I knew the session was going to be a challenge. A major challenge. The program was happening anyway, even though the company had just gotten horrible news. Economic downturn. Stock value was down 90%. The shareholders were losing confidence that this 210-year-old firm could weather the storm. It was 2009. We had a global financial crisis.
Our subject that day was leadership business acumen. We were learning how to do insurance business analysis and decisions when you are a non-financial insurance professional. We thought nobody would show up. We were wrong. Everyone showed up. And more.
We had over 45 people in attendance that day. We had planned on 25. We scrambled to accommodate everyone. We had one of the best learning programs I have ever been a part of.
The company still is a blue-chip insurance and financial services firm. They made it.
Upon reflection, I think I know why.
When change is chaotic, and there is no clear history or precedent to follow, smart people look to understand the bigger picture. When we provided these super smart people essential business acumen, along with tools to deal with their own uncertainty, well, the uncertainty subsided. More precisely, their stress around the uncertainty subsided. Every one of these 45 professionals left the session with a better understanding their business, what to do, when to do it, and how aggressive to be. They were called to action.
Business acumen reduced the negative impact of uncertainty.
We have known for some time that we ought to pay more attention to the human side of change. We are more alike than we are different. People will respond to the uncertainty in predictable ways. We have seen models like the Adoption Curve and the Stages of Grief to help us understand how people respond to disruption.
Business acumen helps you move through the stages to higher performance.
Here is why I think it works. It works because:
- If everyone sees the candid reality of what the top leadership sees and can put it in its proper context, they can do things to help. Sometimes you need to “go up in the helicopter” to see the whole picture: how it fits together, the trade-offs, and the opportunities.
- The learning and communication processes build trust and commitment, along with engagement. The metamessage is, “we’re in this together.” Your people appreciate being in the know.
- Business acumen development in times of significant change gives everyone a chance to reset their goals and objectives to increase the likelihood of success. People want to do a good job. They’ll do a good job if we trust them with the information, they need to do a good job.
Daryl Connor, change author and consultant, says the rate of change and uncertainty is only accelerating. He says we will refer to today as “the good old days,” since more change is coming. More disruption. More uncertainty.
The good news is that business acumen gives you the tools to minimize the stress, sense of powerlessness, and the negative impact of uncertainty.
Learn the bigger picture. Everyone will show up!
Dan Topf, CPT, has been collaborating with clients on business learning and performance improvement for 30+ years. He’s been a Celemi Solution Provider and Master Facilitator since 2000. His professional practice is in the intersection of leadership competencies and business results.
Read more about Uncertainty here: http://celemi.com/uncertainty-focus/