Maverick Thinking

Let go of the fire hose

15 August 2022 3 min read
Written by

Robin Bryant

Let go of the fire hose

Is it time for business leaders to ‘let go of the fire hose’ and move on from the negative behaviours that have been adopted during a crisis? Mobas CEO and Founder Robin Bryant explains why now is the time to move on. 

Well, what a few years it’s been – in both our personal and professional lives! 

I don’t think that anyone could have predicted the impact this period has had on all of us, especially from a business perspective. However, as business owners, leaders, and managers, is it time that we all start asking ourselves how long we should stay in a ‘crisis’ mindset? Is the time right to step out of this behaviour? Do we need to consciously stop firefighting in order to move forwards?

For over two years, a large proportion of the business leaders that we have the pleasure of working alongside, as well as our peers, have been clinging onto the proverbial ‘fire hose’; fighting to put out ‘crisis’ fires from within their business and not allowing themselves to look at the future landscape. This very behaviour is stalling many businesses from realising what they have the potential to achieve. Of course, it’s easy to talk about changing this behaviour, but it’s much more difficult in practice. After all, many businesses are still suffering as a consequence of the Covid crisis and many business leaders are simply exhausted by the mental impact it’s had on them. This heavily affects their ability to lift their heads above the parapet and see the future landscape – they’re not able to mark out a road map to growth. 

As the minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months pass by, it is essential in business to stop, look, listen, reassess, and plan the route forward. The ability to reflect on lessons learnt during a crisis is vital and certain aspects need to be taken forward on the journey – that’s just what it means to live and learn. Failure to look ahead is simply prolonging the pain currently plaguing business leaders, managers and more importantly the wider teams that are looking for guidance and certainty from a solid business plan (which they know they play a major part in deploying). Failure to seek out a road map is simply asking for more disaster.

We must acknowledge and accept that, psychologically, people tend to focus on negative experiences, as they try to make sense of the world and what is going on around them. Honing in on the negative in a crisis, and mistrusting the positive, is natural human behaviour. When we put this into the context of the previous two years and the ongoing impact this period has on our daily lives, it’s easy to see why people are struggling to achieve a paradigm shift – to put themselves back into a more forward-facing and positive frame of mind. However, we need to remember that this is the only frame of mind that will help to steer a business back to greener pastures and achieve engaged and motivated collaboration within our teams. 

Once we can understand and identify our behaviour and thought patterns, we can start to make peace and look ahead. We can start to move forwards again with a certain level of confidence and trust that what we do next, and how we plan for the future, are within our control. 

Let me introduce you to VUCA. 

VUCA is a term that was originally used in 1987, but feels more relevant today than ever before – that is in my lifetime, at least. The term VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. It perfectly describes the world that business leaders have - and continue – to inhabit. Many businesses and markets have changed beyond recognition, driven by fundamental shifts in consumer behaviours alongside a gloomy economic backdrop. Unprecedented pressure on sales; competitive pricing; stress on recruitment, customer, and staff retention – mix all of this together and it seems VUCA is set to stay for quite a while! Business leaders need to, therefore, understand how to work with it and how to turn VUCA into growth.

Uncertainty and volatility can often be converted into catalysts for positive change. Like new life that grows from the ashes of the fire, fresh thinking and unexpected, exciting ideas can help to push businesses forwards – sometimes by leaps and bounds. 

To enable positive change and drive growth, leaders must delve into their business to engineer this change – this is the only way to surpass business goals. They must identify new business tactics and they must deliver highly targeted programmes of change focused on sales, marketing, pricing, strategy, leadership, and organisational structure. Quite often, these are seen as giant leaps for businesses but are an essential blend of programmes that require focus, attention, and consistency in delivery. Doing so will only accelerate opportunities in this new era of modern business and will help to unlock untapped potential.

It’s important to remember that in business, as in life, we are living in the future of yesterday – a place where anything is possible if we allow it to be so.

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