Guest article By Jean Gamester, Semaphora
Despite dire warnings from leaders and experts we have an ill-disciplined amateur in the White House and the UK Government is dedicated to delivering a Brexit solution unlikely to satisfy anyone. There are all sorts of reasons why the electorates in both countries chose solutions that led to stock markets tumbling, but one, in particular, stands out to me. Those hit hardest by austerity and globalisation felt that they had nothing to lose – they felt voiceless, betrayed and unrepresented.
I could write about what it is that politicians have done to create these waves of discontent, but there would be nothing new in that. The thing that strikes me is that those of us who lead in business, public sector and charities are neither innocent nor immune. Corporate scandals, massive income disparities and cutbacks mean that there is often no trust or respect for those in charge. Leaders may think they are in control, but discontented staff can obstruct change, deliver the absolute minimum, walk out or strike. Disaffected customers can boycott your products, just like they did to Ivanka Trump.
There is a reasonable chance that the teams and organisations that we workplace leaders run could also get Trumped unless we look to our ways, and if we do get Trumped, we will need to handle it.
Avoiding a fine mess
From time to time, I find myself briefing employees whose roles and future job security is affected by change. It’s not my favourite job, I have to say, but it is amazing to me how often staff will come up to me afterwards to thank me for being honest, sharing as much as I could and showing that I cared. My view is that you need trust and the input of people on the ground to make things happen.
This is a question of priorities. Prioritise engaging with your people, understanding what is important to them and involving them. Prioritise making sure what we do takes their wellbeing into account properly. All too many of us fail to make the time to really connect with our people, instead we treat them as disposable or ignorable. And this leads to our wonderful plans getting Trumped.
Making the best of a fine mess
Some things can’t be undone – Brexit means Brexit (probably) and Clinton has conceded. I have worked with teams that have fought hard against each other because of differences on issues and values. The most successful ones debate hard until the decision is made and then get on board to make it work. If the losing side is consumed by anger, frustration and divisiveness, then their predictions become a self-fulfilling prophesy. By that I mean that “they said it would never work” turns into it never working because they didn’t get on board.
Sometimes the wrong person gets the job and we aren’t in control of the decision. Maybe they don’t have the character, the skills, or the drive to make it work. I’ve inherited teams like that when I have been troubleshooting and I have found that the best way around it is to understand what people are strong at, and find other ways to fill the gap. Just like Trump’s Twitter account was minded by someone with more self-control in the last days of the election, we can find ways to reallocate the work and put controls in place that reduce the risks. Hopefully those who declared they would never work with Trump will change their minds now he is elected, so he has some decent advisors at his disposal.
Finding a way out of a fine mess
Sometimes things change. I take comfort from the Irish referenda on Nice and Lisbon treaties where initially the electorate said no, but then the treaty was changed so the Irish said yes later on. Maybe something will happen with Brexit that allows us to find a decent solution and maybe Donald will sign up for a lucrative movie deal instead of handling the hassles of office.
We constantly need to be on the lookout for ways to deal with fine messes. The answers may not be obvious at the time, but these seeming disasters act as a springboard for future success.
I once worked on a change programme scuppered by the disagreements of politicians and an unwillingness to engage with trade unions. Because it got scuppered, it led to a whole new way of working with trade unions and lots of innovations with technology that would never have happened. So let’s keep an eye out for opportunities and keep our heads up high – that way perhaps we can out-trump being trumped.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jean Gamester is founder of Semaphora which helps companies get the best from their people through leadership, communication and change management, as well as coaching and business simulation workshops. Jean’s various roles and assignments have included interim charity CEO, national volunteer leader, public and private sector transformation. She’s a programme manager, troubleshooter and professional public speaker. Her workshops and coaching focus on delivering change through getting the best out of people and teams. Her work focusses on helping people achieve success through strong leadership, teamwork, influencing and communications skills.
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