By Michael Gunther
I don’t know about you, but I am becoming increasingly concerned about how to manage effectively in this ever-evolving chaotic political environment. And it is not just America’s political environment but those around the world: United Kingdom’s Brexit, France’s far-right candidate wanting to mimic our current president’s policies and a dozen other countries going through populists movements. All these unpredictable events affect my business because they impact both my employees and my clients’ ability to stay focused and productive.
The political discourse amongst all the parties is generating a divided workforce. Some of my clients have felt the impact of their chosen political views on their business. The unrest with weekly protests and new executive orders fueling these protests is becoming a consistent unsettling environment in which to operate a business. The stock market is breaking records while growth is actually stalling and consumer confidence is beginning to drop. Europe’s unrest is beginning to affect us, and world relations among the major powers are creating a sense of instability. Consumers are expected to begin pulling back their already tepid spending which will lead to even slower growth.
Just writing this down is stressing me out. As a leader, I have to adjust our direction as needed to continue supporting my team on their goals. But as an individual, I am finding it difficult to separate our goals and work environment from the chaos that is surrounding us. I could pretend these issues aren’t having an influence and just focus on the things I can control. But I would be an ostrich with my head in the sand if I am not strategizing and anticipating how these events may impact our business as well as our clients.
What is the answer? I am not sure there is a single, light switch approach to trying to operate within this environment. Workplaces should be a place where different opinions and civil discourse are allowed to help build better relationships and work environments. In addition, allowing my employees to discuss what is going in the world and how it may impact their work or productivity will be important. This can create an open environment and provides the opportunity to catch any concerns early on. Lastly, as leaders, we must keep an eye on all these events. It doesn’t matter what your political affiliation is, these events will impact us all in one way or another. If you think they won’t, you may want to alter your perspective.
I believe this stage in our journey as business leaders will test our ability to create consensus where none may exist, to sift through all the rhetoric to understand the true heart of an issue and to develop a safe environment for your team where they can perform at their best while being true to who they are as individuals.
None of us can predict the future or anticipate the opportunities or challenges ahead as our society goes through this transitional and contentious time. As leaders, we have to remember this chaotic world environment can have impact on stress levels and the ability to focus on the task at hand. Your capacity to be a coach, mentor and communicator may be more important than ever before.