How to Navigate an Uncertain Political Landscape

Businessman looking into the fog-covered distance; two paths diverge in front of him.We are nearly two weeks into the Trump administration and one thing seems clear: change is happening. Since the transfer of power took place on January 20thsenior-level management officials at the State department have resigned, and President Trump has signed executive orders implementing a hiring freeze across the Federal government and reducing the number of regulations Federal agencies are allowed to impose on U.S. businesses.

Depending on your political orientation, you may find these changes to be necessary course corrections, unfortunate shifts in the Federal landscape, or something in between. Regardless of your views, many government employees (and the agency missions they support) are now faced with uncertain futures.

Workplace uncertainty can be emotionally taxing, particularly when you feel you have little or no influence over your future. Wholesale organizational changes in policy, structure, or culture are often beyond your control. However, focusing on your perceived lack of influence is counterproductive and demotivating.

Instead, leadership professionals suggest concentrating on what is within your own “sphere of influence. These are the elements of your life—thoughts, attitudes, emotional reactions, and work ethic—that are fully (or at least mostly) within your control. Concentrating energy and attention on these elements allows you to engage in higher levels of strategic and creative thinking, and tackle difficult situations by managing your behavior and emotional responses.

If you are anything like me, focusing your energy and attention on only things within your control may not come naturally. I often catch myself lost in thought, worrying about what my life will be like 5, 10, or 20 years from now. In doing so, I lose the ability to impact what is in front of me in the present, adding undue stress to my life with no apparent benefits.

When I manage to focus on what I can control—today, tomorrow, and next week—I find myself more efficient, effective, and efficacious. There are many strategies that can be used to remain centered in your sphere of influence—mindfulness meditation, metacognitive questioning (questions about how you’re thinking), and journaling, to name a few. However, simply asking yourself, “What do I have the power to change right now?” may be a sufficient reminder.

Though change is inevitable, and sometimes unwelcome, it does not make us powerless. At a minimum, you are in control of your attitudes and perceptions of any situation. In the face of sweeping changes to the national landscape, you must remember to accept ownership and remain accountable for what you can control.

As noted in our latest complimentary research report—Unleveraged Talent: Exploring Gaps in Federal Workforce Management—organizations in the Federal government need to start addressing their skills gaps and talent management issues. You don’t have to wait for sweeping changes, expected or unexpected: ask yourself what you can do today and tomorrow to navigate the uncertainty and fortify your performance.

Signing up for our training in adaptability, accountability, and resilience will help you advance your professional skills and goals, but you’re always your own best catalyst for the outcomes—big and small—you desire.

Leadership & Management
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