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How to stay focused and positive in tough and uncertain times


As the nation recently stopped to reflect on Anzac Day we were reminded of the sacrifices and stories of our forebears. I was inspired by their sense of a higher purpose, leadership and mateship and it reminded me that even in the most challenging situations we have the choice to stay committed and positive.


Today’s context

There is currently a great deal of uncertainty playing out in the corporate sector. Property is booming, mining is volatile and depending on which state you live in – infrastructure projects are patchy. Our industries are being disrupted and no one knows how this will play out both now and in the immediate future. There is a fragility and growing lack of confidence with government overall.

“There is a huge nemesis in the environment with a massive pace of change, the level of complexity is enormous and everything is going faster in unpredictable ways.”
C Suite Executive, Financial Services

Our recent resilience research findings identified the key leadership derailers as:

  • An inability to act within this ambiguous environment
  • Lack of self-awareness
  • Limited engagement and communication
  • Short-term focus
  • Individualistic and ego mindset

What I am currently observing with our leadership programs, coaching and mentoring assignments is:

  • Executives staying in action/task mode and not managing and leading
  • Fear of making mistakes
  • Knee jerk reactions
  • Denying how things really are
  • Setting expectations too high
  • Not staying to plan and executing
  • Not holding others accountable
  • Micromanagement

Under pressure, people within an organisation tend to revert to:*

  • Don’t think
  • Don’t feel
  • Don’t talk about it

Everyone is looking to someone else to provide the answers. The answer however is always to look for leadership within ourselves:*

  • We need to convince others to believe in us and the purpose of our vision.
  • We need to stay positive and remain focused under pressure.

Our research revealed that the top two critical leadership requirements are:

  • Resilience
  • Self-Awareness



So what can we, as leaders, do to manage and deal with all this uncertainty?  

“Leaders need to take buffering from media, shareholders and the Board. They need to stick to their guns – for the longer term.”
C Suite Executive, Energy Industry

Find meaning in what you are doing and connect deeply with your purpose*

Clarity of meaning and purpose enhances focus and builds adaptability and resilience so you can:

  • Deal with emotionally difficult problems proactively
  • Reframe experiences in a positive way
  • Imagine a more optimistic picture of the future
  • Take time for self-reflection
  • Maintain a network of supportive relationships.

Create a mindset of optimism and confidence – by feeling good about yourself and your life*

Focus on the positives in your life and all the things for which you can be grateful

  • Remain intellectually curious – strive for personal growth
  • Maintain meaningful goals and objectives
  • Remain physically active
  • Balance work with leisure
  • Have caring and trusting ties with others – seek social support
  • Create systematic change – surprise yourself and others.

Delay gratification*

A key trait of very successful leaders is the ability to delay short term rewards for long term results.

  • Decide what you do have control over that you can do today to build a strong tomorrow
  • Show empathy by communicating that you care for your people. Build up the emotional bank account.
  • Go out of your comfort zone to find and create opportunities which you wouldn’t normally seek. Stretch yourself!
  • Stay very close to your customers
  • Find something you can do every day which is energising to keep you on track. Go for a 10 minute walk outside at lunch; send some positive emails to your colleagues to boost morale.

Build self-awareness*

  • Seek feedback from those around you
  • Ask for support and help
  • Work in a team environment
  • Constantly put yourself into a learning role
  • Give yourself stretch targets
  • Build your EQ and intuition
  • Continue personal and professional development.

Remember, nothing stays the same forever and we really can influence the outcomes we want.

Source: *Manfred Kets de Vries, INSEAD



Best regards,
Virginia Mansell

About the author: Virginia Mansell, Executive Chairman, Stephenson Mansell Group.

Virginia Mansell is an expert and thought leader in executive coaching, mentoring and leadership.  She is the author of The Focused Executive, an important resource for CEOs and senior executives determined to perform at their very best. The 2nd Edition is now available with a new chapter on high performing teams.

In 1998, Virginia established The Mansell Group to provide coaching and leadership development services.  In 2005, she merged this business with The Stephenson Partnership to create Stephenson Mansell Group, arguably Australia’s longest-established executive development firm.  Over the last fifteen years, the Stephenson Mansell Group has worked with 5000 executives in more than 500 organisations in Australia and internationally including 30 of Australia’s top 50 companies.

In addition to her own experience as a business leader, Virginia brings to her role over 30 years in human resource management, counselling psychology, psychotherapy and organisational consulting.