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Brexit: Resilience through Uncertainty

breixt2Continuing to assess the impact from the referendum

The past few weeks have brought new meaning to leading through uncertainty.  With changes in government, low confidence in the UK economy, fluctuating share prices and the appearance that we are talking ourselves into a recession, how can any of us cope and perform at our best?

Recent research carried out by Credit Suisse suggests 49% of FTSE 350 boards in the FT–ICSA Boardroom Bellwether survey did not put a plan in place to cope with a Brexit outcome.  So what can we do to help?

In this article we’ll explore the ways different businesses are responding to the current situation, offer some tips from the research on resilience and leave you with the reminder that your mindset is critical for your success and mental health.

Jelly Bean Diversity

Many anecdotal stories emerged from the last two economic contractions, indicating that the strongest surviving companies were those who maintained focus and continued to invest in advertising and people development.

In a Harvard Business School study of three recessions, it was found that “firms that cut costs faster and deeper than rivals don’t necessarily flourish. They have the lowest probability—21%—of pulling ahead of the competition when times get better.”  “Companies that master the delicate balance between cutting costs to survive today and investing to grow tomorrow do well after a recession.”  You can read the whole study here.

If you’re not in a position to make or influence decisions about the direction the business takes post-Brexit, what can you do?  Developing your resilience or ‘bouncebackability’ can be critical for staying effective and focused no matter what life throws at you.

One of the critical aspects of resilience is self-belief – slightly different to self-confidence, self-belief is the sense that you can cope, you will survive and life goes on.  Why is self-belief important for resilience?  Without self-belief we can feel helpless in the face of difficult and challenging situations that occur.  We can be afraid of the future, worry that things will be impossible to overcome and feel frozen into inaction.

Totem Lollipops

However, if we believe that we have the skills and resources to deal with these situations, we will be willing to tackle the challenge head-on, focus on the outcomes we want and persist towards that outcome even when things get difficult.  So how can people develop self-belief?

Remember where you have coped before

We have all faced challenging situations before – and we’re still here, still breathing, still getting on with things.  Think back to the difficult things in life you have overcome.  When has life been hard and you have managed to survive and maybe even thrive afterwards?  Remembering that we have coped before can boost our confidence that we can cope again – building that belief in our ability.

Set goals and achieve them

A key way to develop self-belief is through ‘mastery’ experiences, ie setting yourself goals and achieving them.  In relation to resilience this means learning you can cope with unexpected situations.  By putting yourself in situations where you have to use your coping resources, you will learn that you are capable of dealing with these situations.

Identify and observe role models

Identify people who are able to cope with challenging and difficult situations easily.  What do they do and what can you learn from them?

Find a supportive coach or mentor

A key element of building self-belief is being encouraged by others and having them acknowledge your achievements.  Identify someone who can support you and mentor you.

Challenge your own limiting beliefs

Our belief in our ability to cope is often limited by our beliefs about ourselves and our own capabilities.  It is important to challenge and question these beliefs, as it is often only these beliefs that hold us back. The first step is identifying them: what statements do you tell yourself over and over?  Things like “I could never cope with…,” “I’m not good enough for this job,” “I can’t do this” and “I could never do this job if…” are common limiting beliefs.  We state them in our minds like they are facts.

Make a list of the most common things you tell yourself that fit into this category of sounding like facts, yet are really more beliefs about your ability.

The second step is to challenge these statements.  Are they facts?  For each one, ask yourself whether this is true, false or cannot say.  What evidence do you have that this statement might be false?  When we say things like “I always fail” or “I never do well at…” the fact is that we will have evidence to the contrary.  We will of course sometimes fail, but we sometimes succeed too.  Challenging these limiting beliefs and creating new beliefs for ourselves can be critical to our self-belief.

What if we changed “I always fail” to “Sometimes I do well and I want to do everything I can to make sure this time I do well too.”

Each business is reacting differently to the changes the UK is experiencing at the moment and that uncertainty will continue.  Looking at building resilience and self-belief – for yourself and your people, is a critical step towards surviving and thriving today and tomorrow.