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  • Writer's pictureSherry

Reflections for Leaders in a VUCA World

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

Many of us have talked about what it means to live in a VUCA world. All of our planning and preparing is now taking on an entirely new meaning; it is now being “crisis” tested. Experience has a way of deepening the meaning of the words we use. We invite you to consider this unplanned pause for what it will come to mean for you.

Sherry: What has this moment of crisis illuminated for you?

Tammy: One thing that seems important to acknowledge at the outset is that this conversation may be premature for many leaders who are right in the thick of things, working 16-hours six and seven days a week to handle the fallout of this pandemic.

I’m also hearing from leaders who find themselves with more downtime than they ever thought possible, wondering “what do we do when we don’t know what to do?” So, this invitation to participate in a virtual conversation will not be as linear as it might seem. With that said, there are two things that have been illuminated for me that I hope will be useful to share here:

First, experience really is the best teacher. Living and leading in a VUCA world is no longer an abstract concept to study, plan for, or read about in futurist scenarios. It is our daily teacher.

As we witness the drastically different choices Americans are making about whether to shelter-in-place and practice physical distancing, or to consider this to be an over-reaction it occurred to me that the same sort of dynamic plays out in our organizations. People identify with their “tribe” or team, and collect information that supports their point of view, but we struggle to listen to and collaborate across differences (aka silos).

Obviously the stakes are drastically different in the organizations we support, but Sherry and I find ourselves wondering what we can do to help leaders engage people to feel more connected to one another and to a more collective view of their challenges.

That seems essential to being ready for or leading thru events such as this, but it also seems more satisfying and productive too.

I also find myself wondering how it is that truth of our interdependence seems to wait on the sidelines of our daily lives until there is a crisis. It was true on 9/11 and it is true now. As devastating as such moments are, they also often bring us together.

My dog needing a break from my break.

I am appreciating what I see folks doing to support elderly neighbors, the kids restocking our grocery stores around the clock, or friends who are struggling with the feelings of isolation. And so, I find myself wondering what we can do to elevate that sense of “we’re all in this together” at work absent a crisis, so that we can tap into the power of interdependence which, I believe, would go a long way toward bridging silos and improving results and the relationships that matter to them.

Sherry: How is this affecting you personally?

Tammy: Sadness and resolve. Commitment to mine this experience for all I can, because I think it’s a profound moment in our lives and for the people we lead or support. How about you Sherry?

Sherry: I am making space for reflection and offering help to others. Appreciating every day moments and what we can uniquely offer to navigate this uncertainty.

Walking labyrinth at Paleaku Peace Sanctuary, Kona

So one last question that I want to serve as a jumping off point from our conversation to the larger community’s:

What questions will you take with you going forward?

Tammy: I love that question because I must admit, I have found myself wanting to get right to the business of action… what can I or we learn, what will we work to change. But I think that’s just my own stress reaction. I am trying instead to stay present in this moment, which is still very uncertain, and capture a few thoughts that may be useful to come back to when the time is upon us. Questions are such a great way to do that; thank you Sherry. So here are a few of the questions that come to mind:

  • How might this experience yield new insights about what I and others need during times of uncertainty and change?

  • In the spirit of learning, not blaming, what could I/we have done differently to mitigate some of the losses (financial and human; performance and people)?

  • For years I have heard folks at all levels of leadership lament about the pressure and stress of working in a 24/7 do more with less world. Will this experience shape the structure of my life going forward and if yes, how?

  • What does it mean to be resilient in the midst of uncertainty and change?

Sherry and her son, Erik (the copyeditor!)

Closing Thoughts

As we consider this as a time to build the possible scaffolding of the future, and what it will take to get on the other side of this, we invite you to offer your own sense of this experience. What do you think it will mean to lead and live in this VUCA world going forward?

Let us know the questions you would like to add to this list. We will brings these back into a virtual discussion with you in the future. For now, we will leave you with your own experience, reflections and insights. We look forward to learning and leading with you!

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