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Whether you voted ‘in’ or ‘out’ in the UK’s recent referendum, if you’re in business, you’re probably experiencing some of what was labelled ‘Project Fear’ in your own organisation right now.
In the wake of a reality that no-one quite believed possible (on both sides I hasten to add!), business leaders are faced with populations of employees, divided by opinion and questioning the future.
The very leadership of the country in these already uncertain times is also, well, uncertain, meaning that Parliament itself is in a state of limbo, further fuelling economic and fiscal uncertainty.
None of this is particularly helpful for British business and there is a critical job for UK business leaders to do to steady the ship, manage their people and ensure continued business performance in their own organisations.
Times like this underline just how important effective leadership is. It’s never an easy job, let alone in the current climate. Here are some behaviours we can expect to see from business leaders doing it well.
Managing themselves first
However they voted and whether they’re feeling elated or exasperated – great leaders will always park their own emotions and realise the critical role they have to steady the ship.They know their behaviour will massively influence the behaviour of those around them so they’re calm, reserving judgement at all times and encouraging respect for one another’s opinions.
They carefully consider what is needed and when
There’s no doubt we’re heading into a change curve with a difference. Mainly because right now, we have no idea when or what the end point is and what that will look like. The best business leaders are flexible, nimble and quick to respond to the evolving situation. Right now people need a pilot, a respected role model instilling calm and keeping trust. As things change, the approach and style of great leaders will too.
They unite people around a common purpose
Strong leaders get people to focus on what unites rather than divides them. Regardless of political view, one thing that definitely unites us all right now is uncertainty about how this will unravel. Effective leaders will be re-focusing on the organisational ambition or project goals or working with their teams to come up with some new collective, short-term goals to focus on during this period of change.
Helping people to focus on what they can
There may be a lot going on behind executive closed doors right now that employees have no control over. Helping people to think about what the organisation can be certain of and what role they can play in that is vital. It’s a great way to channel nervous and anxious energy into something positive and productive. The best leaders will be channelling that energy into exploring opportunities that the current climate could bring.
Keeping the lines of communication open
Tumbleweed is not the order of the day right now. Good business leaders make information readily available and keep a dialogue with the people, especially in times of change. Getting people together to talk about their concerns and just being honest about what you do and don’t know is another positive leadership approach.
Looking after people
Change, especially unexpected change, means more work and added pressure. It’s a leader’s job to be mindful of their people and the extra demands any immediate scenario planning or crisis management will have. Ensuring employees are managing themselves (getting enough sleep, rest and fuel, for example) to perform in the way they are needed to right now is really important.
Creating reasons to be cheerful
The best leaders never forget to smile, even in times of adversity – and can be seen catching employees off-guard with something funny, uniting them in pleasure with a new work perk or surprising them all with a doughnut delivery. If the outcome of the referendum presents particularly tough times ahead for a company, great business leaders will work to create ongoing reasons to be cheerful, however small, during the change period.
Leaders in organisations up and down the UK, particularly those significantly affected by Brexit, will certainly be under the spotlight right now. However, what seems like a frenzied environment now will soon become a renewed reality as businesses work through this time and what the next chapter will bring.
In or out of the EU is one scenario, but whatever circumstances a business finds itself in, including good times and bad, its leader must be a shining light for people – demonstrating a calm approach, a strength of character and insightful guidance on the road ahead.
*Mum to Elouisa, Jane Sparrow is passionate about enabling individuals and organisations to perform at their best. Author of ‘The Culture Builders: Leadership Strategies for Employee Performance’, she has worked with businesses across the world, including Sony, Google, UKTV, Coopervision and Save the Children, to create and sustain high performance cultures. Focus is one of a number of areas including personal growth, emotional and physiological management and motivation, covered in The Culture Buillders’ ‘Bank of Me’ programme. For more information see www.theculturebuilders.com.