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Managing Uncertainty And Change

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The level of uncertainty and change many businesses are experiencing is certainly challenging.  While pandemic circumstances are unprecedented in our times, uncertainty and change are nothing new. In fact, businesses that have a culture of innovation are intimately familiar with these things.

However, those companies and industries that have been a bit complacent, with long standing business models and employment policies, are scrambling now to navigate the future they didn’t anticipate. In fact, many of them put it off and actively avoided it.

I know from experience that change is unavoidable. If you don’t actively create it through innovation, it will creep up on you because of the innovation of others, natural disasters, shifts in the market, or innumerable other causes.

An Industry Turned Upside Down

I spent 35 years working in business management and operations in the media and publishing industry. While it was a ton of fun working with incredibly talented and creative people, our industry was extremely challenged. One company I worked for went through two bankruptcies and six re-organizations in seven years. WOW!

It was eye-opening to work in an environment that was going through massive change and upheaval. There were so many new facets of the business that needed to be implemented quickly. We launched new products and changed the way we interacted with our customers. We altered the way teams looked and interacted with each other. We had little financial resources so the need to move quickly and be innovative was imperative. We found a ton of efficiencies, and rolled out new processes and new software platforms to accommodate all of our new strategies.

I spent lots of time focused on the tasks and the to dos–the structural processes that we needed to put in place that would allow us to accomplish all of the new initiatives.  I am a project manager at heart and focusing on the tasks and to dos was what I knew best. I am results-oriented so I made sure we were implementing the tactical things that would move us forward quickly.

Does this sound familiar? Maybe you find yourself stressing about the numbers amidst the upheaval that’s happening.

Panic Mode

I am a people person, an ‘I’ on the Everything DiSC® continuum. But when I am stressed or find myself in an uncomfortable situation, the people part of me regresses and I reach for control. It’s easier to focus on results and numbers in that moment.

Looking back, I wish I would have spent more time on helping people embrace all of the changes that were coming down the pike. I wish I had taken the time to listen to their thoughts and ideas of what we could be doing to engage our customers in new ways. I wish I would have helped them understand the company’s new why and how they fit into that picture. I wish I would have spent time talking about all of the uneasy feelings and fears that were swirling around in all of our heads because of the massive disruption to our business.

Because I didn’t do that, fear and lack took over as the captain of the ship more than I would have liked and we spent too much time paralyzed by doubt, anxiety, panic and hesitation.

Panic mode is not a sustainable solution. It leads to stress and burnout. Sometimes it leads to changes that provide temporary relief, but don’t position the company for long term success.

Do you find yourself saying, “We’ll just power through until this blows over.”? If so, it’s time to adjust the way your company manages change now and into the future.

Change Your View Of Change

Managing change should be an ongoing part of your business and culture, not a short-term panic situation.

The pace of change has increased with time. Recent events are just an example of the importance of things like innovation and agility. Those qualities may not be on your “dashboard” or metrics and may seem less tangible, but they are just as vitally important to the future of your business.

They depend on your ability to create a culture that supports and rewards not just “hitting the numbers” but looking beyond the numbers. Coming up with a whole new equation.

I know the effort I focused on people and how I showed up as leader during those challenging years in the media industry did make an impact and it did move the needle. But I can’t help but wonder what the people around me, the people I influenced and I, myself, could have achieved had I spent more effort on helping everyone (including myself) take a more transformational approach to leadership and our work in general.

How are you going to use the current situation to set your business up for an exciting and innovative future?

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