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Training in times of uncertainty

We’re not even through the first month of 2019 and we’ve already witnessed a crushing Brexit deal defeat in Parliament, a second no-confidence vote in nearly as many months for the PM, and the US government experiencing its longest shut down in history.

Away from politics, forecasters are making dramatic predictions in the business world, with retail jobs expected to decrease by 20% in 2019, and car manufacturing output declining by a similar figure for the first time in a decade.

Apart from the alarming headlines in politics and economics, businesses and their employees are also facing ever-increasing pressure to adapt to the rapid advance of technology, the always-on expectation from their customers and unrelenting concerns about financial and data security.

Welcome to the new normal – termed VUCA in managerial circles. Said to originate from the US Army, where it described the new world emerging at the end of the Cold War, VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.

There are numerous versions of its meaning, including a good one here, but at BiteSize we view things through the lens of leadership development, so our definition of VUCA is this:

Volatility – many sectors, from automotive to healthcare, are changing rapidly, often in turbulent conditions. A volatile workplace can be detrimental to productivity, as well as incredibly stressful. Sometimes it’s down to poor managerial or staff training, personality conflicts, inefficient systems or processes, or the workflow pressures related to a particular sector.

Uncertainty – Dr David Rock suggests we can think of our brains as vast prediction machines, and when they can’t predict an outcome an alert is triggered, and a threat response occurs. He says: “Uncertainty is like an inability to create a complete map of a situation. With parts missing, you’re not as comfortable as when the map is complete.”

Complexity – we need to look no further than the way we communicate on a daily basis to see how complex our lives have become. How many text messages, WhatsApps, emails, phone calls, LinkedIn or Facebook notifications did you read or make today? This simple example can easily be translated to the workplace, where we encounter endless reports, memos, meetings, revised strategies, mergers etc.

Ambiguity – in complex, fast-changing environments, decisions sometimes have to be made without knowing the full picture. Innovation is high on businesses’ agendas, requiring leaders to make bold decisions and take risks. Adaptability to change is now essential for business leaders.

So how should we be equipping leaders for this uncertain world? The good news is that you can to do it through training. What’s more, recent research from Yale University shows uncertainty actually boosts learning.

Here are our course recommendations for managing in a VUCA world, all delivered in bite-size formats for instant, translatable actions:

  • Managing changeleaders learn techniques and models to drive and manage successful change programmes of all sizes and types. 
  • Resiliencewhen people feel disempowered and out of balance, they are unable to think or communicate clearly. This course gives people the knowledge and strategies to operate at peak performance in a demanding world. 
  • Success through changea personal effectiveness course that ensures people are heard and included in times of change. The sense of increased control in volatile business environments reduces stress. 
  • Motivation this course helps leaders to understand their teams’ motivations and to align them with business needs. Practical tools will help them generate results.
  • Leadership communication – leaders learn techniques for engaging others and drawing contributions, using stories and questioning skills to reinforce their message and build trust.

What is the major uncertainty facing your business this year and how are you are grappling with it from an L&D point of view?

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