Olive Strachan North West Export Champion 2016
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Brexit - just change management by another name?

As a UK based SME with some international clients, the vote to leave the EU came as a shock. I knew that the vote would be close, but I was confident that ultimately Remain would win. Post Brexit I feel it is pointless to rake over the coals, beat our breasts and keep complaining. It has happened and we must move forward. The biggest request we are receiving at the moment from our clients is how we can help managers and leaders to cope with Brexit.

Having experienced a few major recessions in my working life and survived, here are a few of my hints and tips on how to ensure we emerge relatively unscathed. My mantra post Brexit is 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger', a quote from the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. 

Brexit in effect is a massive change process and the skills required by managers and leaders are the ability to deal with change and uncertainty. They must build better working relationships with team members, ensuring that they listen and communicate, provide reassurance and sometimes counselling for those who need it.

In the middle of this sea of uncertainty - because no one can predict the outcome as yet - we hear on the news about the political upheaval and the internal conflicts within various political parties.  Managers/Leaders must provide a beacon that shines amongst the chaos of all this turbulence.  

Something that staff can cling to has to be our company values.  We must keep reinforcing what we stand for as an organisation and what we believe in. Because the impact on the pound, financial markets, the housing market and uncertainty regarding the status of EU workers means that things will change.  

One thing that remains the same is the innate value and purpose of the company we work for. We need to take action that reflects company values and look for some positives. This could be an opportunity to hone your negotiation and influencing skills and ultimately become more resilient. I know definitely after the last recession where I had to seek new international markets for my consultancy services and grow my business by exporting; I emerged stronger with additional expertise and increased confidence in my abilities.

 

My 4 key tips for managing through Brexit are:

 

  1. Consider the potential changes and the impact on the role of employees and leaders.

  2. Identify the skills and attributes necessary for managing the change. E.g. one of the pre-requisites for our next prime minister is that they must have strong negotiation skills so that they can negotiate the deals we require with the rest of the EU. Similarly as an organisation what skills are required to ensure that you are able to navigate the challenging times ahead? Ideally do you possess the talent within the organisation? If not do you need to recruit the right people?

  3. Recognise the psychological impact that is associated with change, the personal responses that staff may manifest and how this will be dealt with. Coaching, counselling and providing support are critical success factors.

  4. Reflect on the impact of change on the organisation, the team and the individual and the challenges this presents. It is important to involve staff, set up some focus groups ask staff for their input and ideas making sure that staff are engaged and employees feel that they have a voice is crucial.

 

Peter Cheese the CEO of the CIPD says that Brexit is a time when we must demonstrate strong leadership and direction,  even if at the moment we are still experiencing VUCA (which is the acronym used to reflect on the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of general conditions).

The main thing to emphasis to our employees is that the 17 million people who voted for Brexit wanted to create something. Within an organisation this could also be an opportunity to create something new but it means that each person is responsible for the outcome, so we are all accountable.

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