Brexit: Controlling the Controllables

29 Jun 16 | Steve Smith

In light of the recent referendum result for the UK to leave the European Union, Raise the Bar Director and co-founder, Steve Smith, shares with us his thoughts on how we can all start controlling our controllables in the face of increasing uncertainty and change:


So the world has gone crazy again and unfortunately it’s now out of our hands – Or is it?

As we take a leap in to the unknown it’s hard not to be drawn into the uncertainty of the emotionally charged issues around Brexit from across the world. One thing is for sure, we can’t impact on the future direction of Europe and its effect on the economy, but we can impact on our own performance.

The great Edwin Moses, one of the most consistent athletes of all time once said;

“Ain’t no use worrying ’bout things beyond your control, ‘cos if they’re beyond your control, ain’t no use worrying. Ain’t no use worrying ’bout things that are in your control, ‘cos if you have them in your control then why worry?”

As Dr Steve Peters describes in his brilliant bestselling book ‘The Chimp Paradox’, all around us we are currently seeing behaviour driven by our emotional braincatastrophic and irrational. Some people will be pressing the pause button and going into freeze mode, others will distance themselves from the situation and some will come out fighting. It’s classic ‘chimp’ behaviour and it’s hard to ignore but unless we control our emotions we won’t get the outcome that we need and this will lead to undue stress and erratic performance… Up one day and down the next.

Whilst the things out of our control drive fear, nervousness, anger and resentment, we need to get back to thinking in a logical way. A focus on process and a focus on where we can make the difference will be key to sustained performance. It can take time to move to this state of thinking where we can remove the emotion but the sooner we can, the easier it will be to face the uncertainty head on.

Dutchman Charles Van Commenee, the former coach of the British Olympic Athletics team, talks about setting process goals. Just like we can’t impact upon political decisions from here on in, our athletes can’t impact on their competitors or the environment and therefore whether they get the medal they deserve. They can focus on the process goals that they can control (training, diet, equipment….)– that way if they don’t achieve the performance goal then at least they can look back thinking “I gave it my best shot”. This approach enables us to reduce stress and worrying and focus on the smaller things that will lead to the outcome we need.

So what’s in our control and where should we put our energy so that we can capitalise on the current situation and regain focus?

It’s an interesting exercise to ask your team that exact question and then put your energy into these areas.

What do they need to focus on?

Why is this important?

How will we do it?

When can we start?

Here are some areas to start with that we can all focus on:

  • The quality of our customers experience
  • How we present our products
  • Our sales skills
  • The quality of our communication
  • The energy we bring
  • How we lead our people
  • Our product and competitor knowledge
  • How we coach our people

There are hundreds more that will be relevant, so let’s focus on where we can make a difference and the rest will take care of itself.

Control what we can!


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Steve Smith

Steve Smith


Steve Smith is one of the most sought-after speakers with extensive experience of working with leading corporate organisations ...