For over two years now, the UK has been in the grip of a political civil war. Brexit has torn this country in half, pitting the Leavers against the Remainers – leaving us all in turmoil. It’s been traumatic to live through and has been made even worse because our politicians made such a monumental mess of things from the very beginning. Whichever side of Brexit you are on, we can all agree that neither the Leave nor Remain campaign communicated their argument well. The consequences of this failure have hurt us all deeply and left Britain a nation divided – and we, the people, must put a stop to it.
What’s been proved beyond all doubt is that neither the Brexiteers or the Remain campaign know what is going to happen once we are out of the EU. Everything they’ve told us from day one is merely their opinion, delivered in the most incendiary language they can muster. The toxic atmosphere is a result of everybody digging their heels in, unwilling to hear the other side of the argument and continuing in this way is only going to guarantee that nobody wins, and we all lose. Nobody knows for sure what our future holds as we start this new chapter in British history, but we should all learn the valuable lessons that Brexit has taught us because we can use them in our businesses too.
I wish I could tell you that the Brexit debacle is an anomaly, but the truth is that I see leaders and senior teams making the same type of mistakes on a smaller scale all the time. Every business is a political battleground, and if you want to make change work, you need to be masterful in diplomacy. Sadly, communication problems can dog even the most promising enterprise and drag everyone down. So, there are fundamental things you must get right if you want to bring your people together and get the very best from them.
#1 Formulate a compelling case
If you are about to make a decision that seriously affects the people who work for you, don’t base it on opinion alone. When you passionately believe that a change is necessary, you should have a robust and concise business case for why you are doing it.
Even the most seemingly innocuous change in a business can set the cat among the pigeons with your staff. Many leaders wouldn’t give much thought to switching the canteen vending machine, but this is something that can be a massive deal to your workforce. Whatever the change may be, make sure that you communicate your ‘why’ properly.
#2 Understand what motivates your people
Great leadership depends on managers knowing their staff and what motivates them. David Cameron and Theresa May were both ill-advised about what the people wanted and suffered mortifying defeats and setbacks because of it. The Leave party addressed disillusioned people and motivated them to vote, but their promises seem rather magical, leading to even more disappointment.
In your business, you need to do much better if you want to increase loyalty, staff retention, productivity and, ultimately, profitability. Change can be difficult, but it becomes unbearable when you feel it’s forced upon you. Making sure that everybody feels supported, heard and considered in such situations is vital to long-term success.
#3 Don’t be a dictator!
Nobody likes to be told what to do without the chance to question it, so having open conversations, involving key players in decision-making and getting managerial buy-in to feed down to the more junior staff is essential. Disaffection in the senior levels of the Tory party triggered the whole Brexit referendum, and they appear to be seriously weakened by the infighting. There are pivotal employees in your organisation who can help you manage change and explain your reasoning to others. Their help will be invaluable in times of disruption, so make sure that you get them on board straight away.
It doesn’t take long for anger and spite to creep into arguments at work. If you back your workforce into a corner by ordering them to get on board, they won’t be able to hear your reasoned arguments for why. If you treat everybody with respect and take the time to listen to what they have to say, it’s far easier to win them round to your way of thinking.
As far as I’m concerned, the Leavers and Remainers can get on with their war because I’m not interested in fighting. Recently, I’ve spent more time finding out about the United Nations and their approach to how to improve our world. Please take a moment to read about their Sustainable Development Goals and marvel at how well they explain what they want to do. The UN has considered their impact on the world and outlined ways to create a future we all can flourish in. That’s the kind of campaign we should all get behind.