Uncertainty is Scary--Overcome Fear with Confident LeadershipOct 31, 2023
I’ve been on the road speaking to corporate teams across the US and Canada this fall, and one word that is coming up over and over is, uncertainty. Lots of change has been happening in the workplace. The virtual and work from home policies are changing from what they were during the pandemic. Folks have been promoted into new leadership roles and are filled with fear and doubt about their ability to lead or have trepidation on how to move forward to drive change to build a high performance culture.
Whether you’re leading a small team or a multinational corporation, unexpected events and market shifts can upend the best-laid plans. I know this firsthand as my team spent months working on our strategic plan only to have to push pause as we navigate a tough financial climate for post-secondary organizations in Canada. Leadership, at its core, is about navigating unchartered waters. It is about setting a course for your team, or yourself, when you can’t predict every wave that might come your way.
Uncertainty is hard for most folks, but I’ve found that it is especially difficult for high performers. As a high performer, you’ve enjoyed success and established a reputation. You usually have a clear vision and see the steps to accomplish it. When change is looming or drops into your lap, your confidence can waiver. I’ve been there myself.
Here’s what I’ve learned and can share with you about driving change and leading in uncertain times.
#1. Expect a dip. This is hard for us who are high-performers. When we are navigating new territory or joining with new teammates, your performance is going to suffer. Your brain is going to be on overload with all of the new skills and new processes you are going to have to learn. Be patient with yourself and stay the course. You’ll have to slow down a little, listen more, leave space for coordination and cooperation, and all of this will impact your performance temporarily. Weather it with grace and you’ll see renewed and often exponential growth six-months or a year ahead.
#2. Recalibrate the standards. If you are a leader, it’s important to adjust the performance standards of your team and be very clear about this. What was a ‘A’ level outcome when we were in our previous, smooth-running, well-worn machine may need to be expanded through the phase of change. By clearly communicating your standards and your timeline, your high-performers are less likely to jump ship during the rough waters phase.
#3. Make a decision and boldly go (channeling my Star Trek geek here). The only bad decision is no decision. This a statement many of us have heard, but still have difficulty putting into action. Move past the paralysis of inaction because you are feeling you have to get it right.
We are never going to get every decision right.
Make the best decision you can with the information you have at the time. Then recalibrate as more data is presented to you.
#4. Which brings us to our fourth and final point: As the data comes in, Don’t be afraid to move direction and shift. I know this can frustrate people, and you may hear ripples that you are wishy-washy or flighty, but leading change demands ongoing assessment and refinement to make sure you are on the right path.
Building and sustaining a high-performance culture during uncertain times is an ongoing adventure. It demands that leaders build a cornerstone of trust through clear and frequent communication, adjust expectations and inspire a shared dedication to growth.
If you’re along for the ride in this adventure, be easy on yourself. Notice your perfectionistic tendency to focus on when things aren’t moving in the needle or when you’ve screwed up and interrupt that deflating energy by reminding yourself it’s expected during growth. That’s why we practice and seek input when we are learning and improving.