Challenging Times

There is no doubt that we are in challenging times.  The business world has long used the acronym VACU to describe such times.  Volatility, Ambiguity, Complexity and Uncertainty all create a web of difficulties that the leader must untangle.  Harvard researchers have suggested that each of these is a distinct situation and needs a specific response. Sometimes that is the case.  There is, however, no denying that times they are a changing rapidly and that multiple difficulties are upon us.

I love acronyms.  I have also felt like trying to find a secure place to hide on several occasions in the last few days so I am using the acronym CAVE to identify four of the key things leaders need to show in such a time as this.  

Clarity.  We know what we know and there is a lot that we don’t know.  Trying to bring as much clarity to the situation as possible is paramount.  This means finding things out, from reliable sources, as quickly as possible.  It means communicating well; frequently; in the right medium and at the right time.  Clarifying is about bringing light to a situation. We try and avoid ambiguity and give as much accurate information as possible to everyone who needs to know.

Adaptability.  As things change, so might the action required.  We certainly might need to change what we do. We might even need to change the way we do things and when we do them.  Many of us have even needed to change our attitudes, values and beliefs in response to situations like the one we now face.  Knowing how to effect change and how to live with the emotional impact of change in yourself and in others is vital.

Visibility.  When things are tough, leaders need to be visible.  Traditionally such visibility has been public. Leaders go to the place affected.  They bring a comforting touch. They meet the right people. Some of this visibility is still possible.  What we are now learning is that a new kind of visibility through all kinds of media is also needed. Our written communication is a form of visibility.  Email and social media means that we can be present without being physically there. And for some at this time, that is the only visibility we can have.       

Empathy.  We see the world a certain way.  A way coloured by our experiences, beliefs and biology.  It is therefore obvious that others will see the world differently.  At this time it is essential that we try and see things from the viewpoint of others.  That we put ourselves in their shoes. That we hear their stories; their issues; their concerns.  And that we are affected by others whilst knowing who we are and what we value.

Julian Dutnall
CEO, LIFE Education Trust

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