Manage Your BusinessLeadershipWhy embracing uncertainty leads to innovation for SMBs — Meridith Elliott Powell

Why embracing uncertainty leads to innovation for SMBs — Meridith Elliott Powell

In recent years, small-to-medium-sized businesses have undergone significant changes and uncertainty from supply chain chokeholds, inflation costs, and even rising interest rates. While it has become challenging for entrepreneurs, much of the difficulty originates from creating or sustaining a team that understands change and their current goals. On this episode of the Small Business Show, host Jim Fitzpatrick is joined by award-winning business expert, keynote speaker and author Meridith Elliott Powell to discuss her research on how to develop the leaders of tomorrow and lead in a world of uncertainty.

To address the challenges facing their businesses, owners need to assemble workforces capable of facing change and uncertainty. This is the most fundamental responsibility of any manager or leader: to get the team into shape. But to begin conditioning their employees for success, business leaders must first learn how to lead with certainty.

The primary reason many teams struggle to reach their goals is that they have a leader who fails to lead with confidence. Fear of the unknown can be a significant obstacle to progressing toward one’s personal goals, and the same holds true in the workplace. “Fear shuts down innovation and creativity, exactly the strategies your team needs to lead into the future,” explains Powell. “It shuts down engagement and that negatively impacts results.” Thankfully, the reverse of this concept is also true. “If you are a leader that talks about uncertainty, that has a plan for uncertainty, that embraces uncertainty, it will drive innovation and creativity with our team, and it will drive results.”

Leaders must also learn to be consistent, especially in terms of communication. Teams need constant reminders of what their goals are and the plans or policies in place to attain success. “As leaders, we have to paint what we see and keep that really visible in front of our team,” Powell remarks. By setting clear and easy-to-remember strategies, managers can help their workforce navigate uncertainty. Powell suggests that leaders consistently revisit these plans during team meetings until employees can recite them back flawlessly.

Good leaders must also prepare for the worst. Even before the COVID pandemic transformed the way business is done, the world was already becoming less stable and more unpredictable. Although it is impossible to foresee every bad outcome, leaders can help themselves face this challenge by preparing for the worst. Powell urges managers to consider the worst-case scenarios their business may encounter. Regardless of whether these events actually occur, by taking the time to develop appropriate responses to protect their company’s interests and their employee’s job security, they can reduce stress on themselves and their dealership teams.

Successful leaders are also empathetic. Workers are (understandably) exhausted from uncertainty. No matter how confident or prepared a manager appears, some employees will still be too anxious to contribute to the team. Rather than immediately letting these workers go, however, Powell urges managers to allow these individuals to vent their frustrations. By giving their dealership team members the time to explain their anger or anxieties, leaders can make them feel heard. However, it is essential for managers to help the employee develop solutions once they finish venting.

“Your job as a leader is to get your team conditioned for change, get them in shape for change,” remarks Powell. “Most leaders wait for change, then we ask the team to respond to the change. You need to build a team that predicts what is going to happen in the future. You are changing before you need to change.”

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Colin Velez
Colin Velez
Colin Velez is a staff writer/reporter for ASBN. After obtaining his bachelor’s in Communication from Kennesaw State University in 2018, he kicked off his writing career by developing marketing and public relations material for various industries, including travel and fashion. Throughout the next four years, he developed a love for working with journalists and other content creators, and his passion eventually led him to his current position. Today, Colin writes news content and coordinates stories with auto-industry insiders and entrepreneurs throughout the U.S.

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