Brexit. It sounds like a name for a new cereal, doesn’t it? But for 48.11% of the population, it isn’t that appetising. It could otherwise be known as Groundhog Day, given the carnival of repetitive arguments that have transpired since the UK voted to leave the EU. In the words of Albert Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result.”
It’s a confusing time for politics and people, just ask most of the public what Article 50 is?
And whether you voted for or against, how it’s all going to end at this time still looks a little foggy, and that’s being kind, it’s more like pea soup.
From the Blitz to Brexit, in true British fashion, the two national traits we have that see us through a crisis is a stiff upper lip and the ability to laugh through adversity.
So whilst Brexit may not be funny, the ability to laugh, play, and have fun not only makes life more enjoyable but also helps us solve problems, connect with others, and think more creatively. Managers and leaders who incorporate humour and play into their teams find that it builds relationships and improves productivity.
How to support and engage people through Brexit?
George Bernard Shaw once said: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” He has a point.
The key to surviving in an uncertain world is to communicate.
- Have an open-door policy, so that your people can come to you when they have questions.
- Have regular chats with them to check how they are feeling. At Laughology we have big chats, little chats.
- Don’t confuse them with jargon, leave that to the politicians. Keep your communication simple.
- Be honest and transparent, it helps to build trust between you and the employee. Sometimes you will not have all the answers employees are looking for. It’s important to focus on what you do know and be candid about what you don’t. Employees who are kept in the loop about the possible changes ahead are more likely to put their trust in you.
- Email, text, Snapchat, WhatsApp. They can all be great channels to communicate, especially as we are all so busy, but sometimes we forget the human element. Stop and ask yourself “is this the right way to communicate?”
- Check that your people have understood what you have told them. Just because we have said it, doesn’t mean its been understood. Ask: “Have I explained that clearly?” or ask the person to explain it back to you to check that your message has been understood.
- Outward communication is great, but are you listening too? Actively listen to show you are interested in others’ thoughts and opinions. Listen out for what is being said around you.
It’s easy to tell people not to worry, but this doesn’t stop them worrying. To be honest it will probably increase levels of anxiety. This is when you need to show empathy and point out that you share those worries too, or at least you understand them. This will often do a lot to reassure people that you’re all in it together.
Back in the 60s, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed a model of thought that suggests people go through five stages of grief after a crucial life event. As time has gone on, psychologists believe that this model can apply to any situation and that unfortunately, people can get stuck on one of the stages. If you apply the Kübler-Ross theory to Brexit, you may be one step closer to understanding how people think and how you can help them.
Give regular feedback:
Don’t wait until you’ve scheduled in their next one-to-one. Through uncertain times people need reassurance that they are doing a good job.
Focus on strengths. Research by Gallup discovered that people who received strengths-based feedback improved their productivity by 12.5%, while improving company profitability by 8.9%. Strength-related feedback has also been linked to improved goal achievement, loyalty and, importantly, employee engagement. Employees who receive recognition and encouragement of their strengths also learn quicker and show higher levels of discretionary effort.
Develop a growth mindset culture:
Studies show that organisations that develop a growth mindset culture have happier, innovative employers who are not afraid to take risks, which leads to faster organisational growth and better results.
A growth mindset embraces the idea that basic qualities can be developed through hard work, good strategies and input from others. Intelligence and talent are the starting points, supplemented by continual learning. Those who embrace this mindset see challenges as opportunities to grow and learn. They are resilient, even when faced with failure and uncertainty.
Encourage people to be creative and share ideas. Learn from the mistakes and lead from the front.
At Laughology we know that teams with a growth mindset are more likely to embrace challenges and be more persistent. Developing a growth mindset raises standards and creates happier places to work, which in turn improves productivity. Leaders who enable learning and encourage others to have self-belief will build engaged teams that thrive. Growth mindset principles allow teams to develop continually.
There are things in life that we can control and things we can’t. We need to recognise which is which and accept this, otherwise it can cause unnecessary stress and worry. The outcome of Brexit is unknown, we can ruminate about the possible outcomes and stress about what might happen, or we can refocus and take control of our thoughts and actions. Scientists estimate people have about 70,000 thoughts per day, and whilst some of these may be negative, the good news is that you can retrain your brain.
Get your people to talk about their concerns and identify what they can control and influence. Ask them to identify their negative thoughts and how they can reframe these. You can’t think negatively and get a positive outcome and vice versa. Give them feedback on their behaviour to help them build their self-awareness. Encourage problem-solving rather than ruminating and promote creativity. Also help people schedule time for healthy stress-relievers like exercise.
At Laughology we use something called FLIP to help refocus and to find the positives in situations, embrace challenges, and deal with change and transformation.
You cannot directly control Brexit decisions, but you can control how you support your people. Showing your people that you care about their wellbeing will not only help engagement, it will also help to improve happiness and productivity.