Uncertainty is scary. The unknown is scary. Leaders will always face uncertainty and the future will always be unknown.
A company team I worked with recently has some pretty big anticipated hurdles coming up in about a year. The height of the hurdles is not clear, nor if there will be ground to land on when they leap over. They’re struggling not to fret. They’re struggling not to worry.
Needless to say, this impacts focus, productivity and morale.
The management team wanted to know – in the face of these uncertain times, how can we support our teams?
Here are four of the recommendations I gave them. These can work in nearly every situation:
- Your team is a reflection of you – as the leader you can’t be Chicken Little. Emotions are contagious. If you’re freaking out, revving up, snowballing catastrophe, so will your team. Guaranteed. Watch your language – what are you saying about the future? You should acknowledge the fear, you just don’t want to feed it. Acknowledging the fear lets your team know that you “get it” – you’re not clueless or in denial. This is part of sharing your humanity as a leader. Stay positive, not pessimistic or Pollyanna. If you need to unabashedly “release” your own worries, share your concerns with a comforting friend outside of your workplace.
- Remember: What you and your team are up to in the world TODAY is bigger than this fear. You can’t let the fear become a scapegoat for not getting the work done. There is work to be done today. You have clients who need you to show up 100% today. Focus on the top three strategic action items your team can accomplish this week towards your quarterly goals. Celebrate completion. In other words, heed the words of Corrie ten Boom, whose family helped many Jewish people escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II: “Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strengths.”
- What actually is known and unknown? Defining these two in simple high-level bullets can be surprisingly empowering.
- The present
- We’re all in this together
- It’s not our first rodeo
- There’s work to do now
- We’re resilient and resourceful
- We’ll figure out when the time comes
- Our commitment and convictions
- What’s next
- The future
- What’s going to happen
- The weather two weeks from now
I have a roofing company client. About 90% of its revenue is determined by Mother Nature. If there’s a storm, it makes money. If there isn’t, it doesn’t. That’s uncertainty; yet the company is not paralyzed by the uncertainty of Mother Nature.
- Focus on what you can control. You can always control your response, attitude, behavior, words and actions. You can always choose to be proactive rather than paralyzed. In times of uncertainty, step up ownership of your authority. When the fog is thick, they want the leader to lead.
Don’t let uncertainty undermine you or your team’s efforts. Stay on course. Focus and finish on what needs to be accomplished now.
Acknowledge the fear, but don’t feed it.
Lastly, be courageous and confident in your convictions.
Guest Post by Kris Boesch, author of Culture Works: How to Create Happiness in the Workplace. Kris is the CEO and founder of Choose People, a company that transforms company cultures.