Think at London Business School
In challenging times, it’s vital that organisations understand the potential of mindsets to limit or catalyse success
By Aneeta Rattan, Herminia Ibarra
Disruption can make or break an organisation. It can cripple processes and operations, wiping away sales, profit and years of hard-won stability. Last year, we saw bankruptcies, furloughs and large-scale bailouts; not to mention personal trauma and uncertainty as to what the future might hold.
But disruption can also be an opportunity for growth and new discoveries. During challenging times, we are forced to refocus on our core competence and vision, drive customer loyalty, visibly add value, adjust operations for speed, agility and cost, and get creative with delivering exemplary service while managing cashflow.
In times of uncertainty, effective leaders anticipate disruption and stay committed to their goals, while building innovative new business models. Staying committed to excellence requires you to:
Lewis Carroll said: “If you don’t know where you are going, it doesn’t matter which road you take.” It’s difficult to be resilient if you don’t know your goal. Resilience is inspired by identifying your vision, then committing to a life that is aligned with your values and guided by your goals. In times of disruption, this resolve helps resilient people to adjust their strategy to reflect the changes in circumstances. It helps improve motivation, coordination and concentration, while reducing fear and anxiety. Your purpose is defined by your answers to these key questions: Why do you exist? Why does this organisation exist? What were you put here to do and how do you want to achieve it? Figuring out what drives you, what you are good at and the problems you want to solve will save you from getting distracted and provide guidance in times of disruption.
We will all face adversity at some point on the journey to success. It might be as a result of an internal weakness such as a failure to adequately prepare or weak processes; or it might be an external threat such as competition, emerging technologies or a raging pandemic. It is important to understand that no one is immune from instability. We can’t control what happens in our external environment, but we can control how we respond to it. We can choose to respond from an empowered perspective, learning the lessons before us, and pivoting accordingly. Effective leadership comes from accepting the change and working towards alternative processes to hasten recovery and continue the upward trajectory towards success.
Resilient people are committed to improving their lives and reaching their goals. Success requires more than just desire. It requires a constant, consistent effort to be better. Excellence is forged in the routines we create and the habits we form. These habits will see us through the days when it is tempting to throw in the towel or settle for less. The plan may change as new information comes in, but it is vital to continue working on the plan, with eyes fixed on the ultimate goal. Commitment in turn builds grit, the fighting spirit that sets people apart. It is having the passion and perseverance to pursue long-term goals with sustained zeal and hard work, regardless of changing circumstances or difficult times.
Once an individual or organisation is clear on their reasons for existing, navigating alternative routes to success is infinitely easier. For example, a retail store must consider online sales a business mainstay if it is to achieve its vision of meeting targets. An effective leader must welcome new ideas from across the team if the older ways of working have been upset. That means an open-door policy so team members can approach leaders with their ideas, concerns and findings. Encouraging everyone to get involved in problem-solving may yield surprising results – helping the organisation to plug holes, gain valuable insights and survive.
One of the greatest stressors of disruption is the uncertainty it brings. Being unable to predict the future makes self-leadership and personal effectiveness even more crucial. Live in the now, attending to your current experience, rather than trying to predict the future or dwelling on the past. Navigating crises means managing our minds in a way that increases our ability to withstand the storm and set our sails to the prevailing winds. Disruption just might prove the needed incentive to reassess what is important, what can be refined, what we need to be grateful for, what we need to change and how we can live life to the full.
Juliet Ehimuan EMBA2008 is an executive leadership coach and founder of Beyond Limits Africa. She is also Country Director leading Google’s business strategy in West Africa.
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