can do this by becoming an active participant at a level where our skills, knowledge & influence have a positive impact. This first requires the acceptance of the change as it is and facing some fears in order to gain the curiosity, creativity and courageousness to learn more about the bigger picture, while also taking an interest in human behaviours & psychology.

Systems Thinking & Social Sciences, such as Human Psychology or Behavioural Economics are skills that help business leaders connect and collaborate across different sectors. They can significantly improve your ability to influence, innovate & inspire others. Influence is often misunderstood though. It is not about knowing the theory or having louder voices, it is more often about applying the theory through inspirational actions.

5. Focus on Problems AND Solutions - A wise man once said: 'If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spent 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.' While many advocate for the need of being more solutions-focused, it is important to recognise that the best solutions often flow from a better understanding of the need or problem. Recognising the inter-relatedness between problem and solution is key. Without a problem to solve, their is no need for solutions. Sounds obvious, right?

In an age where knowledge is becoming more and more accessible via technology, some of the problems we experienced in years gone by are slowly disappearing. Technology is giving us access to more information and knowledge than *Einstein could collate in a lifetime. Technology also has become more accessible & intuitive to use as more and more digital solutions and content have understood the need to design tools that people of all ages and abilities. This means that if we were to focus more on teaching IT/Digital Literacy, the potential exists to open up a world of information & knowledge for people. A further lesson we can learn from this as Business Leaders, is the use of Human-Centred Design when designing solutions for people.

6. Invite different perspectives - When capacity & finances become tight, there is a temptation to become more insular and controlling, and it is not uncommon for people in business to develop some blind spots or feel paralysis, especially at times of high pressure. This is normal, though important to acknowledge & continue to work on. There are numerous ways business leaders can invite in different perspectives, whether stepping back themselves, bringing in freelancers/contractors, asking for feedback from stakeholders or giving staff development opportunities outside of the organisation. Newer perspectives are part of the key to business renewal and innovation, something all business leaders need to focus on.

This is where 21stC HR Specialists can really make a difference to the business leaders they support. Any People or Workforce Strategy needs to seek ways to bring in different knowledge, energy & perspectives to the organisation. HR's understanding of the organisation's life cycle can really help them to advise business leaders on the next steps in growing a future-ready business with a culture of learning, collaboration and innovation within and beyond organisational boundaries.

7. Abandon Ship - While the escape button may be tempting and always remains an important option to consider, it is key to work through the above stages first as it is tempting to think that the grass is greener on the other side. In a world that is ever-changing, many sectors are affected by change & uncertainty. You may not necessarily find something more stable or secure if that is what you are in search of.

If on the other hand you are seeking experiences that help you to grow, there is truth in the following quote:

If on the other hand you are seeking experiences that help you to grow, there is truth in the following quote:

”When nothing is certain, everything is possible!”

My advice however is to not abandon ship. Seek out support and opportunities to network outside of your organisation, and access the flexible working opportunities that allow you to gradually make a change in your life. There is no rush! Work through choices 1-6 first as these may help you define the development opportunities (see italics) that can set you and your organisation on the path to a better future.

If your team/organisation is interested in the Skills mentioned in this article or if you would value coaching to help you work through a Personal Strategy for Change, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us via the website.