Lead­er­ship skills vi­tal in this volatile world

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - News - By anne phillip­son, Di­rec­tor, Peo­ple and Change con­sult­ing @grant­thorn­tonni For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion or ad­vice, Anne Phillip­son can be con­tacted at anne.phillip­son@ie.gt.com Grant Thorn­ton (NI) LLP spe­cialises in au­dit, tax and ad­vi­sory ser­vices

In a re­cent Pre­par­ing for Brexit work­shop, we were dis­cussing how volatile and am­bigu­ous the busi­ness land­scape is go­ing to be over the com­ing months. It got me think­ing about the im­pact on busi­ness lead­ers as they adapt to chang­ing cir­cum­stances and emerg­ing gov­ern­ment de­ci­sions over which they have no con­trol, whilst feel­ing the pres­sure to make crit­i­cal de­ci­sions about their busi­ness.

The term VUCA ( Volatile, Un­cer­tain, Com­plex and Am­bigu­ous) comes from the mil­i­tary, of­ten used to de­scribe con­flict hot spots around the world and is also a per­fect de­scrip­tion of the busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment, es­pe­cially now.

De­pend­ing on a lead­ers’ own tol­er­ance for mak­ing de­ci­sions in the face of un­cer­tainty, this could be a very un­set­tling time. If you are the type of leader who, when faced with an im­por­tant de­ci­sion, prefers to take their time, gather all the facts and in­for­ma­tion, lock your­self away in a dark­ened room, weigh your op­tions, and then de­cide, you are fac­ing an un­com­fort­able few months.

As the count­down to the UK’S de­par­ture from the EU ticks down, there are two po­ten­tial sce­nar­ios: ‘deal or no deal’. With the prospect of a ‘no deal’ sce­nario be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pos­si­ble, VUCA will be­come the new norm. Lead­ers not only have to pre­pare their busi­ness for ei­ther out­come, and do sce­nario plan­ning for each, but they also have to pre­pare them­selves men­tally for the dis­com­fort they will in­evitably face.

How can lead­ers per­son­ally pre­pare for VUCA? The first step is ac­cept­ing that you are deal­ing with am­bi­gu­ity, so brace your­self.

Next, when faced with big de­ci­sions, take a col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach. In­volve your team. Many heads de­bat­ing op­tions will take the pres­sure off you, and will re­sult in a bet­ter de­ci­sion. En­gag­ing your peo­ple will also help them to stay in­formed.

Take a sys­temic ap­proach. When ac­cess­ing trade-offs and risks, look at the en­tire sys­tem, and con­sider de­pen­den­cies. Again, hav­ing a cross-func­tional team as part of the de­bate will in­crease your chances that all parts of the sys­tem are con­sid­ered.

Man­ag­ing com­pet­ing pri­or­i­ties is also part of the com­plex­ity in a VUCA world, so be­ing crys­tal clear on your top strate­gic pri­or­i­ties will help you make im­por­tant de­ci­sions when the in­evitable trade-offs are re­quired.

Re­main flex­i­ble. Give your­self credit for mak­ing the best pos­si­ble de­ci­sion you can with the in­for­ma­tion at hand. As new in­for­ma­tion emerges, plans will have to change. That does not mean your de­ci­sions were wrong, so let go.

Per­sonal re­silience is al­ways an im­por­tant lead­er­ship trait. Tak­ing care of your­self, both men­tally and phys­i­cally, puts you in the best po­si­tion to deal with all that is com­ing at you and your busi­ness.

A pos­i­tive out­look, where you are look­ing for new op­por­tu­ni­ties in the midst of all this change, will also help you to re­main re­silient.

We have tools avail­able to help you with your Brexit prepa­ra­tion. We rec­om­mend pre­par­ing for the ‘no deal’ out­come as it in­volves the most change, and will re­as­sure you that you have done all you can to min­imise any po­ten­tial risks and seize any op­por­tu­ni­ties in this VUCA world.

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