13 Jul 2022

In the midst of change and uncertainty, be kind to yourself

Recent political turmoil in Westminster makes it even harder for organisations to plan, and the revolving door of ministers creates an additional hurdle for those involved in lobbying. The wave of resignations has swept away hard-earned relationships with key contacts, leaving membership bodies asking themselves ‘Who do we write to now?’

That uncertainty, on top of the upheaval of austerity, Brexit, Covid, and the war in Ukraine, takes its toll on all of us, and requires leaders to draw on even more energy and resilience.  

In the July meeting of our CEO Central network, members shared their strategies for coping with the disruption caused by factors like these which lie beyond our control.

Re-consider your timeframe
A major source of stress and frustration for CEOs stems from having developed and agreed a 12-month budget based on a reasonable set of expectations, only to find the world changes enormously over that year, rendering earlier decisions irrelevant. Some larger organisations are maintaining longer term plans and strategies, but encouraging their teams to focus solely on the next immediate step.

One member of the network allocates a contingency pot in the budget to cover a broad range of eventualities. If organisational resources allow, it might be worth taking a leaf out of their book to help reduce the impact of anything that might crop up over the coming months.

Given the rapidly shifting circumstances, one smaller, more agile, organisation has put long-term planning to one side and is focusing solely on the next 6-12 months, with a reduced expectation that anything would turn out as they had hoped. A short-term view feels more manageable than worrying about what the landscape might look like further down the line. The approach has proven to be better for the team’s mental health as it decreases the likelihood that carefully drawn plans will have to be torn up and new ones started from scratch. It also makes it easier for the organisation to pivot when events require it.

Lean on your network
Build relationships and make sure that the group you report to and work with is aware of how you are doing, as well as any particularly challenging personal circumstances you might be facing, so that they feel comfortable tapping you on the shoulder and asking ‘Are you ok?’ if they are concerned.

If you open up to colleagues when you are finding things tough, they are more likely to feel able to reciprocate when they need to talk.

Have regular (weekly or fortnightly) catch ups/check-ins with a key person, such as a Chair or C-Suite colleague, and make time to ask each other how you are. You may prefer to offload to a trusted person outside the organisation, such as a fellow CEO facing similar challenges. An executive coach can also help clarify thinking in rapidly changing circumstances.

Employee Assistance Programmes are another potential source of support for team members.

Remember – we are not all super women or super men!
The tremendous pace of change we are experiencing takes its toll on all of us. Make sure you take time to check in with yourself, to understand and acknowledge how you are feeling and coping. Be open and honest with those trusted individuals, and allow them to support you when needed.

CEO Central is an informal and supportive space, operating under the Chatham House rule, for CEOs and Executive Directors to gain insight, share learning and offer support to one another. The next edition takes place on Thursday 4 August at 4.30pm – 5.30pm, via Zoom.

Recommended reading: Network member Geoff Webb's very personal story serves as a timely reminder for leaders that when you are busy looking after everyone else, there is a danger that you forget to look after yourself. 

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