Dominic Irvine

Member Article

Thriving through Brexit

With politicians failing to provide leadership through Brexit, organisations must ready themselves for a future that is unpredictable. It’s your people that will see you through these uncertain times. There are three key capabilities that if everyone developed, would help the organisation to thrive.

Think differently

Best practice means someone’s done it before. Leading practice means to set the standard others follow. Today’s leading practice is tomorrow’s best practice. Achieving higher levels of performance is as much about the ability to see what everyone else is seeing and to be able to think what no-one else is thinking. Things that will help you think differently include:

  1. Breaking performance down into its constituent parts and spotting and analysing the hidden and overt assumptions that underpin current thinking. This means examining commonly accepted dimensions of performance and also examining all the other variables that could influence performance but hitherto have been ignored.

  2. Set goals that are SMART, swap the “achievable” and “realistic” to awesome and ridiculous. 90 per cent of a huge goal is a lot more exciting than 100 per cent of a modest, easily achievable goal. Dream big! Taking on a significant goal requires a fundamentally different mindset to taking on an achievable goal. It often requires a radical rethink which forces innovation and creativity.

  3. Pushing the boundaries means things will go wrong from time to time. Mitigate the risks, support and help people when they don’t succeed to encourage them to keep developing their ideas and solutions. If you punish people for failing, all you will ever get is mediocrity.


Resilience is a positive aspect of high performance. It’s about helping people surf the sweet spot of the optimum amount of pressure to drive their best performance. Resilience is a response to a potentially traumatic event that results in people growing and learning, and becoming stronger and more capable. Resilience is about coping over time. It starts with a clear understanding of what constitutes performance. Be clear about what it is you wish people to be resilient for.

  1. Recognise that striving to achieve extraordinary results is a period of doubt and uncertainty, because if it is a truly awesome goal, no-one has ever done it before. It can be a dark and lonely place when you are working hard and the goal still seems impossible. Support people during this phase.

  2. While in the thick of it, everything can appear overwhelming - develop the ability to stand back and critically analyse situations. Most of the time, what’s getting to us is noise in our own heads, critical analysis, and clarity of thought are key to separating out the wood from the trees.

  3. Set out ‘lines in the sand’, key decision points that when reached will dictate what you do next. These lines in the sand allow you to take control of when you need to step in to change plan and enable you to focus on the here and now.

  4. Develop a cabinet of trusted advisers you can turn to, to sound out issues and to help unlock your thinking. This is particularly useful when you reach the point of being very unsure about what to do next.

  5. In every situation you find yourself, keep to the front of your mind “what’s important now?”


What we do is mostly what we do - we are creatures of habit. When under pressure, the things we default to are our habits. If you make your habits the things you need to do when under pressure, you’re more likely to perform optimally. If something is a habit, it does not need the same attentional resources as behaviours which aren’t habits, this frees up your mind for the challenges you face.

Habits are made up of three parts: 1) The cue (or context) that triggers the behaviour 2) The routine or behaviour and 3) The reward for doing the right thing. A ping of an email is an example of a cue. Opening and reading the email is a routine. The satisfaction of dealing with a message is the reward.

The steps to developing a habit are:

  1. Think of something you would like to get into the habit of doing. Think about the exact routine you want to follow. Write it down.

  2. Let’s suppose you managed to do what you wanted to do - what’s the reward you are going to give yourself? It can be small. But it must be clear from your routine that you have succeeded.

  3. What things can you use to act as a trigger to help you do what it is you want to do? This might be something as simple as knowing when you take your glasses off means you are getting stressed. This cue might trigger the routine of walking around the block to process what’s happening and to work out what to do. If you paid attention to the trigger, followed the routine, you might reward yourself with a coffee to celebrate your effective coping strategy.

Of course, as with everything, developing these three capabilities requires hard work, but the reward is an approach to performance that will help give you a fighting chance of thriving through Brexit in spite of these turbulent times.

© 2019 Dominic Irvine. All rights asserted.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Dominic Irvine .

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