Yesterday I was in Yellowknife, NWT. My colleague and I spent the afternoon working with a team of about 20 individuals in a large meeting space in a corporate building. Shortly after two o’clock in the afternoon, the power went out in the building we were in. This necessitated the entire group evacuating the building as the local fire code prohibits individuals from occupying corporate office spaces during a power outage.
The meeting participants informed me that the power goes out frequently in Yellowknife, so it was not that unexpected. This was the first time I’ve experienced this in Yellowknife, even though my two other trips up there in 2016 were in the winter season when you’d expect there would be a greater risk of loss of power due to weather. The afternoon was sunny and warm, with no wind, so clearly the outage was not weather related.
This power outage naturally had an impact on the agenda of the day. We were forced to modify our expectations and plans during the power outage – of course we did not know how long it would last. As it turned out, we all agreed to walk across the street to a parking lot (in the sun) to continue our dialogue). What was just perfect about this, was that at the time of the outage I happen to be in front of the room, and was leading a discussion on stakeholder relations and how to engage community partners in creating broad scale system change. More specifically, in that moment we were discussing the qualities that are needed in local leaders and stakeholders if we want them to work with us in being effective agents of change.
So just what qualities do we ideally want to see in stakeholders that are going to be best equipped to help us advance change? There were several qualities that we were discussing, but three in particular stand out to me, and those three happened to be required that exact moment during the power outage we experienced. The three are nimbleness, the ability to take charge and flexibility regarding expectations.
In order to ensure that our day did not fall apart, we had to be nimble, and be willing to continue our dialogue standing outdoors, with the traffic noise, the homeless fellow wanting to show us a card trick and the little sand flies landing on our exposed skin, all potential distractions. We also had to take charge of the situation. In the absence of taking charge, the group could have scattered and our day could have been lost. Finally, we needed to be flexible regarding our expectations and what we would be able to achieve during the day. Clearly this unexpected issue of losing access to our meeting space meant that we would not be able to complete our entire agenda in the exact way we had planned.
Our reality in the world of business is that we are constantly faced with unexpected variables and environmental factors that require us to take charge, be nimble and flexible. These happen to also be three of the most important qualities to look for in community partners and stakeholders if we intend to select those that are best able to work with us to advance change.
What is going on in your market or environment at the moment, where you need to demonstrate nimbleness, an ability to take charge and flexibility in expectations? If we are not intentional about it, we can fall back on more primitive responses such as frustration and reactivity.
Cameron’s Call to Action
- Undertake an environmental scan and identify factors both obvious and less obvious that require additional nimbleness, flexibility and a take charge approach.
- Reflect on opportunities that may exist for you to walk more fully in these qualities, especially in response to unexpected changes such as market conditions.
- Clearly communicate the new perspectives or targets that emerge, with those around you that need to be aligned with you in order to effectively lead change.