Getting Back to Basics in the Face of VUCA

VUCA text

VUCA text“In these unprecedented times…” How many times have you read (or written) an email with that introductory line in the past 2 months? The world has been turned upside down, and we all feel like we’re stuck in a lifeboat adrift in the sea. I used to loathe the use of the term VUCA in reference to the workplace because it was used so liberally. Was the workplace really more volatile, uncertain, complex, or ambiguous than in previous years, or do we just have a poor memory? But it would be hard to argue against labeling 2020 of the most VUCA years in the workplace.

There’s no playbook for how to keep a workforce engaged when everything is shut down. All of the carefully crafted strategy docs for 2020 became useless overnight as we all started playing a game with ever-changing rules. 

When I spoke with a senior executive last week I asked “So, what’s working for you right now? Where are you finding your energy to keep going?” He paused for a long breath and said “You know…I don’t even know anymore. I just keep showing up.” First, I acknowledged that on some days showing up is a victory in itself, but then I asked how much longer he thought he could just “show up?” What he didn’t have to say was how much burnout he was feeling. We both already knew. It’s safe to say that most people are experiencing a degree of burnout right now, but unlike 3 months ago, the exit plan is unclear. Why jump from one lifeboat to the next when we’re all in the same storm?

But showing up only takes you so far before burnout takes over. When we revert to survival mode, we forget some of the basic activities that have served us well for years. We stop reflecting. We stop practicing mindfulness. We stop taking breaks to breathe. 

Take a minute today to go back to basics and end your week with some intentional reflection. Write down one thing you did this week that went well. What actions can you be proud of? Give yourself some credit for the impact you did make during the week and explore ways in which you can replicate that experience in the future. 

Then write down one thing you’d like to change next week. Make it something specific and achievable. Write it down someplace and look at it every day. Use this as a stepping stone to getting back to the best version of yourself as a leader. Taking small steps can make a big difference when working on a path towards normal.