A brave New World - how will you choose to act?

When you look at this picture, what do you see?

A person who appears to be a little crazy to put himself in this position, exposed on a sheer rock face relying on his own body strength to secure a successful outcome. Or do you see someone who has such complete conviction in his own abilities that he is willing to pit himself against nature in the ultimate test of what he can do?

When we are faced with events that are outside of our comfort zone our self-preservation instincts kick in and encourage us to play safe, stick to what we know and avoid any unnecessary risks. This is driven by a completely natural emotive response – fear of the unknown.

What does FEAR mean anyway? It’s been said that it’s just an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. What if we were to break that evidence down into the sum of its parts, could we begin to understand it and manage it better? It is also worth noting that the internal feeling we have when feeling fear, that rush of adrenaline often expressed as fight or flight, is the exact same feeling we have when we are excited.

 “What matters is this: Being fearless of failure arms you to break the rules. In doing so, you may change the culture and just possibly, for a moment, change life itself.” Malcolm McLaren

 It is important to acknowledge that right now we have all been thrust into an unprecedented situation. We are in times of uncertainty and we are all trying to do our best. We will face a very different world when this is all over. Or will we? Is it possible for us to use this time to reconsider how we want to be in work and in life post Covid19? Can we channel our current fears into something positive? Can we be the change we want to see?

Here are some thoughts I have for how we can begin to do this and would encourage you to reflect on them to see what might be right for you.

Being the change:

  • Intentions: Be true and honest in what motivates you to seek change. Take the time to know your values and honour those. It can feel scary putting them out there, but if we don’t live true to our values we will always be operating in a disconnected way. Then fear of failure or being found out or any other fear will take over and inhibit us from being our true selves.

  • Speaking up: When we see things happening in our work or personal lives that we don’t agree with we have two choices – continue as normal so as not to rock the boat or speak up and ask for the changes we need. The key to success is making sure we ask in the right way.

  • Be curious: When we were children, we freely kept asking questions. Never satisfied with the first answer we repeatedly asked, ‘but why?’ until we got the information we needed or wore our parents and teachers out! When we reached adulthood our fear of not knowing the answer has often stopped us from asking that most important ‘but why?’ questions. Think of all the learning we did as children. What might we learn now if we were to channel a little of that innocence and hunger to know?

  • Leadership by everyone: It is a commonly held misconception that leadership only belongs to the senior people in an organisation. But we all must play a leadership role by demonstrating the behaviours we want to see, aligning with others of a similar ethos and encouraging all to adopt similar practices. Notice the lack of forcefulness in the words I used. The key is in bringing people with us. This is something we have seen particularly strongly in the current climate, from people of all walks of life, and it has led to some amazing ingenuity and innovation.

  • Mindset shift: We can often get caught up in holding on to past behaviours that may have served us well once but are now no longer fit for purpose. In this new world what sort of behaviours do we need to embrace personally, and within our organisations? Can we turn our attention away from things that are holding us back, statements such as ‘I can’t’ or ‘It won’t work’ or ‘It failed the last time’ to ‘I’ll give it a try’, ‘I will learn from trying this’, ‘I now know what went wrong so I can improve it this time’.

  • Environment: For all the above to flourish we need to create an environment that is brave and encourages all voices to be heard and recognised. We also need to watch out for the sound of silence, those people who need a little more encouragement to share their views. As we have seen so recently across the world, it is the cross-section of ideas that makes for success. No one person has all the answers. If there is a lot of silence in your organisation you must consider why that is, and what growth potential is being missed out on. How can that be changed? If you are one of the silent ones, what changes can you commit to making to ensure your voice is heard in future?

 Nobody said this was easy, but if it is worth having then we need to fight for it. Our current world situation is demonstrating how everyone has a role and a voice and we need to enable and support that moving forward beyond this current crisis. Let’s not lose the lessons this pandemic is teaching us. Let’s recognise our inter-dependencies and leverage them to build a stronger world, a stronger environment, a stronger humanity.

 “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” Nelson Mandela


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