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Countering VUCA and solving wicked problems

Reframing change as an opportunity - through excellent leadership

'VUCA' times and 'wicked problems' require creative, integrative solutions and excellent, flexible leaders. VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. There’s nothing new about it, it was coined by the US military after the cold war to describe a changed world and the need to find new ways of seeing and responding to challenges.

The term ‘wicked problems’ came out of social planning and is used to describe challenges that have no easy answer – which are complex and difficult, with changing requirements, that have no single (or easy) solution as they’re connected to other things. Now, more than ever, organisations, leaders and their teams are facing external and internal demands to manage complexity, disruption and transformation while still being expected to deliver excellence for its stakeholders – and have fulfilled, engaged employees.

When we consider that constant change is becoming business as usual – and some of the challenges businesses face are wicked problems - it requires extraordinary leadership as standard practice to navigate through the complexity to leading through change.

It’s a huge ask for everyone involved – and that’s all of us! Through coaching and communications support, we can help you develop your leadership skills and help your team manage through change – now and for the future. Get in touch.

From Volatility to Vision

As a leader, you can counter volatility with veracity and vision. Change creates instability and how long it’ll go on for can be hard to predict. As a result, it’s easy to fall into the trap of keeping your head down and only focusing on the short-term. Create space and time to explore, define and refine your vision and engage consistently with:

  • Your vision of the outcome of the change and its benefits

  • Inspiring and engaging two-way communications

  • Openness and honesty

From Uncertainty to Understanding

When faced with uncertain situations with challenging problems, fostering understanding helps empower teams and individuals to navigate change on their own terms – towards the same goal.

Decide how you can best support yourself and your team through change:

  • Being curious about different perspectives

  • How you and your team work together

  • The business, system, and stakeholders

From Complexity to Clarity

When change is complex, clarity is key. Skilful leaders are clear, direct and consistent in their messaging.

Make time to reflect - and give and receive feedback for:

  • A defined sense of direction, purpose and responsibilities

  • Certainty through vision, mission, goals and behaviours

  • Engaging and empowering your team

From Ambiguity to Authoritative

If things are ambiguous, it creates tension. This is a time for being authoritative – in the influential, confident and reliable sense:

  • Be sure of yourself, your skills and the value you bring

  • Rest easy with the decisions you make

  • Influence and lead by example

Flexible leadership

Being authoritative is one key skill and being able to call on different leadership styles as the situation demands is essential. Developing flexibility and self-awareness helps you innovate and discover fresh ways forward. Being open to trying new approaches, taking calculated risks and making time to reflect and respond (rather than simply react) are key skills to develop.

However we feel about change, it is stressful, and we all experience it in different ways. Positive stress gives us energy and motivates us to change, while negative stress depletes our energy and decreases our performance. Initiating change is very different than having change ‘done to us’. It’s okay to feel anxious about change, however, if the level of anxiety becomes debilitating, you can develop strategies to build resilience and reduce your anxiety.

Understanding yourself and your team in times of change is important: working to develop awareness of your values, motivators, and aspirations; listening to your team with openness, respect and concern and self-care and role-modelling best practice behaviours are all essential leadership skills. Let us know how we can help.


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