Fear of the unknown: it’s a concept familiar to us all. The past year has been defined by uncertainty, from an unsteady global economy to a tumultuous presidential election resulting in major administrative shifts. For businesses across industries, the climate we live in influences our decisions and how we operate – so when the outlook is unclear, forging the right path ahead can be difficult.
But often, the very things that intimidate us the most can also give us a leading edge. When it comes to management, learning how to turn these three “negatives” into positives is an important first step to greater success.
Positive #1: Change brings opportunity.
The business landscape today is night and day from that of five or ten years ago. The flow of information is instantaneous, and technology guides all behavior. According to Fortune, the top trends for businesses in 2017 include the seamless connection of people with services (e.g. Uber), e-commerce, and personalized customer experiences. Being innovative is no longer just about new inventions, it’s about redefining traditional experiences – the way we get around, buy groceries, or do our banking. The tasks don’t change, but the way we preform these tasks has evolved.
This shift toward a different way of doing business has undoubtedly posed significant challenges for the banking industry. The need for innovation in products and offerings is ramping up, and banks of all sizes must rise to meet new needs. For our industry, this will mean more partnerships with fintech companies and increased M&A activity, guided less by banks’ branch networks and more by the ability to generate revenue through digital channels. The playing field will most certainly start to look very different.
But with significant change comes opportunity – for those who accept it. Businesses that stay stuck in their ways will struggle as more nimble businesses continue to adapt, partner and grow. Across all industries, a willingness to embrace the transformation we’re seeing – culturally, economically and globally – will be a major asset in this era of innovation.
Positive #2: Conflicting opinions make us stronger.
Today, fostering a productive and inclusive corporate culture is one of the most important initiatives for businesses across the board. I wrote last year about the importance of culture fit, and why business leaders must take steps to establish an environment where employees with diverse backgrounds are authentically guided by the same mission and principles.
But it’s important to recognize that sharing the same company values does not translate to sharing the same thoughts and opinions. While it may be tempting to build your business in lockstep with like-minded people, there is great value in bolstering your leadership team and employee base with individuals whose perspectives differ drastically from your own.
As a former college engineering major, I’ve always been fascinated by catastrophic engineering failures. How do these mistakes happen? What was missed? The answer is sometimes simple: when everyone is seeing things from the same vantage point, there’s little room for the kind of collaborative and transformative thinking that makes good ideas exceptional. Having people around who will challenge your conceptions – and ask the tough questions – is vital for successful leadership. For banks, this may mean hiring people who don’t come from a finance background (I myself came from a career in construction) and who can provide the diverse experience and fresh perspectives that ultimately enhance your core business.
Positive #3: Planning for “Plan B” keeps us ahead of the game.
The banking industry, like many others, is always forward-looking: turning to the latest data and economic indicators for guidance on what’s next. While keeping a keen eye on the trends is important, nobody has a crystal ball. Operating under the assumption that your instincts or predictions may be wrong – even if the information out there supports it with near certainty – is key to running any successful business.
At our bank, the leadership team strives to approach all likely outcomes as unlikely ones – not only acknowledging the capacity for error in every situation, but embracing it. When interest rates weren’t budging, we planned for what would happen if they did. When the Fed predicted higher and more accelerated growth, we operated as if such growth would not occur.
It’s smart to put more emphasis on a probable scenario, but it’s wiser to accept that it may not play out as expected. Assume that your signature product that’s testing so well will somehow fail; that the employee protocol you’ve just enforced will have an unforeseen reaction; that what your client wants today will be completely different tomorrow. Being prepared for the unexpected – especially when others are not – can be invaluable to any business.
While it may seem like the safest route, doing things “the way they’ve always been done” is no longer an option for businesses today. In an era of uncertainty, change and rapid disruption, those that approach challenging situations head-on will ultimately be the ones that prosper.
This article was written by Frank Sorrentino from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.