The Story You Tell Yourself Matters

As a leader in this time of global uncertainty the story you tell yourself about what’s happening matters.  If there was ever a time to be vigilant around the narrative you’re spinning, that time is now.

What’s changing in your business based on recent economic, environmental and political events? What concerns are present for you?  How are you navigating these?

You see, how you interpret the impact of unfolding world events dictates whether you can find opportunity amidst disruption, or whether you fall victim to the circumstances.

Let’s start with falling victim.  This could be by feeding a mood of anxiety and wanting to predict and control circumstances, which to a large extent are both unpredictable and noncontrollable. This could be by evoking the mood of resentment, feeling the unjustness of what’s changed in your world and taking a position that has you feel justified in your anger. This could be becoming resigned to what’s happening and giving in to a feeling of hopelessness and despair as you watch events erode what you thought to be business as usual.

These positions or ‘stands’ are largely adopted unconsciously. They reveal a kind of blindness we can have as a leader in thinking things are as they seem and that we are powerless to change our experience of them.

Finding opportunity amidst disruption requires a very different orientation.

We offer 3 ways you can remain vigilant and open as a leader in order to navigate these times of uncertainty and change:

  1. Recognise what you can change and what you cannot

 Whilst you cannot change world events, you can change how you observe, think about and respond to them. This is not as easy as it seems.  You see, the reason that these changes provoke you is that they impact something that matters for you. This might be your identity, your livelihood, your job and more. When that ‘something’ feels under threat, you will have an automatic tendency.  That tendency is the exact thing we want you to focus on.

Is your tendency to ‘tighten up’ and get in control? Is your tendency to give up? Or to panic, which disperses a wave of panic into your team and stakeholder network?

For whatever response you have to uncertainty, threat or disruption, this is likely to play out as a behaviour, and the greater the concern you have, the more pronounced your behaviour.  While you may not recognise this as a pattern of behaviour, your teams will.

What happens for you when you’re under threat or when some aspect of your world feels compromised?

If you’ve identified a pattern for yourself in our description, the good news is that it’s only a pattern, and that by identifying your provocations and automatic responses, you’ve taken the first step towards ‘being’ different as a leader in the face of events and circumstances you cannot control and predict.

You see, when provocations arise, you can choose to do what you’ve habitually done, or you can choose a new path.

You cannot change the events.  You can change your response to them!

  1. Learn to be a different observer

Now we are going to ask you to do something you might not like.  To sit with the discomfort of not doing what you always do and allow the feelings to arise.  The feelings associated with disruption are the doorway to being able to see opportunity where most people cannot.

This means being OK with feelings of uncertainty, confusion and perplexity, without rushing for an answer and without reacting.  It means observing what’s happening and deliberately resisting the need to do something straight away to solve it, fix it and put it to bed.  It means allowing some space for the circumstances to play out and inform you of a broader pattern.  This may also mean looking to history and evoking a sense of the future to broaden your perspective of what’s happening right now.

These all describe how it is to be a different observer.  To ponder possibilities. To entertain ideas and scenarios that are left of field.  To invite different perspectives and different voices and this is the pathway to finding possibility amidst what others might experience as chaos. We call this evoking a constructive mood – maybe wonder and possibility.

Now you can generate a new story.  In response to ‘what’s happening’ you can craft an informed narrative that serves you rather than disempowers you. This is wholly within your control, and it requires a kind of self-discipline.

The discipline to not allow fear and concern to run your show, but to cultivate the courage and presence of mind to know this is a moment of choice and deliberation.

Now you’re creating the space of possibility!

  1. What’s possible here?

Possibility is all about mood and mood is all about the narrative you’re in.  Are you in a narrative that has you uplifted, buoyant and leading your team with optimism and ambition?  Or are you in a narrative that has you flatten out ideas and dampen options for the sake of your concern?

Consider adopting a new craft here.  The practice of constantly opening ideas, options and conversations for the sake of keeping your narrative and mood in the space of possibility.  Consider that as you do this for yourself, there’s a ripple effect and you become the conductor of the team’s mood.

You are the person who creates the space of possibility and hope, and your behaviours and practices are the ones your teams mirror in going about their own response to market movements and shifts.

What style of leader do you want to be in a time of such profound change? One that asks, ‘what’s possible here?’ and continues to open your stakeholders to ideas beyond the immediate, or one who’s behaviours reflect the behaviours of the crowd and whose business results follow the sentiment?

We see this time as one of profound opportunity for leaders willing to re-invent themselves and cultivate a new way of engaging with uncertainty.  As a leader, the quality of your narrative determines how you ‘show up’, how you feel, what opportunities become apparent and how you lead others through times of change and disruption.

If you’re wanting to know more about being able to resist the temptation of relying on an old story to ‘make sense’ of what’s happening, and instead bring to life new ways of thinking, exploring and imagining, then stay in our conversation.  We’re cultivating a conversation for game changers – leaders who want to learn, innovate and create.

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