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View from the Corner Office: Countering the Noise Begins at Home

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The definition of volatility: characterized by or subject to rapid or unexpected change. Volatility has become a buzzword in the last 12 months, spoken frequently by business and finance leaders. Christine Lagarde, chairwoman of the IMF said, “Markets love volatility.” Carlos Ghosn, said, “We are facing extreme volatility.” I don’t know if he was speaking to a general audience or perhaps his Nissan board. Still, volatility is a word that spawns fear, uncertainty and doubt in the minds of many.

Volatility affects many people in different ways. Volatility in the automotive market and resulting retooling and job transfer inspires fear and anger. Volatility in the housing market leads to workers seeking stable and predictable employment elsewhere. The result: a limit on how many homes can be built regardless of access to money or interest rates.

In the face of market volatility, business investors sit on the sidelines, stuck in “investment paralysis.” Consumers fear to buy cars, move into different homes or refinance. These inactions feed additional stagnation and paralysis.

Volatility in government feeds further uncertainty and the widening gulf in the viewpoints and agenda of those governed creates additional noise. It appears that agreement and shared interests are precious commodities not easily found.

As we consider volatility in its various faces or forms, how can one make good decisions as a business leader, business owner, parent or community leader? Can one achieve long-term goals, personally and professionally? Can I pay for my kids’ education? Will I ever be able to retire comfortably? Will my business succeed?

To begin with, we need to accept that volatility is, in essence, just “noise.” Noise is defined as: “sound that is loud, unpleasant, unexpected or undesired.” Doesn’t the latter definition sound very similar to what we experience with volatility in our lives? So this asks the question, what can we do about the “noise” and “volatility?”

So what can we do? We create cultures or zones where the noise is muted or canceled. An intentional workplace culture that is founded on clarity and care does much to mute the noise around us and our employees. Clarity is business direction via clearly communicated reasonable objectives understood by all in leadership.

A culture of care is one where it is expected to request assistance because the unexpected will happen. A culture where asking for help is applauded, not condemned. When employees know they are valued in a culture of care, the noise level drops dramatically. When employees feel cared for, they care more for their customers. They take that same care home to their families and communities. They too mute the noise of those surroundings. Intentionally positive workplaces generate increased retention and longevity. These workplaces become a draw for others. They increase recruitment success while changing the monetary playing field to one of fulfillment.

Therefore, focus on the noise within and it will serve to quiet the external volatility based in fear, uncertainty and doubt. The absence of noise within an organization results in increased focus, clarity, and increased success in delivery of goals and objectives. It feeds investment in what is real, not what is loud.

In summary, to mute volatility in your professional and personal life, implement a home that is intentionally “noise canceling,” where stability drives positive change, where uncertainty is met with confidence, and where we listen to what we truly care about because the rest is just noise.

Daniel Kendall is the president of Logansport, Ind.-based ABC Metals. A lifetime resident of Indiana who has served the copper strip industry for 37 years, he is guided by faith and family.