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There are more opportunities and unknowns for entrepreneurs and business leaders as we move from the acute economic crisis of the pandemic’s lockdown into ‘The Interim’ time, where municipalities, states and countries relax restrictions and we begin to dance with what unfolds.
Rather than hang our companies’ futures on the accordion-like movement of re-openings, re-closings, and possible new lockdown measures, we can take proactive steps to help ourselves, businesses and teams thrive as we transition from Now to Next.
With the idea of supporting fellow entrepreneurs, small business owners, and leaders successfully through this transition, I hosted a second series of ‘Thriving in Uncertainty’ conversations that explored what we will need to succeed in this in between time. We welcomed attendees from more than 25 countries, and talked innovation, adaptation, the future of work and education.
Here are five of the most inspiring and useful ideas from the day.
1. WE ARE BEING PRESENTED WITH AN OPPORTUNITY TO RESHAPE THE WORLD.
The sudden and massive disruption to our economy and society has accelerated a series of shifts that were already underway and is shining a bright light on what wasn’t working.
Nancy Giordano, futurist and founder of Play Big, Inc., shared four big shifts that provide a frame for the design of the new economy, and that can help each of us explore the opportunities available. They include the digital future and the impact of technology on our lives; the economic and social inequities that exist; our impact on the environment; and the strength and design of our support structures.
We could focus on what is “wrong” about what wasn’t working, or get into action and create a better, more inclusive, more collaborative world. The opportunities are found in the creating.
2. WORK ON ENGAGING YOUR TALENT, NOT YOUR EMPLOYEES.
The trend toward freelance, independent, and contract work before the pandemic was accelerating. In the United States, it is estimated that somewhere between 35 and 40% of the workforce was independent. With the millions of lay-offs that have occurred, bringing unemployment to levels not seen since the Great Depression, it is possible that 50% of the working population, or more, may never return to traditional jobs. What does this mean for our businesses?
Carl Camden, former CEO of Kelly Services and Founder & President of iPSE-U.S. says that the old models of employee engagement are defunct. “Almost every aspect of what we teach in management science, business planning, [and] product development, is all based on an employment model that’s now in the process of being shattered.”
In a world where your best “employees” no longer work exclusively for you, there are opportunities to rethink and accelerate team building, rapid adaptation to new company cultures and what it means to recruit and retain iconic talent.
3. GET CURIOUS ABOUT WHAT IS HAPPENING AND WHAT IT CAN MEAN FOR YOUR BUSINESS.
The uncertainty of the next 12-18 months, exacerbated by the inability to precisely predict if everything will continue to slowly reopen or if we will reopen and then lockdown again, means we will be dealing with a heightened degree of uncertainty.
Rather than getting frustrated about what we can’t control, or wishing that things would just go back to normal, it can be much more productive to get curious about what is happening and what it means for your business. How might the uncertainty give me the chance to pilot agile team design? Was what we were doing really well in the first place? What if the success we had before doesn’t even come close to what we could be achieving if we shift our assumptions?
4. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL.
Tony often talks about acknowledging exactly where you are and seeing a given situation precisely as it is in order to create better future outcomes. This is the basic premise of the “Yes, and…” “Yes, and…” concept from the world of improvisational comedy.
When comedians are improvising and creating new scenes, the good ones happen when actors accept what others offer (hence, the ‘yes’) and then build on it (‘ergo, the and…’). Bob Kulhan, the CEO and Founder of Business Improv has been teaching organizations how to apply the techniques of improvisational comedy to business success for more than two decades.
He offers that when companies are faced with the unpredictable, “Yes, and…” can help you quickly move focus away from current feelings of helplessness and onto what you can do. ‘Yes’ doesn’t mean you like what’s happening. It means you acknowledge what is. ‘And’ moves you into a more compelling future.
5. EVERYONE IS A LEADER.
Leadership will no longer be delegated to those with big titles and years of seniority in the books. Every single person is being called to step into a protagonist’s role, no matter how inexperienced. This means that to truly access the opportunities that this moment is providing, we need to teach or train everyone to develop the mental flexibility and agility, creativity, and critical thinking that we used to outsource to management.