Today, I'd like to talk to you about coaching executives in uncertain times; helping them deal with uncertainty. That seems to be particularly relevant right now, as we live in particularly unpredictable, particularly difficult times.
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We've had two years or more of a pandemic that came from nowhere, moved very quickly and disrupted all of our lives. We've got the issues around large-scale geopolitical uncertainty. We have now seen threats that we thought were consigned to history, reappear. We had the uncertainty around Brexit and what that's really going to mean to European trade and UK trade. What is the UK's position in global markets going to look like?
As we return to work from the pandemic, the uncertainty of people's relationship with their employer, their commitment to work, that relationship with work, and work-life balance. It's all up in the air. And in reality, the truth is we're not through any of this yet. We're not at the end of it and have worked out the answers - We're still finding those answers.
So as a coach, how do you help business leaders, and organisation leaders come to terms with these high-level, broad ranges of uncertainty? Well, the first thing to recognise is a coach doesn't have the answers; I don't know the answer to the geopolitical problems. I don't know how Brexit is going to unfold. I don't know how supply chains are going to get fixed. I don't have to. And neither does the coachee.
However, I can help frame up questions and help frame up perspectives with the coachee that helped them get some sense of control back. It starts with coming to the realisation that uncertainty is a state of fact, and you can only really worry about the things that you can influence and can control, and everything else you've got to cast aside. I don't mean ignore it. I don't mean pretend it's not there. I mean don't let it get to you.
The only things you can control, other things you can do something about. So, if I was coaching a business leader and they were disrupted and disturbed by all of this uncertainty around them, to the point where it was causing them difficulties and problems, I'd start to encourage them to think about what are the real threats? You can, in most businesses, distil them down into pretty big categories - Is it a supply chain threat? Is it a selling price threat? Is it a workforce threat? Is it a raw material price threat?
Then one by one in a very loose kind of way you can role-play what might happen in those scenarios as they perhaps reshape the worst-case outcome. Just what would the business leader do at that moment? That might never be implemented, but what it does is it gives that business leader the confidence that there's nothing out there that's going to overwhelm them. They can find a way to navigate through whatever those difficulties are going to be.
Now that doesn't mean you want them to happen. No, it doesn't mean they aren't a problem. And no, it doesn't mean there aren't going to be challenges and risks, but the confidence level and the clarity level have risen enormously.
The benefit of that is that they can then talk with their teams and do more detailed planning around the different causes of scenarios that might unfold. With that, they raise the level of confidence of that team. With that, they help everybody in their organisation see the way forward. And as things do unfold, as situations become clearer, the actions can be taken without nervousness, and without excessive delay.
The thing about uncertainty, and this is the other side of the coin as a coach, is that uncertainty can also spell opportunity. We saw during the pandemic, that a number of restaurants and food manufacturing companies pivot to home delivery; they couldn't open their premises, but they could feed people and sell their products. Now they would never have done that, they would have never moved at that lightning speed had not been for the pandemic.
We've seen since Brexit a number of organisations lose their markets; they simply cannot get products into or out of Europe. So, they've changed, they pivoted and refocused on a UK consumer. As a consequence, they may have changed that profile of product and service. but that's still in business and possibly even more profitable than ever.
So as a coach, what you bring to the conversation is a degree of balance. You bring a degree of desensitisation and you help the coachee think through all of the challenges that are there with a positive frame of mind, a confident frame of mind. At the end of this, the coachee will be able to share that with the rest of their organisation, and possibly even their customers, to energise and reassure the people around them.
Uncertainty has always been with us. It may be more extreme at the moment and it may have a number of frightening dynamics to it, but we choose how we want to react to that, and we can help them as coaches do that successfully. So, there you have it; Coaching uncertainty, business leaders in difficult times.
That was the latest edition of The Coaching Conversation. I hope you found it interesting. I hope you found it useful. You can find out more about our coaching programmes at theexecutivemindset.co.uk
If you want to reach out you can send us an email at email@example.com you can book a free 15-minute coaching session at theexecutivemindset.co.uk which will give you a really good feel for how coaching can help you.
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