Leadership & Productivity

Brexit creates both opportunities and a threat for businesses – These 4 mindset hacks will help you cope

8 min read

21 March 2019

Slowly but surely we are lumbering towards Brexit. Whatever the outcome, you as a business owner and team leader have to deal with the reverberations. From my background playing professional cricket, and through my current career in performance consultancy, I know a lot about the importance of a good mindset and managing self-discipline in tricky situations. Here are my four mindset hacks that you can apply to your business when dealing with Brexit.

For many businesses heavily involved with Europe for trade and custom, the ongoing saga that is Brexit is a daily headache they could do without. Any whiff of business disruption creates an amplified uncertainty that must be carefully managed. With the exit date yet to be agreed, it is likely that, as a business leader, you are being tested like never before.

Keeping your business thriving in these uncertain times, however challenging, is not impossible. With uncertainty around legislation, supply chain and delivery adding to the larger scale digital disruption facing businesses, this is a critical time for leaders to show resilience and focus with their teams.

Harnessing the power of sporting and military mindsets

There are many professions, such as professional sport and the military, where uncertainty and pressure are the norm. What if you could apply the same tactics used by coaches and generals to help your employees adopt a winning mindset that will support them through coming months?

In the last decade, I have spoken with some of the world’s most impressive and prolific leaders, from Sir Alex Ferguson to military generals and even the Performance Director at the Cirque du Soleil about what it takes to win. I started out on this journey after choking in front of 120,000 people in an England game against India. It was then that I realised my mindset was the key to my success.

We can all learn from these mindsets – and bring them into our businesses

This set me on a research quest, to go inside the mind of champions and to share their insights for the benefit of all of us in our daily lives. In doing so I have distilled the secrets of their success to help business leaders to develop and maintain a Winning Mindset. Here are four tactics to help you lead effectively in these uncertain times.

1. Stop blaming others: Own the situation

Dear Employer: a new campaign gives thousands of working mothers in Britain a voice to challenge the gender pay and promotion gap.

Being the boss means acting the boss, even when you don’t want to. This includes owning the blame at times.

With our current situation, there are plenty of people you might feel like blaming– the electorate; former Prime Minister David Cameron; the EU; MPs in Westminster; our Prime Minister.

If that is what you are doing, get over it!  Great leaders don’t waste time blaming others: that may win you sympathy but is a waste of energy.

Uncertainty creates opportunity so start by owning the situation and making a plan that turns the uncertainty into an advantage.  After all, other businesses have the same problems so those that actively tackle the situation will be the ones that succeed.

2. Pressure is a privilege

Don't underestimate how stress affects productivity

Worrying about work pressures can actually distract bosses from the important decisions to be made.

Having played in and worked with some of the world’s highest profile sporting teams, I’ve seen how they use pressure as privilege and use this mindset to tackle potential issues head-on.

Worrying about what could or might happen leads to distraction, so it is important to embrace the challenges ahead. Building the positive belief in your team that they can win from any position is the ideal.

In sport, the best coaches prepare their teams for Plan A, but they also throw scenarios into the training that get the teams thinking on their feet. While working with the England Rugby Team, I saw coach Eddie Jones throw in chaotic sequences into carefully planned training sessions to see how players reacted.

Rehearsing how to make decisions under extreme pressure builds belief in how the team can work together to solve complex problems. Do you take the time to run pressure testing scenarios with your team? It is a great investment of time and you may be surprised at who thinks the most creatively and efficiently when you do.

3. Don’t micromanage – enable

Micromanaging staff can actually hinder their performance. Enable it instead.

An effective leader needs to have confidence that their team will know how to find solutions while under intense pressure. It’s especially important in businesses where the actions of one team player can impact on the entire set up.

It takes a leap of faith to set the strategic direction of your business and then trust your team to achieve that, especially if this is a business you have founded. But, as a business leader, you need to look up and out for the next trends rather than controlling everyone’s to-do list.

It may mean that you are having to relinquish control, but by trusting and empowering your team, you will unlock more creativity and leadership and create a stronger team as a result.

4. Be fluid not fixed

To ensure that your business doesn’t land ‘with a bump’ post-Brexit, be flexible and explore all your potential strategic options.

Rapidly changing situations call for leaders who can bring together diverse project teams to fix problems and exploit opportunities, fast. You can’t predict and prevent all the problems you are going to encounter, instead, prepare your teams so they can assess and respond quickly rather than being emotionally derailed or bogged down in corporate bureaucracy.

Deploying teams to future proof your business is key for example what if your biggest client is affected by Brexit, what if your logistics company folded, what if your top talent left to join a rival. If confidence comes from our preparation, then these activities help businesses to navigate uncertainty and turn disruption to their advantage.

Setting yourself and your teams up for the challenge is critical because your mindset will be the key to your success. So, whether you harness your core strengths and past success stories or look for inspiration from outside your business, you have to do something.

Brexit: The true litmus test for good leadership – or not

Our human instinct to stay in our comfort zone during this tricky diplomatic and economic period. However, leaders with a winning mindset will turn this period of uncertainty into a competitive advantage. Very few will have the perfect strategy to deal with the political uncertainty in the coming weeks, but those who maximise their mindset and culture will have the best chance of winning whatever their position.