Forecasts of economic gloom, political tensions and polarised perspectives, which so often dominate the national news agenda, can fuel a climate of concern during times of great change.
And yet the innovation required to drive business growth is characterised by optimism and the positive belief that we can improve, adapt and gain competitive advantage.
So how, as business leaders, can we navigate a course that steers our teams through the channels of negativity and anxiety, into a positive and productive frame of mind?
Previously, in this six-part series of Leading Change in a post-Brexit world, Stewart Barnes, Managing Director of QuoLux, discussed the nine emotions of change and steps leaders can take to lead their staff and business through the Change Curve (see /campaigns/brexit).
“The Change Curve charts how energy levels and morale go down before they come up in any change. Another word for energy levels is ‘confidence’ and that’s much discussed in the news currently,” says Barnes.
“The danger is being able to see through the blizzard of opinion from so called specialists. Whatever side of the vote the experts sit, it seems Brexiteers and Remainers are choosing statistics or reports that fit their beliefs.
“For example, some point to the gross domestic product (GDP) figures in quarter two being the highest since 2007, whereas others note that the Purchasing Index reports confidence has fallen.
“Similarly, manufacturing output is at its highest for nine years, whereas CBI states optimism has fallen at its fastest pace for seven years. Glaxo Smith Kline has invested £275m in new UK production facilities and McDonald's is creating 5,000 jobs, but jobs are going at Lloyds Bank. There are many more examples from both sides.”
So what can you do as a leader of your business, department or team?
Barnes is clear. “It’s time to dissipate the height of negative emotions with positivity. It is crucial that you retain positivity and belief. You cannot influence world events or macro-economic matters across the UK. What you have is enormous influence on those around you in the workplace, whether that’s in an office, a factory, or both.
“Your people are probably uncertain post-Brexit and looking to you for some guidance. They may be unsettled by reports in the media. Point them towards what they can influence – the task the client is paying for. Now more than ever, your encouragement, your positivity and your belief in what you are doing as a business will give your team the necessary confidence to stick together. This will energise your people. Your leadership matters.”
Every department and team will have some positive, open minded and super-loyal people (referred to as the top 20%) and some who are the exact opposite, moaners and stirrers (the bottom 20%). Barnes’ advice is to focus your time and energy on the top 20% with a sense of positivity relating to general business conditions. The mid 60% will follow the top 20% as they want the same attention.
“Now’s the time to prepare for a drop in confidence among your teams,” warns Barnes. “That’s a natural response to uncertainty and requires empathy from the leader.
“QuoLux's research of local companies across many sectors suggests it is business as usual with little impact on activity. It is too soon to say with any certainty what the effects of Brexit are – good or bad. Anyone telling you otherwise is just opining.”
QuoLux sponsors the Lifetime Achievement category in the Gloucestershire Echo and Gloucester Citizen Business Awards.