Dierschow: Observe principles to navigate chaos

We’re all experiencing some of the greatest uncertainty of our lifetimes. It’s a time when nobody on the planet seems to have any answers.

What do you do in this environment? How do you keep your business alive?

The first principle is to ask for help. We are fortunate to have so many excellent resources in our state government and SBDCs. These people are doing the best they can to be helpful.

Yes, it’s been very confusing, with conflicting information and advice. This will continue for some time, as we figure things out and make decisions as a society. So the second principle is to stay flexible, thoughtful, and focused.

Flexible because what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow.

Thoughtful because you’re constantly looking for information and resources that best fit YOUR unique needs.

Focused because the greatest enemies during this time are distraction and lack of direction.

This is primarily about how you manage yourself. When your own mind is doing well, you’ll be able to expand that to how you lead your organization. When your mind is chaotic, that will also flow into your actions.

I’m not a surfer, but I like to keep in mind the image of effortlessly surfing the waves of change. This is about navigating the unpredictable random events with agility.

But what do you want to focus on? If you’re just responding to what’s happening in the outside world, there’s a good chance you’ll be a ping-pong ball in a hurricane. You’ll end up miles away from where you want to be.

The third principle, then, is to stay grounded in your values and mission. Remind yourself of them every day, and use them in all your decision making. Sure, you may be forced to take actions that you really don’t like. A lot of companies have.

But make decisions like that consciously. Do the best you can with the resources and limitations you have, staying focused on the end goal. Avoid sacrificing your principles as best you can.

The fourth principle comes out of this: be forgiving. In a tumultuous environment like this, we’re making mistakes all the time. A decision might seem like the best thing to do, then you regret it a few days later.

This is what’s happening, all the time. You’re making mistakes all the time, and everyone else is too.

I find it helpful to keep this mantra in mind: “Everyone is doing the best they can with the information they have at that moment.”

It’s not personal; this is what we’re all living right now.

That brings us to the final principle: It’s all about learning.

Personally, I don’t happen to believe that we’ll ever return to what we thought “normal” was in 2019. Instead, we’re creating a new reality. Some things will look similar to the past, while others will be entirely different.

It’s really about what we learn along the way — a truism that has always applied in business. We try something, then reality changes as a result, but the value comes from observing, reflecting, and learning from it.

I like to think that we’re smart enough to adapt to whatever happens and, together, grow toward a brighter future.

Carl Dierschow is a Small Fish business coach based in Fort Collins, specializing in companies committed to improving society and the world. His website is www.smallfish.us.