2016 - what a year! For some, it brought a bevy of joy, reward and celebration. For others, it divvied out its fair share of stress, loss and despair.
Let's assume that things can only get better! And extract the positives and the learning’s from 2016…
Some of the positives?
British astronaut Tim Peake successfully completed his ISS mission and came back from space;
Tiger numbers have risen for the first time in a century;
In Rio our Olympians once again reminded us what courage and the ultimate sacrifice looks and feels like;
[One for my fellow feminists] The Woman Responsible For Coding The Software That Landed Apollo 11 On The Moon Was Awarded The Medal Of Freedom, as was the highly inspirational Ellen DeGeneres [and one for my fellow egalitarians];
Together we raised £46.6m (and counting) for Children In Need;
And, of course, Andy Murray won Wimbledon.
And some of the lessons learned?
There are a lot of angry people in the world, who feel marginalized, and who are demanding change;
Always expect the unexpected (and always vote);
People fear immigration. Among many other things;
Sometimes it snows in April (if, like me, you continue to mourn the loss of Prince, this might mean something to you).
In 2016 a key focus within the leadership community has been to find ways to equip companies and their leaders with the ability to be more resilient and adaptable in a VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) world – one where frequent and disruptive change is increasingly business as usual. 2016 has hammered home that the theory can also be the reality.
Uncertain times breed uncertain people. When people are uncertain they waiver, hesitate, procrastinate, stall and lose confidence and momentum. In business it is becoming harder and harder for managers to manage a wobbly workforce and for leaders to lead by example when they are unsure. Think about it: how many times this year have you been left ‘hanging’ at work? You ask what you perceive to be a straightforward question or make a seemingly simple request - but you either don't get a clear answer or you don’t get an answer at all. You are left in limbo.
Operating in a VUCA world of business is having a direct impact on our confidence and our decision-making. It shakes us to the core. Professionals are increasingly questioning what matters to them (their values) and in what direction they’re heading (their purpose).
So how do we build resilience and adaptability? How do we cope in a VUCA world? How do we channel the set backs and bounce back?
Rewind seventy years and the world was recovering from the brutal culmination of years of power hungry global leaders’ scaremongering, aggression and scapegoating. Our nation was on its knees. Our workers were stressed as a result of the long working hours required to rebuild the economy, depressed from years of bombing raids, debilitated by rationing, and grieving for the loss of family members who never came home from the war.
Part of the response to this workforce crisis was the creation in 1946 of Roffey Park, a rehabilitation centre in the beautiful West Sussex countryside, where stressed workers were sent for well-being treatment, before returning to productive roles back in industry.
Fast forward seventy years and Roffey Park is an internationally renowned leadership institute. It is still doing the same essential improvement and maintenance work for workers. One of the many courses it teaches is how to build resilience: how to take a step back from challenging situations, rationalise them and find opportunities (perspective); how to become more aware of, and regulate, their emotions (emotional intelligence); how to have a clear sense of their purpose play to their strengths; how to build strong and supportive connections, and how to manage their physical wellbeing i.e. how to look after themselves.
For many of us, 2016 has had its fair share of set backs. The macro impacts on the micro. My coaching clients don’t necessarily mention Brexit or Trump but the uncertainty of these outcomes, and indeed countless others, affects their performance at work.
Of course there isn’t much we can do about 2016 now – it’s almost over and we can’t change the past. But we can plan to change our future selves and our future situations. We can swallow a healthy dose of perspective, channel the positives by practising gratitude and compassion, and learn the essential lessons of resilience and adaptability (watch out for my next article on this!).