Inside the Chamber: May 14, 2020

May 14, 2020
 Inside the Chamber:  May 14, 2020

You were made for such a time as this.” is a statement that I play repeatedly in my mind as I push forward and lead my team, our organization and the business community in these unprecedented times.  I find the most irony in the fact that the military term, “VUCA” (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity), was first coined during the year that this former “military brat” was born.  This was either a warning to the world that a force to be reckoned with was rising through the ranks or a simple wink to me that “this too shall pass” and we’ll come out on the other side stronger, individually, as an organization and community.   
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruption in our businesses, educational institutions, places of worship, healthcare community, non-profits and our overall economy.  Business models that have carried industries to momentous peaks have been set ablaze by forced closures, supply chain disruption or decreasing sales. Education has been thrust into remote learning where instruction happens through a screen. Interactions and activities that were primarily “physical”, from doctors’ visits, shopping trips, client meetings, networking events and even birthday parties have shifted completely to online.  There are few aspect of our lives that have been unscathed. 
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us into a state of hyper-change; however, pandemic or not, the world, even as we once knew it, has always been in a constant state of disruption, whether from shifting demographics, rapidly changing technology, to globalization and societal rift.  As leaders, this leaves us two choices -- assess, create opportunity and adapt, or become paralyzed, wither, and slip into obsolescence. 
Ambiguity is often something that leaders try to remove or avoid. We want clarity, focus and strategy. We want more facts and less opinions or assumptions.  Yet, isn’t it true that the potential for innovation and creativity is often missed in places of comfort, certainty, and status quo?  While some organizations are constantly in a reactive mode, waiting to see how the world is changing, what the economic trends specifically dictate, and what customers say they want, others are creating and shaping opportunities. It’s in times such as these that we can leverage the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous state we find ourselves in by adopting new ways of meeting the needs of our customers, enhancing our workplace culture, diversifying our offerings, simplifying and focusing our product lines, unlocking new revenue streams and learning through experimentation.  Joe Britto, author and consultant once stated, “We’re no longer leaders being blown around like kites in a storm; we become kite flyers holding the wind in our hands.”
As a fellow kite-flyer, here are some of the steps I’ve journeyed through since March ---
1.       Assess, evaluate and gather perspectives – Decide what is within your control and what is outside of your control. Arm yourself with solid analysis and information in order to make sound decisions about your business. Remember, you are not in this alone – many are invested in your business or organization, including your family, employees, partners and customers.
2.       Embrace your role as a powerful force for good during crisis  -- Reframe your mindset from change being something to resist to something to embrace.  Instead of shutting down, make a commitment to lean in. Be transparent – involve your team in navigating the VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity).  Leverage the strengths of those around you, in combination with your own to ask yourself -- how can you thrive and make a difference amidst this disruption? Your team, customers & community?  Don’t be the kite – fly it.
3.       Find the opportunity to be creative -- experiment and fail forward -- A great way to learn what will work or not work is by stepping into small “safe-to-fail” experiments and empowering your team to do the same.  Instead of asking “why”, ask “why not?”
I hope you will share your own insight with me as we “hold the wind in our hands” together.  Email me at – I look forward to learning from your wisdom.

Lindsay Keisler, President & CEO, (828) 431-7223