Back in July 2017, our co-founder and fearless leader, Marcele De Sanctis, was invited to be a panellist for DeakinCo’s leadership event – ‘Leadership in a VUCA World’. Marcele contributed to the panel along with Chris Styring from Fluor and Marisa Cursio from Telstra, and together, they teased apart the issues facing businesses today, looking at appropriate mindsets to prosper in a VUCA world and the typical hurdles that bring leaders undone.
What is the VUCA world you may ask? VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous – and encompasses the ever changing and in some cases overwhelming landscape that defines our working lives. The overarching question for the panel was how can businesses not only lead in a VUCA world but also thrive and grow out of this chaos?
It is important to look at the relevant issues at not only an organisational level but to also address the individual in the equation. From this perspective, the panel explored three critical mindsets that are needed by leaders to successfully navigate the VUCA landscape.
Influence is key!
Firstly, leaders need to be able to influence. They need to be aware of, and in control of, their own influencing skills and know what strategy to deploy and when to deploy it.
Sometimes, the book cover is all you need!
Being time poor is a very real issue facing many leaders and unfortunately they don’t have the luxury to read the whole book – but have to judge it by its cover. They need sound judgement. With the rapid fire of information, leaders also need to be able to take on and interpret new and unfamiliar information at a fast rate. There is a push for them to be able to analyse content and circumstances quickly while exercising good judgement. They also need to play to their strengths and in times of uncertainty it is important that leaders are aware of their own abilities and blind spots. This means that leaders need to be cautious when presented with unfamiliar scenarios and recognise that sometimes it is wise to not take on everything.
If it’s going to happen – do it fast!
If we acknowledge that change management is a critical component of VUCA navigation, then why do so many organisations struggle to foster an environment that encourages innovation and creative problem solving? What do companies need to do to ensure that their approach is VUCA compatible? The answer it appears lies in an organisation’s fundamental agility. Marcele and the panel explained how for most companies that implement a successful change management plan, they were more agile than most and better able to quickly adapt. This means that they are fast to put new products to market and are able to implement a ‘test and learn’ approach – quickly. The benefit of a ‘test and learn’ approach is that companies can see the areas that work or perhaps more importantly those that do not. In some cases it is more beneficial to ‘fail fast’ – it ensures you’re able to make changes fast and are better equipped to adapt to changing business landscapes.
Now, the concept of failure is somewhat terrifying – no organisation or leader ever intends to fail.
However, by minimising the negative consequences or pressures associated with failure, leaders are able to foster a workforce that is willing to try new things, think creatively and to not be chained to how things have been done in the past. The ultimate goal is to have a team that is not only comfortable with uncertainty but one that is competent and confident to make difficult decisions free from the stress/consequences of failure – these traits need to be taught to team members and fortified through experience.
These are only a few of the ideas discussed on the Deakin panel, there were many more explored on the day. If you are interested in learning more about VUCA and how to lead your business through these tough times of uncertainty click on the link provided below to watch a recording of the event.