As promised last week I’d like to share the gems of wisdom that I picked up from my first ever virtual graduation. I’ve tried to remember what was said in past graduations that I’ve attended and I just can’t remember. Maybe it’s simply because it was a long time ago. Or could it be that I was distracted by the party mood and all the family and friends around hence not paying attention? In my recent graduation I was seated solo in my office listening to the speaker – Mr. Aaronde. S. Creighton. There were no distractions this time round but his speech was spot on especially in this season.

He used the acronym VUCA. Many people are using VUCA to describe this season. I loved how he substituted each letter in VUCA with an appropriate word that will help many of us get through these difficult times. I first came across VUCA on LinkedIn. It was being used by corporate folks to advice companies on how to stay afloat in these unpredictable times.

I had almost dismissed Mr. Aaronde’s speech when he started talking about VUCA at the beginning of his speech. I’m glad I didn’t put my screen saver on because soon after he caught my attention. And that’s the beauty of short speeches. They get to the point fast and stay there just long enough for you to start missing them once they leave. So, let me practice what I preach and get on with it.

VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. A combination of qualities that, taken together, characterize the nature of some difficult conditions and situations. Like where we find ourselves now.

By the end of covid19 many of us will be volatility experts. Humanity has been forced to handle more volatility than it can handle. We have been suddenly thrust into an unexpected challenge and we don’t know how long it will last. That’s a recipe for high level stress. So, a coach I was challenged to replace volatility with vulnerability

Coaching is the process where I (the coach) helps my coachee explore and discover the solutions they are looking for that lie unnoticed within them. A good coach does not advice or direct their clients. He or she helps shine the light on the blind spots of the coachee. We approach the conversation with the firm belief that everyone has what it takes to succeed and live the lives they desire. My job is to help my client gain that awareness and clarity by asking powerful questions, allowing them to explore possibilities and actively listening to them. That, in most instances calls for vulnerability as we look deep within ourselves. I should work at validating folks I coach so that they can feel safe while vulnerable. This is fertile ground for breakthroughs to occur.

Uncertainty just like volatility is definitely in over supply currently. We are living in one of those moments where we say yote yawezekana (anything is possible). Change is possible but not a given. Getting to learn new stuff and improving myself with new learnings has helped me cope with uncertainty. As a coach (and any well-meaning human) the U in this case should be for understanding. We need to cut each other a lot of slack in this season. Mental stress is high and leading to relational stress and even depression.  Our capacity for self-control has been pushed to the limit. Many people are behaving in ways they otherwise would not. We say things that we will regret later. I’m all for guarding against any form of abuse even from our nearest and dearest. But we should develop coping mechanisms that will help us thrive under circumstances. That would be difficult if we don’t treat ourselves and others with understanding.

Life is complex. Almost always has been even before corona. And I can guarantee it will continue in complexity even after this pandemic. We spend most of our lives searching for simplicity, especially as we get older. We are driven by the desire for peace, fulfilment and self-actualization. That’s what I’ve been working on too in the search for a life of significance. It is definitely worth the effort because once we discover our reason for existence then life has new meaning and the complexity is not as disturbing.

Compassion and care for self is a good antidote for COMPLEX in this season. Let’s be kind to ourselves and others. Keeping those ambitious targets and goals on hold and living a day at a time (or one webinar at a time he he) is a good adjustment to start with. I was forced to have compassion on my baby sharks and myself too this week. My son’s laptop screen broke and that meant a quick replacement because of online school. I was upset at him because of the cost implications plus some carelessness on his part. I almost gave him a mouthful then I caught myself. Now we are sharing my laptop until further notice. Its inconveniencing but at least we are bonding somewhat. It could have been worse. Be kind to yourselves folks.

AMBIGUITY is the last letter in VUCA. Covid19 has given ambiguity a whole new meaning.  We are facing unknown unknowns. There are times when I have gone to bed tired from being a school teacher by force, spending a lot of time online and wondering if I’m making any progress at all. The indicators for progress seem to have been swept away by the virus. I suppose we will know when the new normal arrives. I feel like a seed planted underground not knowing when or whether I will sprout. To keep that tension at bay I’m learning to self-talk a lot. Try it out folks. It’s a good release valve. Plus, it’s a crazy time so I’m sure you won’t stand out. Tuko wengi. Mr. Aaronde told us to replace that A with Acknowledgement and Affirmation. Acknowledge where we are, that’s its tough on us and our coachees. That we are still here and we shall get through this. Remove the screen saver and Accept (I’ve added my own A) where we are.

This new VUCA is much more useful in this season. I feel equipped to be more helpful to others and myself too thanks to that alternative view. Folks I’m encouraged that we shall vuca (cross over in Swahili) into the new normal ready for the opportunities that will come with it. It is well. It shall be well.

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9 thoughts on “Vuca.”

  1. MG says:

    Thank you, as ever for this piece and my heartiest congratulations on your graduation!

  2. George Muya Nuthu says:

    Well-stated Lucas! Thanks for the inspiring message.

  3. Angie says:

    Hey Lucas,
    Definitely one of my best reads this year!

  4. Karen says:

    Thanks for sharing the beautified meaning of VUCA…. I am now reformed and super energized to face this unknown unknowns!

    I have not told you that I am your invicible coachee. I subscribed to your website after listening to your talk on ENGAGE and I have read all your articles. You inspired me to do something I had put off for many years….here it is 👇👇

    • Lucas says:

      Wow karen really?? Im both humbled and elated to be of help to you. Brilliant and all the very best. I’m sure you will thrive

  5. Mike Eldon says:

    Look out for my next Business Daily article on 25th June, where you’ll see alternative words for VUCA!

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