Managing Through Uncertainty

We are in uncertain times.

None of us have been through this before, but you have been through other challenges and you’ll come through this one as well, if you stay clear and calm and take action to move forward.

Of course, one of your biggest concerns right now are your team and how they’re feeling in the midst of all the change.

Now more than ever, it’s time for you to step up and lead.  To set the tone for the mood, the mindset, and the morale. To point out the priorities and opportunities throughout this phase and show a clear path forward of how you are going to manage this, how it will affect them and even just… what happens next?

Keep in mind that people react to change differently and not everyone will take it in their stride so what you may think is a temporary adjustment could completely knock someone else’s sense of confidence and certainty send shock waves through your team.

If you’ve done a good job of earning the hearts, minds and trust of your team, they’ll be looking to you to show them what to do and even how to think, but most of all, they’ll want you to reassure them that this is a crazy bump in the road that, with effort, we’ll come back from at some point.

This all comes down to how we choose to think; who we choose to be in this situation and how we’re going to use this time.

Here are 8 tips to help you manage your people through this time of change.

  1. Communicate. Talk about what’s going on. Talk about how everyone is feeling. Talk about what you’re worried about, what you’re grateful for, what you need to know and how this has impacted each of you.

Stress or worry need to come out, but…. keep an ‘Above The Line’ perspective- which means, don’t get stuck in the ‘poor me’, ‘this shouldn’t have happened’, ‘this is all their fault’ kind of thinking which is sure to escalate anyone’s stress levels! Yes, get your concerns out there, but then approach each concern with, ‘So what can we do?’, ‘What are our options here?’, ‘What actions can we take that will move us forward to even a slightly better position?’

Taking even the smallest of steps creates momentum and reassures you that you do have choices and can take steps to improve your situation. Stress levels go down, thinking becomes clearer and you’ll likely see options that you couldn’t see before while clouded in panic.

Ask: “What’s one thing I can do right now to move forward?”

  1. Surrender. Now, my personal belief is that I always have options and I refuse to be a victim of any situation, but there are definitely some things that none of us can change- so why waste energy worrying about them?

There is truth in the mantra, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things we cannot not change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference”. There will definitely be elements of any difficult period that we cannot change and but there’ll also be elements that we can.

The key is in your willingness to accept uncertainty in your life. Do you need to control every aspect of your business for you to feel ‘safe’? Or can you accept that, even though some things will knock you sideways and you won’t see them coming, you have a good head on your shoulders and a heck of a lot of determination, so whatever the situation, you’ll make good decisions and you’ll get through it.

Back yourself.

You built this once, you’ll build it again and so much faster than last time because you don’t need to re-learn all the stuff it took to get you here. You’ve. Got. This.

You don’t need to have all the answers to lead your team confidently. It’s OK so say, “Guys, none of us are sure exactly how this will play out, so we’ll take it one step at a time, but what I can promise you is that I will be open and honest, I will help you as best I can to access the help & support you might need and I’ll be here with you, every step of the way. I believe in us”.  

  1. Listen. Listen with your ears, your eyes, your mind and your heart. Understand other people’s thoughts, feelings and emotions. What cues are they giving you? What is their behaviour, their tone of voice or their facial expression telling you? Listen to their fears and concerns without judging or making them wrong. This may be the first big challenge they’ve faced in their working life to date, so of course, they may be scared. Their feelings are valid to them even if they seem at odds with yours, so always hear them out. Talk it out and if there’s still anxiety, keep talking.

Acknowledge your staff’s feelings and make it safe to express them. From their perspective, their concerns are quite valid and ignoring or calling them ‘silly’ won’t make them go away. Worries, concerns and anxieties are ‘better out than in’ so just listen until they’ve let it all out and then ask if they’d like you to address their concerns.

Sometimes people don’t need you to ‘fix things’, they just need to be heard.

  1. Keep them focused and on track. Even the best of us are likely to lose a little focus during stressful or uncertain times Expect that and be patient, but guide them gently back on track, whether that’s in their mindset, their actions or their behaviours. You’ll need to model the behaviour you’d like to see in them and show them a different way to be.

Lead, but lead with compassion.

  1. Nurture yourself and others. Change can cause an unconscious stress on your body, even without consciously realizing it, so encourage your team to find outlets to give their mind and body a break. Whether that’s exercise & fresh air, a coffee and chat with friends or even a group yoga session at work, these seemingly small efforts can make a world of difference to our state of mind.
  2. Help. If someone isn’t coping and you’re worried, help them find the support they need. There are great support groups, counselling services or assistance programs available and many with additional government support. There may also be other personal factors at play in their unexpected reaction or thinking which are impacting their behaviour, even if you don’t know what they are, so a gentle approach is wise.

Don’t leave anyone behind. Make sure they’re OK and help them stay connected to the team and with you. They’ll remember that you cared when they needed you.

Change can be stressful and people will deal with it differently but through it all, your team will be looking to you to show them the way forward.

Your people don’t necessarily need guarantees or perfect outcomes, but they do need open-hearted leadership and a sense of belonging. You don’t need to get it right every time. Just do the best you can with whatever you have in whatever situation you find yourself in.

You’ve got this.

Kym Krey is a specialist Leadership Mentor working with business owners and managers to become inspiring leaders and get real results through their teams. Contact her at www.kymkrey.com.au