It’s been said so often, it’s almost a cliché, but we do live in very uncertain times. The reasons are down to a wide range of world events such as: the US/China trade war, Brexit, Amazon forest fires, the Hong Kong crisis, the increasing pace of global warming and the resurgence of diseases such as Measles. As individual business leaders it might be easy to take the view that, as you can’t control these events, there’s not much you can do about the uncertainty that they trigger.
If that is your conclusion, you could be missing out on a wonderful opportunity to build loyalty and demonstrate leadership.
Although you cannot control the events themselves, you can control your response. And, your key stakeholders, such as customers, employees and shareholders, will be looking to you to explain how the organisation will chart its way through turbulent waters. This may seem obvious, but there is an innate need behind this expectation. Neuroscientists have identified that one of five needs our brains have, is the need for ‘certainty’ i.e. to know what will happen next. This need is captured in an excellent framework called SCARF created by David Rock that I covered in a previous blog entitled: Increasing Employee Engagement and Productivity with the SCARF Framework.
Make confidence building one of your core communications programmes
Research carried out by the California Institute of Technology and the University of Iowa shows that uncertainty about the future triggers a ‘threat’ response in your limbic system and reduces your ability to focus on other issues drastically. This obviously will have an impact on the productivity and performance of your employees but also their mental state. It could trigger other actions such as the decision by customers to switch to another supplier who provides more clarity about what the future may hold.
The great thing about satisfying the need for certainty is that it will trigger a ‘reward’ response in the brain which is closely linked to positive emotions, such as: interest, happiness, joy and desire. It will also build confidence in your leadership and your organisation.
One the key recommendation of the Worldcom Confidence Index 2019 global report is to behave like a confident organisation by making it clear to all audiences that the organisation has a very clear Purpose and a plan to achieve it. Consequently, I recommend that every organisation has a systematic communications programme to build confidence – with certainty at its heart.
For example, if you are a major retailer in the UK, the uncertainty about sources of supply, and the cost of those supplies, caused by the dreaded Brexit, will trigger a threat response in customers and employees alike. It would therefore make sense to begin to explain, internally and externally, the steps you will take to respond to this uncertainty and then update this information on a regular basis as the situation develops. In this case certainty should not be read as a synonym of guarantee. It simply means that you explain the actions you are taking so that you can set expectations correctly. Part of the message will educate stakeholders on how the supply chain works, and therefore what you can control and what you can’t.
By demonstrating that you have a plan, you will show your stakeholders two very important things: firstly that you are acting like a confident leader by finding ways to overcome the challenges you face; secondly that they can have confidence in your desire to meet their needs. By keeping them informed – so they understand what will happen next – you will provide the ‘certainty’ their brains crave and thus trigger the reward response that is essential to achieving both loyalty and brand advocacy.
Inspiring confidence is something that needs investment and careful planning so that the communications programme stimulates the right reaction and sustained action from your stakeholders.