Leading Through Volatility

Robert-photo-w-icon-150-4-7-10-FINAL4-150x150Cyclical revenue – lots of orders one quarter, not enough the next.

Inconsistent cashflow – payables out of balance with receipts.

Unpredictable profitability – decision-making is inhibited.

Business is rarely stable, but volatility like this is becoming more commonplace. Defining such circumstances as “volatile” seems to suggest that, in the future, business conditions will settle down and return to a calmer state. But instability is well established now, challenging leaders to prove their effectiveness.

Sustain a heightened awareness that your people are taking their cues from you regarding where to focus and how to act. Consistently communicate the priorities and model the behaviors defined by your core principles – sending mixed signals destroys credibility and hampers engagement.

The market is dynamic and demands versatility.  Seek to understand what part of your business will thrive and which part may not. Adapt your strategies to focus on your core, uncommon offering and to maintain alignment with your purpose and direction. Are your people working in the right roles to implement your strategies? Target low value/high cost elements for cost management efforts to minimize disruption and maximize impact. Encourage creativity that increases your flexibility to respond (reduced hours, shorter week, etc.). Keep an eye out for disparities in employee rewards or other employment issues that could elevate a perception of unfairness or inconsistency. You need all hands on deck!

Don’t let business volatility make you volatile. Unending instability and demands for performance can bring out the worst in leaders. Under pressure, all leaders can fall into their back-up behavior becoming distant, edgy and paralyzed.  Be the person your people expect you to be. Seek balance in your behavior, using your intuition and soft skills to keep your employees engaged and aligned, while being tough enough to directly intervene in situations where they are not acting in the best interests of the company.  Tightly hold on to your core principles and let them guide you in all critical decisions.  And, care for yourself to rebuild resilience, strength and courage – make time to get away from the office and reflect, simplify and focus, rest and exercise.  Exchange ideas with someone who has “been there” and has insight to share.

Leading through volatility requires clarity of purpose and priorities to make the difficult decisions, coupled with a heightened self-awareness and commitment to core values that encourages and engages employees.

How can your business increase its versatility in a volatile market?

What are doing to be the leader they need you to be?

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