As professionals we like to make plans and roll these out, hopefully, to achieve the desired purpose. However, 2020 challenges us as leaders even to see 24 hours ahead at times, begging the question : where do we go from here? Here is one approach in the form of a HERO strategy to achieve Hope, Efficacy, Resilience and Optimism for our businesses:
Hope is a uniquely human invention. It is our way of dealing with uncertainty. When detailed plans become obsolete, leaders can avoid either ‘no hope’ or ‘false hope’ by reasoning well. We start with ‘macro’ or ‘big picture’ information that is reliable (both accurate and complete), valid (measures what you think it does) and relevant (addresses what your business most needs to know). We can use this data to envision possible future scenarios and test their likelihood and implications by gathering real-time information from customers, staff and suppliers. Combining this information with subject matter expertise (e.g. of industry trends or technology), leaders establish the business intelligence that allows businesses to prepare. Considering a full range of possible outcomes (from worst- to best-case) is important as is ensuring a collaborative process with stakeholders. A facilitator can get this started and smooth the way, but future-mapping is best as self-directed to instil ‘constructive hope’.
In flux, it is hard to envisage business growth, but we can usefully shift our perspective. Instead of ‘maximising’, how about considering ‘satisficing’? The ‘paradox of choice’ is that by aiming for “just enough” rather than optimums, we often emerge happier. Leaders need to identify which thresholds need to be met for business to be sustainable. Reflect, with an objective eye, on the history of your business as this tells the story of both strengths and weaknesses. Instead of repairing what is bad, identify key learning points to-date. These may be strategic (constants or constraints?) operational ( tipping points or integral limits?) or transactional (outputs versus outcomes?). Such insights can tell us what delivers the most value and even what a business uniquely offers that can leveraged for ‘effortless efficacy’; the flow needed that keeps it on the road.
When we marry efficacy with what our customers (and the world) needs - and are willing to pay for - we build a resilient business. Yet adversity and change may be just around the corner. To respond appropriately and without losing momentum, we need to avoid the 3 D’s of deflection, defensiveness and denial. We can face uncertainty with intent by uniting around our compelling causes and being open to feedback on these, internally and externally. These call to action are not static and revolve (and evolve) around the experiences of our staff, customers and community. Choosing these carefully and articulating them well gives us the bounce-back-ability of our business with all stakeholders on the same page.
One great source of competitive advantage is to our rate of learning. This is largely attitudinal and is best accelerated, collectively. We can tap into this easily through our innate curiosity. By adopting a ‘beginners mind’ to question old ways of doing things, we find opportunities to experiment. If we approach new events and experiences as ‘deliberate amateurs’, we learn to improvise. By tapping into all the different ways of being curious (https://www.think4purpose.com/post/how-are-you-curious) we can stretch beyond traditional boundaries.Leaders who engage with new subject areas, knowledge domains and even their own competitors earn the right to be realistically optimistic about their business future.
The above suggestions derive from a change-readiness approach of “Safe Uncertainty”. This is recommended by Think4Purpose.
Written by Fiona Fennell - Organisational Behaviour Coach and founder at Think4Purpose who facilitate clients, both individual professionals and teams (at all levels) to reason around, reflect on, rebound towards, and renew their unique purpose.