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Brexit Learnings For Business


So, we are leaving the EU. It’s finally sinking in.

People are in shock, some are angry, some in disbelief.

No one REALLY expected us to leave, not even Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage apparently, which is why they had no plan for what next when they won.

Everyone expected people to stick with the status quo because change is a big deal for people. As business leaders we know that people don’t change easily.

And people don’t change easily because they fear the unknown and because they wonder whether THEY can change if needed and whether THEY will fit when the new order arrives. And they worry whether the new order will mean more work and new learning.

So it’s easier to stick with what you know. Until …..

The pain becomes bad enough to step into the unknown because it’s better than where you are now.

To make 17m people vote to leave there must have been something very wrong for them.

And in understanding what prompted this decision, business leaders can ensure they keep people of their businesses on board and voting for their side.

In business it’s slightly different, because people don’t get to vote out, unless they vote with their feet and leave. But often people don’t leave physically, because as we know change is hard, but they do check out mentally.

And when they disengage they stop doing all the good stuff that makes a significant difference to the performance of the business. Going the extra mile, taking responsibility, looking for ways to improve, delivering objectives, having a positive attitude, being loyal, reporting and dealing with problems etc.

More significantly businesses with highly engaged people improve EBIT by 19%. Those businesses with low engagement can expect EBIT to be reduced by 30% for all the same reasons.

How then is this relevant for business?

  • 1. Very few facts were available during the referendum and those that were provided may well have been untruths. Maybe if people had all the facts, they’d have made a more informed decision and we’d still be in. Lesson for business: Give people as much information as you can about your business including the financials, so they have the right information on which to base their decisions.

  • 2. People wanted the EU to change but EU leaders didn’t listen – they were focussed on what THEY wanted and not what the people were asking for. Lesson for business: Listen to what people are telling you and act on it, people in your business have information that you don’t have, because of the way they interact with customers and because of the job they do. Get access to that information so you can make the best decisions. Ask people for their feedback and ideas and get them to tell you how it is for them.

  • 3. The Brexit campaigners appealed to the heart and so people went with what felt good. Campaigners talked about a bright future, a great nation, opportunities, getting back control. Lesson for business: Have a compelling vision, excite people, show people what they can become, show your passion and enthusiasm, help people feel like they belong. People respond to that and they’ll follow.

  • 4. The Brexit camp used the fear of immigration to compel people to vote out. Since then people have acted on that fear and double the number of racist attacks have been reported to police. Lesson for business: Fear based leadership is common because people don’t know how to create an exciting future. Or because they don’t know how to lead others. Find out what motivates people and talk about a compelling future. Communicating fear separates teams, pitches colleagues against each other, creates distrust and a silo mentality.

  • 5. David Cameron offered a referendum because he thought it was a safe bet we’d remain. Lesson for business: Don’t ask the question if you don’t want to know the answer. Asking for ideas and opinions and ignoring them is worse than not asking at all.

  • 6. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney came out fast and strong after the decision to leave to reassure the markets. He was confident and communicated the banks readiness to take whatever action is necessary to absorb stress and to pursue success. Since then he has given statements 3 times in 12 days. He’s communicating what action he’s taken and he’s being seen to be taking decisions to steady the ship. Lesson for business: When you have a period of uncertainty, a downturn or something goes wrong take action AND get out there, talk to people, reassure them, tell them what action you are taking. Don’t hide. You are their weather. Their actions are contingent on yours.

  • 7. Whilst Richard Branson and Bob Geldof seem like unlikely bed mates both reacted in the same way after the Brexit vote – they winged and moaned and threw their toys out of the pram. Lesson for business: As leaders spending time moaning about what might have been takes valuable energy, resources and time that could be spent dealing with what’s needed to move forward. When you suffer a setback, get people focussed on the current reality and then the future as fast as possible. In this referendum 17 million people were disengaged and checked out.

    QUESTION: How many people in your business are in and how many are out? And how is that affecting your bottom line?

  • Don’t tell me show me.

    At The Leader Centre we understand that it takes a leap of faith to work with a business you haven’t worked with before and that when your senior people are already busy it can feel like added pressure to take time out for training and development.

    The problem with that is that when you don’t invest in training and development more of the pressure falls on you and your people and your business fall behind.

    So we take that leap of faith with you and instead of just telling you what we do, we show you by offering half a day’s training for your senior team at our expense.

    On that half day we show you how your business can achieve more and how senior people can reduce their stress by doing less than they are now.

    To book your session simply get in touch via our contact page.

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