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In times of uncertainty: A roadmap

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Here are 6 steps you can take to ensure you and your team are equipped to face challenges and uncertainty with calm and efficacy.

It's no secret, the past year has been incredibly anxiety-inducing due to the constantly evolving pandemic, the corresponding economic impact and market rollercoaster. And rightly so. But what can we do as leaders to ensure we are managing times of uncertainty in an effective way and not further increasing the anxiety level? Here are 6 steps you can take to ensure you and your team are equipped to face challenges and uncertainty with calm and efficacy.

1. Reconnect to your vision

When the proverbial shit hits the fan we can become so reactive that we lose sight of our intended destination. Use your vision as a guidepost and grounding tool.

2. Communicate simply and clearly and repeatedly to your employees, clients and key stakeholder groups

State the organization’s position clearly and be sure the position is aligned with your brand, mission and vision; congruency is critical. For instance, if you have indicated that your people are your greatest asset, make sure your messaging takes their needs and concerns into account. Ensure your organizational values are aligned with your action.

To connect you to how important timely consistent communication is let me ask you, have you ever been kept on a plane for a couple of hours and the pilot doesn’t update you or tell you what’s going on? What happens? Not only do tensions rise, but they get more intense. And characteristically, in the absence of communication, we start to make up our own stories. And quashing made up stories takes a lot more energy than sharing information.

Establish key messages; highlight them, summarize them. State what they are and also take the opportunity to state what they are not. This breaks through people’s filters and interpretations. Now, repeat. In the most mundane of circumstances, it is rare that our messages get through the first time so in times of heightened stress, it will take more than a few times for messages to penetrate.

3. Document what you have done to address the situation

In times of uncertainty, your teams, your clients, in fact, all your stakeholders, want to know you’ve been taking action. They want to be led. While we can’t control external events like pandemics and market slides, there are things we can control. And taking action, even small steps, builds confidence for all our stakeholders. Make a list and let people know what actions you have taken.

A few examples:

"We have met has a senior team and assessed the situation."

"We have developed contingency plans to allow for the business to operate as usual."

"We have established an emergency communications protocol."

"We are reviewing all vital personnel to ensure they have the tools required."

4. Document what you are going to do

As we are now experiencing, uncertainty leads to fluidity. And this fluidity requires ongoing data-gathering, fact-checking, reviewing of positions, etc.

So tell people you’re staying connected and what you anticipate your next steps will be, even if you aren’t 100% sure at this point in time. It indicates you have the tenacity, vigilance, focus and energy to steer the ship until the storm subsides and you’re not idly waiting for it all to blow over.

A few examples:

"The senior team will have a daily review meeting to closely monitor the situation."

"We will be organizing a client conference call for Wednesday to ensure a cohesive message is shared."

"We will publish a weekly update for the team."

5. Make your leadership team accessible

Schedule regular virtual check-ins with your employees, hold monthly virtual town halls, call your clients. Do not think that because everyone is working diligently from home that they don’t want or need to hear from you. In times of uncertainty be more visible more accessible (virtually or from a safe distance of course). Take a road trip. Stand on your critical team members’ front lawn and have a coffee. All too often in times of crisis and uncertainty, we tend to shut ourselves away in meetings and analysis. No one knows what’s going on behind those doors and that brings us back to the importance of step two.

6. Review opportunities

While there is uncertainty right now, ask yourself, is there also an opportunity for us to shine as an organization?

For instance, if you promote your company as advisors, can you invite your clients to a meeting or conference call that supports them in creating unique and effective solutions or mitigates their risk? Can you use this situation to differentiate your organization as a voice of calm and reason in the cacophony of noise?

The world is facing some big issues right now. When things get tough, the tough get tougher, and, unfortunately, the rest of us look to someone else to take the lead or even blame. Practice being one of the tough ones. Think about all those problems that you believe someone else should solve and, well, solve them!

And here’s the upside to this roadmap. Creating a plan and executing the plan makes everyone focus on what’s controllable and leaves calm and confidence in its wake.

So, remember:

  1. Reconnect to your vision

  2. Establish key messages and direction

  3. Tell people what you’re doing

  4. Tell people what you’re going to do

  5. Be accessible

  6. Look for opportunity

Whether it’s Covid-19 or a buyout, use this roadmap to help you navigate times of uncertainty and be the leader your organization needs.



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