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I’ve had a surprising number of conversations recently with people who are planning to move from one stage to the next – personally or in their business.

What usually comes with this is a sense that “I’ve never done this before.” So big disorientation and unsettledness.

Everything seems upside down.

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The Great Resignation, or Great Reshuffling, or whatever you call it. I’m talking to a whole bunch of people who are re-prioritizing, re-examining, and re-thinking what their work is about.

It’s a major factor in how employees are making decisions right now.

Part of the problem is that everyone has their own priorities and sense of balance. More than ever, it really matters if you have small kids, elderly parents, or are thinking of buying a house when prices are going through the roof.

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A lot of the people I’m working with are immobilized. These are smart people, experienced. But we’re faced with a situation that few of us have ever seen in our lifetimes.

Everything is uncertain. We’re dealing with a virus and recession with no reliable projections for resolution.

Literally nobody on the planet knows what the next six months will look like.

So how do we make decisions in this environment?

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Things are changing quickly, but making progress slowly. It’s all very confusing.

Certainly my sense of time has gotten all screwed up since March.

The challenge is that you, as leader, are tasked with leading communication for your organization.

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This is a very stressful time, so we’re all doing it.

Making mistakes.

That’s just par for the course, really. And it doesn’t help that information and advice is constantly changing. Something which seemed right yesterday may feel like totally the wrong thing today.

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We’re all experiencing some of the greatest uncertainty of our lifetimes. It’s a time when nobody on the planet seems to have any answers.

What do you do in this environment? How do you keep your business alive?

The first principle is to ask for help. We are fortunate to have so many excellent resources in our state government and SBDCs. These people are doing the best they can to be helpful.

Photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash
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I spoke recently with a business owner who’s getting depressed about so many opportunists entering his industry. He’s worked hard to establish himself as honest and credible, while others merely come in to harvest profit and then move on.

As we talked, though, we realized that this is part of the nature of an emerging industry.

Many of you are familiar with the concept that products have life cycles. Geoffrey Moore broke it down this way in Crossing the Chasm:

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There are times where everything seems to blow up at once. It might be something specific to your industry, like a drastic new regulation or disruptive innovation.

Or it might be something more general, like a worldwide virus threat or global financial crisis.

Yeah, I know that never happens, but stay with me here. Just in case.

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Some industries are getting more nervous.

Tariffs. Wars. Interest rates. Softer consumer confidence.

The question is what you choose to do with all this swirling information. Because it’s always something. If you want a reason to avoid committing to a decision, there’s always something you can blame it on.

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In the past weeks, I’ve taken us through the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world. And I’ve introduced another VUCA to help us navigate: Values, Uplift, Commitment, Action.

The problem is that we might think of “times of change” as individual events. Our objective is to survive each change, then get back to “normal.”

Unfortunately, “normal” is now Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. Always uncomfortable.

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