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Letter from Ed: Media Detox and Leading in a Time of Uncertainty
Pallet Enterprise founder, Ed Brindley, shares his thoughts about leading in uncertain times and the need to think positive and remember why you are in business.
By Edward C. Brindley, Jr.
Date Posted: 4/1/2013
The media talking heads blame Congress. Leaders on Capitol Hill blame the White House. One party trashes the other and vice versa. Companies blame inept Washington for creating a sense of uncertainty in the market. Government pushes back on corporate profits. The whole media game is enough to make you want to plug your ears with your fingers and say, “I’m not going to listen anymore.”
The negative talk on all sides of the political spectrum makes it tough to be optimistic about the future. This constant barrage of negative news sows seeds of fear and uncertainty. How you react will determine a lot about your success. I was recently challenged to reconsider where I was placing my focus after hearing Dr. Chuck Ray of Penn State University speak at the church service held during the recent NWPCA annual meeting in Florida. About 25 people heard Chuck share about his own fight against negativism.
Chuck spoke about how he had become somewhat addicted to the Fox News talk radio and political news coverage. While his political views remain the same, Chuck Ray grew weary of the negative impact his media consumption habits were having on his life and changed how he used his time to refocus on rejoicing in all circumstances. He mentioned the Apostle Paul’s warning to his protégé, Timothy – “Guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith” (1 Timothy 6:20-21).
Instead of waking up to news feeds on our smartphones and watching cable news late into the night and listening to only talk radio on the drive home, we should follow the advice of the Apostle Paul. He wrote, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Chuck’s message struck home with me because I had been dealing with the same negative issues in my life. It can be so easy to get overwhelmed with what is not going right. But there are always positives to find and things to be thankful for. This doesn’t make us complacent. It just keeps us from being so negative that we get frozen by fear or jaded in life. I appreciate Chuck’s honesty and emotional revelation of his own struggles.
Scripture is clear, one of the things that is God’s will for Christians is to rejoice at all times. While I know that many readers may not care what the Bible says, I have found it to be a pathway for life. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Today, now more than ever, we need to hear this type of message. Uncertainty seems to be here to stay for the American business landscape. And uncertain times require strong leadership. We need to focus on the positive things we can control instead of the unknowns that are beyond our grasp.
Sometimes we need to just go back to why we started our company. What was our vision? And how did we succeed in the past? Frequently, we have already faced times of uncertainty to get to where we are today. But it is easy to forget that reality after we have been successful. At some point, we had nothing. But now we have something to build from for the future. As uncertain as the landscape may be today, we have a lot stronger basis now than we usually had when we first started our companies.
Christian speaker and teacher, Andy Stanley recently talked on this theme in his Leadership Podcast series (www.andystanley.com). Stanley said, “Uncertainty is why we need leaders. Uncertainty is job security for the leader. If the uncertainty went away, we wouldn’t need leaders. We would only need managers.”
Having built a large mega church from almost nothing, Stanley understands the struggles over bills, organizational dysfunction, unforeseen impacts, etc. In uncertain times, Stanley said that there are two things he always goes back to for guidance – clarity and flexibility.
Stanley suggested that uncertainty is an environment that surrounds us. It should not be the way we think or communicate to our staff or the outside world. When times are uncertain, we should be very clear about our original vision. Stanley said, “The clearer the vision, the less uncertain you will feel.” That is why he goes back to the original idea and then looks to see how he can stick to that given the current circumstances. This level of self analysis can be hard, and it demands honesty on the part of the leaders.
The second aspect is being flexible to respond to the market situation. Stanley said, “Plans change, but vision remains the same. Do not confuse your plans with your vision.” He added that the reason that a lot of organizations and businesses fail is that they fell in love with the plan and lost the vision along the way. You may need to change your plans. View this as an opportunity to improve every aspect of your operation. Frequently, uncertainty creates concern and angst that can force businesses to look at areas that were ignored when things were going well. In many cases how you look at your situation will likely have a greater impact on how you react than the severity of the challenge itself.
And as the leader in your organization, people will be looking to you to see how you respond. As for me, I will hold to my faith in Jesus and listen for divine guidance in these uncertain times. I will change the plans to meet changing market dynamics. All the while I will hold onto what has made our little company successful. And may we all learn a bit from Chuck Ray’s story.
Chuck Ray said, “I recently resolved to turn away from the news feeders, the radio talk shows and the cable news. Those things were just dragging me down and rendering me ineffective as a tool for the Lord. Ten days later, I am refreshed, positive and more upbeat about life. And there’s a lot more good news in front of me to focus on.”