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Leading in Uncertainty

Updated: Apr 13, 2021

As business operations are tossed to and fro in a sea of reactionary change, many leaders find it difficult to carry out a clear vision, which in turn makes employees feel feel uncertain, confused and anxious.

One of the greatest tests of leadership in this current climate is how to create some small sense of stability, even when that seems counterintuitive. You may not be able to forecast the future, but you can fulfill the psychological needs of your employees in other ways. This helps pull people out of Fight-Flight-Freeze mode—and instead creates goodwill, engagement and fosters high performance.

Here are 3 keys to success:

  1. Over-communicate. Would you be surprised to discover this is one of the most important factors in reassuring your team? Research shows that in times of stress and uncertainty, receiving frequent communications from a leader provides a sense of stability and safety, even when new information is scarce. In crisis situations, the best practice for spokespeople is to communicate early and often. This can mean the difference between being perceived as leading forward or lagging behind.

  2. Listen. Tell people you want to hear from them. If you have discontinued office hours, re-start them virtually. Conduct anonymous online surveys asking about employee morale and needs at this time. Make sure you acknowledge and address the results. It’s an old cliche, but it’s true: Sometimes people just need to feel heard.

  3. Be transparent. As humans, we are hard wired to fear the unknown. Therefore in times of chaos, it’s critical to show employees you are sharing what you do know and not hiding information which may affect their health or livelihoods. You can also share what you are still figuring out and the criteria for your decisions. Use words and phrases that convey authenticity and transparency. This applies to you personally, too. Now, more than ever, share your personal feelings and reactions—about how you and your family are coping, adjustments you’ve made, personal observation. And as always, voice your concerns and commitment for your employees’ welfare. This is not the time to hold back.

Stay safe!


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