Uncertainty is so omnipresent right now. It evokes varying emotions given all the disruption we’re dealing with. And yet, disruptors are merely anything that changes how business gets done. Certainly social media is the most obvious. But so are the states of local and national economies, innovations in your industry, cloud computing or even books or movies that made you sit up and go “oh, that’s cool!” Uncertainty=Change It is easy to feel discouraged when you see things getting bogged down and changing simultaneously. Naturally, business owners are asking themselves how to engage with cautious customers. Technology is constantly morphing so there are more applications to learn. Frankly, with so much change, it can be mind boggling. However, there is a good starting point. Softly moving forward Operating amidst chaos isn’t desirable but we are in a time that requires different parts of ourselves than we anticipated. For some businesses, it used to be enough to network and offer a decent product or service. It isn’t that simple now for anyone. It’s time to look at soft skills like empathy, relationship building, collaboration, ingenuity, creativity and the willingness to learn as tools to manage disruption. Empathy and relationship building This is the provocative question, “what does your business really do?” This is not what you think it does. Our customer’s experience is often different than what we imagine. You may be providing a solution to a problem you didn’t even identify. Have you considered how empathy could play a role in your strategic planning? Intuit is good model for this. They want to know how their customers use their products so they accompany a customer home and observe from set up to actual use. When you feel someone’s frustration or satisfaction, it is easier to identify what your product or service really does. How do you walk in your customer’s shoes? Collaboration Relationship building can lead to collaboration. According to Robert Thomas of HBR-The Conversation, great collaborations have three ingredients. These ingredients are a problem that isn’t easily solved, lacking structure and requiring choices of what to share. In a practical way, what could this look like? It might be a website designer partnering with a marketing professional for a small business workshop. A good friend of mine leads an executive suites and virtual office company and she has built collaborative relationships with a shipping company, a local bank, a hotel, office supply company and many more so that her clients have what their businesses need at their finger tips. This all starts with relationships of mutual respect, effective communication and a desire to move forward. Ingenuity and creativity When you’re dealing with disruption, it is a moment of creation. By combining your ingenuity and creativity, you can take what is in front of you and reform it. James Thurber once said, “Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear but around in awareness.” What are you aware of? Awareness is more than just knowing the market, industry trends or customer preferences. It also includes being clear about your thoughts and feelings. The benefit of noticing your level of fatigue and/or negativity will tell you if you are going to follow through. It’s much more difficult to see a project all the way through when you are experiencing inner turmoil. Developing a realistic and hopeful perspective smooths the path. Willing to learn Curiosity is a crucial business tool. Not only does it support your awareness but it allows you to expand your knowledge and practical skills. A colleague often reminds me that adopting and adapting are important skills. However, underlying these skills is the willingness to wonder about your ultimate goals, which choices fit your personality style and what is present in your business environment. Managing uncertainty is no small feat It takes all of you to manage the many disruptions you encounter. This may be the biggest stressor of any small business owner or CEO. Moving towards a synchronicity of soft skills plus your experience and skills will enable you to choose how you respond to the many disruptions. How do you use your soft skills in your business plan? How does managing uncertainty change your business?