Whether you voted ‘in’ or ‘out’ in the UK’s referendum last week, 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 and people managers are faced with populations of employees, divided by opinion and questioning the future.
In a political debate that has more fire in its belly than anything we’ve seen for decades, it certainly takes ‘water-cooler’ chat to another level.
So what can business leaders do to manage the uncertainty of Brexit, get people back on the same page and ultimately, drive business performance, during these turbulent times?
Manage yourself first
However you voted and whether you’re feeling elated or exasperated – it’s time to park your own emotions and realise the critical role you have to steady the ship. Your behaviour will massively influence the behaviour of those around you – be calm, reserve judgement and encourage respect for one another’s opinions.
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. As a business leader or people manager, being flexible, nimble and quick to respond to the evolving situation is key. Right now your people need a pilot, a respected role model instilling calm and keeping trust. As things change, your leadership role will too.
Unite people around a common purpose
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. Re-focusing on the organisational ambition or project goals can work well. Or think about working with your team to come up with some new collective, short-term goals to focus on during this period of change.
Help people to focus on what they can change
There may be a lot going on behind executive closed doors right now that employees have no control over. Help your people to think about what the organisation can be certain of and what role they can play in that. This is a great way to channel nervous and anxious energy into something positive and productive. It may even be that you can channel that energy into exploring opportunities that the current climate could bring.
Keep the lines of communication open
Tumbleweed is not the order of the day right now. If you’re a business leader, try to make information readily available and keep a dialogue with the people. If you’re a people manager, get your people together to talk about their concerns and just be honest about what you do and don’t know.
Look after your people
Change, especially unexpected change, means more work and added pressure. Be mindful of your people and the extra demands any immediate scenario planning or crisis management will have. Ensure employees are managing themselves (getting enough sleep, rest and fuel for example) to perform in the way you need them to right now.
Create a reason to be cheerful
Try and get your people to crack a smile by catching them 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 your company, create ongoing reasons to be cheerful, however small, during the change period.
There’s certainly interesting times ahead for British business, as well as those who trade with it. What seems like a frenzied environment today will soon become our renewed reality as we work through this time and what the next chapter will bring. As I always say – gone are the days of ‘business is usual’. The phrase I’ve used for some time is ‘change as usual’.
As a business leader, if you can’t ‘be the change you want to see’, because the plan’s still being formulated, just be the person you want to see for now and people will unite around you.