Keeping your head when everyone else is panicking about change

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Lots of people running small businesses panic or put their heads in the sand when external pressures come their way. That means that those of us who can cope with change have an advantage. Rudyard Kipling had it right – “If you can keep your head” under times of pressure, you can achieve anything.

Focus on purpose

At the heart of it, what is the purpose of your business? Is it to help people, to support your family, do exciting things with technology? If the purpose of your business is to find ways of using innovative technology, then the last thing you want to cut back on is technology investment. But if the technology doesn’t matter, then do you really want to pour your profits into the next shiny gadget? It is too easy to lose sight of what we are there for when change distracts us, so let’s remember the purpose.

Focus on people

Change can destabilise you and your people. You can have fabulous relationships when times are good, but when you need to talk about cutting back on costs things can go sour. The trick here is to stay connected with our values and the kind of person we want to be. If, for example, we are normally patient and understanding, then let’s try being that way even under pressure. Explain why you need to do what you plan to do and involve them in planning and achieving the goal.

Focus on being objective and optimistic

As soon as change comes our way it is our tendency to do two things – consider how it affects our status quo and listen to the loudest voices around us. We have to do better than that. Rather than focusing on the inconvenience to us, let’s consider the opportunity if we rise to the challenge. Either way, the outcome can be a self-fulfilling prophesy – good or bad depending on how we approach it. We have to be careful about the strong voices around us. Those strong voices may want to influence us to act without thinking it through properly. Or they may want us to fight off change because change is scary. So it’s up to us to keep our heads about us, to actively evaluate those voices for ourselves and make our own judgment.

Change brings opportunity for us small business people if we keep our heads, especially while others panic. Let’s keep our purpose and our people at the heart of what we do and make sure we combine objectivity and optimism. When we do, victory will be ours.

Jean Gamester is founder of Semaphora which helps companies get the best from their people through leadership, communication and change management, as well as coaching and business simulation workshops.

semaphora.com