Are leaders sufficiently prepared for Scottish independence?

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September 17th, 2014

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flagWhatever the outcome of the vote on Scottish independence this coming Thursday, most commentators expect a period of uncertainty and widespread change to follow. We were somewhat surprised then, when in response to some questions we posed as part of our annual Management Agenda survey (the full results from which will be available in February next year), the majority (57 per cent) of UK-based Directors said that they expected the vote not to have an impact on their business. Does this reflect a lack of preparedness on the part of UK-based Directors, a collective burying of heads in the sand? There is, of course, the possibility that this majority of UK-based Directors have carefully studied and analysed all the potential implications of the outcome of the vote, made contingency plans, and are content that the most likely result for their business is of ‘no change’. This, we think, seems unlikely.

We have recently been conducting some research at Roffey Park on resilience as leaders increasingly report being faced with constant, disruptive change. There are, perhaps, lessons we can take from this and offer to help leaders manage the uncertainty and anxiety that change brings. Looking for opportunities in change is a way of reframing positively often negative, kneejerk reactions to change. Our survey results seem to bear the latter out. The vast majority of UK-based Directors who reported expecting Scottish independence to have an impact on their business felt that the impact was likely to be negative (overall, 36 per cent of Directors anticipate an impact on their business of independence; 34 per cent think it will be negative whilst only 2 per cent think the impact will be positive). This doubtless reflects a natural human response to change where uncertainty creates anxiety, and a vacuum of information is filled by worries and concerns about the future. Making a conscious effort to identify the positive in a situation as well as accepting its potential negative aspects is essential to gaining a sense of perspective, and a sense of control. Whilst we may not be able to fully control a situation, a sense of control gives us energy and determination to persist in the face of setbacks and obstacles.

Change can cause a sense of chaos, of frenetic activity and confusion. Our work on resilience demonstrates the value of leaders having a clear sense of their own purpose and values. Why do they do what they do? And what guides and shapes the way they do things? Without such focus, leaders can easily lose their sense of themselves and their strengths. Our work has also highlighted the value of emotional intelligence, looking after oneself, and the developing of extensive networks of people able to offer both practical and emotional support. Providing support for and caring for others emerges as, if not more, important for resilience in times of stress.

However Scots vote on Thursday, the question for business leaders on both sides of the border will be how to prepare themselves and their staff for change, and how to manage the ambiguity and anxiety associated with change. Their own resilience, and that of their staff, is likely to be tested. With that thought in mind, reflecting on how they might develop and support their own and others’ resilience could be time well spent.

 

Dan LucyDan Lucy is Head of Research at Roffey Park

Roffey Park’s research report – Building Resilience: five key capabilities – will be published later this month.  Please email us to register your interest in this research.  Roffey Park’s Management Agenda 2015 research will be published in February 2015 but you can download this year’s research report from our website