By Todd Mosetter, Building Champions
Leadership is rarely easy – but it becomes even more difficult during times of change, challenge, and uncertainty. While those may have been short seasons we’ve experienced in the past, they seem like a more common occurrence these days.
And change and uncertainty usually bring a fair amount of emotion along for the ride. For some, it creates energy and excitement (bring it on!). For others, perhaps a bit of fear and confusion (what will happen next?!).
Either reaction left unchecked or unchallenged can overwhelm us and negatively impact our reactions and results. So as leaders, it’s our job to ensure both ourselves and our people can think and perform well in times of stress, challenge, and uncertainty.
Here are three strategies I’ve seen successful leaders and teams employ to keep focused and productive during even the most turbulent seasons.
If you don’t provide your people with the updates and information they need to stay informed, they will begin to fill in the gaps on their own. And if they have questions or doubts, their thoughts aren’t always very positive, especially in the face of fear and uncertainty.
To fight this, you must increase your communication frequency by regularly sharing information and updates. Be creative with your messaging and delivery, mixing in emails, announcements, and videos. In times of crisis, you may even need to connect more frequently (possibly multiple times per day) to share updates and stay informed of what you need to know. Remember: communication goes both ways so ensure there is an opportunity for you to listen and learn from your people as well.
Don’t make the mistake of waiting until you know everything to share updates. Be open and honest about what you know – and often more importantly, don’t know. If you don’t have the answer or solution yet, you can let people know that you are working on it.
This helps people know that you are aware of the issue (rather than ignoring or avoiding it) and will help create a foundation of trust (essential to lead your team well). But beware: if you tell people you are going to follow up and get the answer for them, don’t drop the ball – that can be even more damaging to the trust you’re trying to establish.
And when crafting your messaging, remember that it is often more about what they need to hear – not just what you think you have to say. Show empathy and think about the situation from their perspective. Leveraged properly, this style of communication can go a long way toward showing your people that you care.
During times of uncertainty, it’s easy to begin to feel isolated and unsure of how we fit in to everything that’s going on around us. So as leaders we must fight to help people feel a sense of connection and belonging.
This starts with pressing in on a human level – how are they feeling and processing what’s happening? Don’t rush to push past this and allow the space and time to help people work through their emotions, especially if the crisis could be causing pressure for them in their personal lives as well. While you don’t have to agree with everything they may be thinking or feeling, you should work hard to understand what they are experiencing so you can better serve them.
Second, we must work hard to keep the team connected to one another. Shared experiences have the power to pull teams together – and we all know difficult times are easier to navigate when we feel supported by our teammates. Create opportunities to pull people together to keep everyone aligned and engaged with one another. If you see any divisions or factions forming, address them head on as soon as possible. Little divisions can drive even healthy teams apart if they are left to grow and fester.
And finally, we must keep our people connected to our vision – why we do what we do. Uncertainty and challenge can cause doubt to creep into people’s hearts and minds. Your vision and purpose serve as those driving forces to remind people of the importance and impact of what you do – and most importantly, why. While it can be tempting to shy away from it during crisis and seasons of uncertainty, that is exactly the right time to keep it front and center with everyone on your team. Share it regularly and creatively with your team during these seasons. Helping them see a better and brighter tomorrow can help them endure difficult stretches.
During times filled with uncertainty, it is easy to become overwhelmed by information and opportunity associated with every unknown possibility that pops into our minds. Combine that with a bit of fear and stress and we can suddenly become paralyzed (not sure what to do) or frantic (worry about too many things).
To help our people continue to perform well, help them place their thoughts into one of three buckets:
- Control: what are those things I have direct control over (process or outcome)
- Influence: what can’t I directly control but can successfully influence
- Accept: what don’t I have control or influence over that I need to accept and adapt
When we understand these three responses, we can focus our energy and attention in those areas that will have the most impact – those things we can either control or influence. This process not only helps reduce stress and overwhelm but it also helps us better invest our resources.
Plus, it helps calm the emotional response most of us feel in times of uncertainty and helps us respond more creatively and intentionally by regaining direction and autonomy which helps us focus on what we can control – and release everything else.
As a leader, one of your primary responsibilities is to help the people you serve think and perform well – especially in times of change, challenge, and uncertainty. Never an easy task, especially if you’re feeling a bit stressed out about the uncertainty yourself.
By staying calm and focused on these three strategies, you can best position yourself and your team to not only survive – but thrive – through any season, even the must uncertain ones.
About The Author
With a strong background in cause-related marketing and communications, Todd Mosetter has an innate ability to connect people with products and services that positively contribute to people’s lives. As Vice President of Content Development, he is skilled at taking the Building Champions philosophy of leadership development to create tangible and personalized material for clients.