Leading in a VUCA World

Leading in a VUCA World
Blog by Angela Fieler

2023 has arrived, and with it has come social media posts of all kinds about resolutions, plans, and priorities for the new year. I regularly check in with my coaching clients. We talk about progress toward coaching goals, and we make any necessary adjustments to those goals. Given the tendency of most folks to commit to change in the new year, I was surprised this morning’s client admitted to being unable to set any kind of priorities for the next quarter, let alone the next year. I asked him a few probing questions, and he identified “uncertainty” as the number one reason he was having trouble focusing on goal setting and adjusting. Like him, I’ve read a lot of articles on how much change we’ve already endured in the workplace and how much more we can expect to face in 2023.

What is a VUCA World?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by what the new year might bring, here are a few tips to help you navigate in a VUCA world. VUCA stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. It describes the constant, unpredictable change that is now the norm of leadership today.

Volatility requires that, as leaders, you accept and embrace change as a constant and unpredictable feature of your working environment. Do not resist it. Create a strong, compelling statement of team objectives and rely heavily on your values. Work to develop a clear, shared vision of the future. Make sure that goals are flexible and can shift when you need to react quickly to changes.

Uncertainty requires that, as leaders, you ask more questions, listen more deeply, and read/hear about different perspectives. Now is the time to develop new ways of thinking and acting in response to this environment. Read industry reports, stay up to date on trends you are seeing, and listen to your customers. Talk about where you would like to do better. Talk about and anticipate possible future threats and devise likely responses. 

Complexity requires that, as leaders, you are clear on what to focus on for the short term and communicate about it regularly. Identify all the opportunities for collaboration to occur. A group of people create a mastermind and can collectively come up with the best solution.

Ambiguity requires that, as leaders, you plan ahead, work outside your comfort zone, and increase job knowledge and experience. Embrace an ‘ideas culture’ and shout it from the rooftops when someone comes up with an innovative approach.

How to Incorporate a VUCA World Into Your Life

That’s a lot, I know. Start by reflecting on each element and choose only one to focus on in the next 30 days. If there’s still too much to sort through, contact Baird Group and ask about our executive coaching services or our Leading Change workshop.

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