Complexity, Ambiguity And Making A Virtue Out of A Crisis


This weekend's blog was triggered by an article Peter saw in the weekend media which underlines the Mightify message about transferable skills, what police officers do everyday and why so many companies and organisations want to hire them.

I am pretty certain I am not the target audience for the Sunday Times “Style” magazine. So I am not sure what I was doing there when I caught an interesting short article by Dame Jayne-Anne Gadhia, the distinguished UK business leader. She was answering a question about leading and motivating staff during “rocky times” at work which immediately tweaked my emergency services antennae (when is work anything other than rocky?). But it was what Jayne-Anne said that crisis management told her about the sort of people she might want to hire in the future that resonated with what we do here at Mightify. She wanted resilient people obviously – you can’t get through a crisis if key staff go sick at the first hurdle – but in her view people were more likely to be resilient if they could cope with complexity and ambiguity. Less likely if they preferred the sort of working environment that was stable and where everyone knows pretty much what is going to happen next and the day after that.

Ok, by this point, she had me. I have to confess that “complexity and ambiguity” is one of my favourite buttons when helping people work out what their transferable skills are and one which is under appreciated. Take policing. Clearly a complex environment to work in with a mix of law, consent and differing cultural and societal norms. Hugely ambiguous too – constantly shifting, constantly uncertain with no idea what will come up next or how society and individuals will react to what yesterday might have been seen as a well-intentioned and virtuous intervention but tomorrow will be seen as inappropriate. Where is the line between the rights of the individual and their responsibility to others in a community? Not to mention maintaining the balance of due diligence and zeal with existing and emerging regulatory frameworks. It takes a certain sort of person to make progress professionally and to thrive personally in that environment. The good news is most if not all cops can demonstrate they are that person. The even better news is that Jayne-Anne Gadhia confirmed that these are the sort of people that other organisations want to hire too.

The good news didn’t stop there. She valued open communicators who drive face to face engagement, including with their teams, who keep up team morale and who keep a cool head during a crisis – part of that cool head being the ability to separate personal emotion from the professional challenge in front of you. And when interviewing potential hires, she was as interested in hearing about stuff that hadn’t gone well but had been overcome as she was in hearing glowing success stories.

This all chimes in with what we bang on about all the time here at Mightify – that the emergency service family have some great transferable skills and that there are plenty of employers out there who would like to get their hands on them. Jayne-Anne suggested that work crises often actually bring out the best people and the best in people. The police service loves a crisis and does some of its best work under intense pressure, though those crises have become a bit too frequent and “business as usual” in recent times. But you can take at least some comfort from the knowledge that in continuing to deal with them successfully you are enhancing your market value should you decide to move on to a new world – and you don’t have to take just our word for it!

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