The current situation is an important crossroads at the level of society and the individual. People are at an intersection with many challenging directions in their lives. Entrepreneurs are at a crossroads with many challenges for their business. They look to the future and I can’t predict anything clear, structured, in relation to which to make important decisions, and what we see these days is that they choose:
- A trial-and-error strategy: ” Let’s do that, and we shall see what comes out.”
- One of waiting: “Let’s see what others do and then we shall do it too.”
- One of action at any cost: “On horses, my soldiers! It is better to die in battle than to surrender.”
It is a crude simplification, I admit, but in the absence of “like so” cues, people are looking for solutions in which the mantra “all or nothing” appears and I cannot pass it by as if it did not exist.
Let’s get a little into the destructuring of these situations, without pretending that we understood everything, or that we at least know the “WHYs” behind it. Let’s see if we can do something to reduce the limitations and increase the chances of success.
When it comes to the “all or nothing” approach, we should take into account three elements:
- The attitude
- The action
- The results
“All or nothing” attitude
An “all or nothing” attitude seems to be conducive to crisis situations. It narrows the options a lot and does not let time be wasted on unnecessary analyzes. We mobilize because that way we have nothing to lose. We don’t know what we will gain, but at least we know we will not lose.
In a context predictable in terms of duration: “it will be a tough period of one month” this attitude can pay off because a commitment arises. Psychologically, we can aim for something that has a predictable and close purpose.
At the same time, if the term is exceeded or the results are below a level considered ok, all the accumulated fatigue and the adjacent stress make any fall noisy. Dissatisfaction, resignations, complaints can occur in the team, and the most serious illness, distrust, wreaks havoc. If the “ground” was weak before the pandemic, the speed with which the situation deteriorates increases.
For you: As a leader, as an entrepreneur, how can you manage your own attitude so that you don’t quickly go from “something” to “nothing”? What ingredient, what type of message do you use?
“All or nothing” action
The “all or nothing” action is based on the above attitude and a kind of despair. Uncertainty creates a great need to have as few options as possible and, most often, they are opposable and are even of the “either at the ball or at the hospital” type.
It takes a lot of discipline, an authoritative hand. A leader who is authoritarian “in peacetime”, in crisis situations will try to increase the authoritarianism believing that this is how the band will overcome the great trials. Every locksmith knows that if you tighten a screw beyond a limit, something happens. Either something breaks or something else breaks. You better throw it away. And if a man feels that, soon, there will be a time when he will be thrown away, his loyalty does not work out of fear.
For you: What alternative do you have to keep the ship on the wave without throwing sailors overboard? What paradoxical thing could you do to increase your loyalty without increasing the team’s fear of you and your decisions?
“All or nothing” results
The “all or nothing” results depend on expectations, on the hope that, if we do something, it will surely be good. Hope is behind these expectations. “All or nothing” expectations bring extra pressure which, paradoxically, does not increase optimism, but anxiety: “but what if we do not achieve what we set out to do?”
The moment you convey this type of expectation in the team, apparently the world feels an impulse of energy, only that doubt slowly dilutes the confidence. And so the predictions like “we will not get” come true.
In this situation there is a lot of lottery, but if at least one result is achieved, the hormone of success – dopamine – does its job and can change the mood towards optimism. Vain, illusory hopes are poison with delayed effect. A success, no matter how small, can change the perception leading to that healthy optimism.
For you: How much relativity do you convey in the message? How much are the expectations about living on the edge, with a lot of adrenaline? Or how much safety net and alternatives do you transmit?
At the crossroads of crises
We are at a crossroads. If we run out of energy now, where else can we get for the x + 1 stage? It is a journey of endurance that we are not used to, because the future, the goals to be achieved are very uncertain. What can we do?
Nassim Taleb, the famous author of “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” (2007) and “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder” (2012) spoke of a reassessment of characteristics in such periods:
- Fragile are the aspects that are damaged by exposure to environmental distortions, especially when we do not want such challenges, disorder
- Robust are the aspects that do not change, but seem to remain the same, and
- Anti-fragile are the aspects that benefit from exposure, even if it is a previous vulnerability.
For an anti-fragile mentality to help us get through crises, we must not love disorder or chaos; however, we need to understand and act accordingly:
- More than ever, people feel the need for a circle of safety within the team. Our messages and actions as leaders, as entrepreneurs, induce a state of security or, on the contrary, insecurity. We are honest if we tell them that we do not yet know what the future looks like, but that we have a duty to look without vain hopes, but with optimism.
- Fundamentally, without this period, although many industries are impacted, the challenges are the same: finding new customers, maintaining existing ones, proper cash management. But the context is so different because we do not yet understand customer behavior, and funding sources are looking for guarantees at least 4 times greater than what they offer.
- After each stage, let’s appreciate what we have managed and extract the lessons. Even if it seems like a primary school exercise, the trial / error accompanied by learning seems a better way than “all or nothing”. This is because we need a way to withdraw and reconsider our actions.
- Rewarding team actions and not the individuals is essential. Moreover, “succeeding together” is always a desirability, but also a condition of overcoming the current situation.
- Doing nothing was a possible solution at the beginning; waiting to see what others do, too. But, one of the consequences is that we diminish our appetite to act, to take risks. Maybe the stake is survival and not profit. Who knows?
Instead of conclusion
As a client dear to me once said: “Maybe, in fact, we are not preparing to go through these crises, but we are preparing to grow for the post-crisis development stage. And the teams with which we manage to go through the crisis will surely be prepared for development “. And this entrepreneur is at a crossroads. However, he prefers to look into the distance and be on the ground.