As an executive coach, I often work with leaders who want to improve their performance and achieve their careers. One of the most common challenges they face is improving decision-making when dealing with VUCA situations. VUCA is a military term frequently applied to business. It stands for violate, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. The world is changing fast, and there will be times when you will have to make decisions based on limited information. In those moments, you must rely on the knowledge and experience you have on hand. To prepare for these moments, having diverse knowledge and experience to lean on for decision-making is helpful.
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One of the habits I frequently work with clients to build is seeking diversity to help them prepare for VUCA situations. Leaders tend to interact with people that look like and think like them. They also tend to get into routines where they watch the same type of programs on television, listen to the same type of music or podcast, visit the same kind of places, and read books and articles from the same authors. This can create deep relationships and thought patterns that help leaders thrive in the status quo but struggle with change. By intentionally exposing yourself to different types of people and ideas, you can gain the knowledge and wisdom necessary to deal with change, complexity, and uncertainty.
Here are five easy ways to introduce more diversity of thought into your work life.
1) Introduce new people to your network
Expanding your network can be a great way to add diversity. The more perceived differences between you and the new people you add to your network, the greater the chances you will gain new perspectives and acquire new knowledge. For example, a senior leader could gain a new understanding of their organization by conversing with someone younger and less tenured. This is often called reversed mentoring and is an excellent way of gaining fresh ideas and new perspectives. Interacting with people of different genders, races, religions, professions, or countries of origin can also provide new insights.
2) Visit someplace new
Another great way to diversify your thinking is to travel someplace new. Whenever you go somewhere you have not been before, you present yourself with the opportunity to gain new information, meet new people, and have new experiences. There are many ways to accomplish this goal. You could
attend a networking event or a conference
visit a customer at their place of business
travel to a new city or country
The more extreme the difference is from your norm, the greater the possibilities are for new insights and learnings. However, even something as simple as going to a different coffee house can present new experiences and learning opportunities.
3) Change the things that you read
One of the best ways to diversify your thought is to expand what you read. Reading can expose you to new ideas from the comfort of your favorite chair. As you seek to expand what you read, be purposeful in consuming books and articles that differ significantly from your norm. If you typically read non-fiction, try a fiction book related to an area of interest. If you enjoy liberal-leaning publications, try a conservative publication to better understand the other side of an argument. If you frequently browse new books, give an old classic a try. The goal here is not to reinforce your current thinking but to expose you to new ideas. The further you go away from what you typically read, the more you will stretch what you know and how you think.
4) Vary visual and audio media you consume
While reading is highly beneficial, it can also be time-consuming and may not be what you want to do at the end of a long day. In addition to changing what you read, look for ways to change what you watch and listen to. There are currently more podcasts, YouTube videos, TicToc posts, and tv shows than there are blades of grass in Kentucky. Break out of your routine and listen to or watch something new. Like reading, adjusting what you watch and listen to can help you see things differently and improve your critical thinking. One of the best ways to get ideas on new media to consume is to talk to people in your network with different interests and ask them for suggestions on what to watch and listen to.
5) Switch up your schedule
Time is a leader’s scarcest resource, and how you use it impacts what you learn and how you think more than any other variable. Decisions around how you spend your time impacts who you interact with and how you interact with them. Simple things like arriving at a meeting 15 minutes early can give you time to interact with co-workers you typically do not engage with. Other changes, such as attending a fitness class at a different time of day, could allow you to meet different people. Switching up your routine can get you out of ruts and diversify how you experience the world around you.
As a leader, you are limited by things you do not know. When you take the time to expand your knowledge, you put yourself in a position to see things from more perspectives and be more creative. This can help you to make better decisions and act with more confidence. Increasing your knowledge and growing your professional network is a great way to prepare for business volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Being a leader is about projecting confidence, making sound judgments, and helping to guide others to success. Investing in diversity is a great way to build your leadership capabilities.
Thank you for reading this blog
Dorian Cunion is an Executive Business Coach with Your Path Coaching and Consulting. He is a former retail executive with over 20 years of experience in the retail industry. He is a Co-Active coach who focuses on helping professionals and small business owners overcome insecurities, knowledge gaps, and lack of direction. He does this by assisting clients to tap into their values, recognize their strengths, and develop actionable strategies for growth.
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