How can you lead through uncertainty?

by | Aug 3, 2016 | Blog

In today’s complex world, we face unprecedented challenges. To survive and prosper, we need to develop resilient and inspirational leaders, capable of adapting easily and providing their teams with clarity. Based on our extensive experience of working with major clients during periods of ambiguity, here are some top tips from Cirrus on leading through uncertainty.

1.       Prioritise ruthlessly
The greater the complexity outside your business, the simpler it needs to be on the inside. The temptation is often to introduce a plethora of new systems and processes to deal with change. However, increased focus increases agility and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Set clear priorities for the business and for your leadership team, so that everyone can then focus on doing fewer things better.

2.       Put people first
Prioritise your people over operational issues. Consider their wellbeing. Spend time talking and listening, ask them how they are feeling, and provide support such as coaching.  This will help to maintain motivation and ensure performance levels don’t dip.

3.       Get comfortable with the uncomfortable
Although some people feel most comfortable when there is an order and predictability to working life, we need to get more used to seeing uncertainty as the norm. Disruptive development programmes which take people out of their comfort zones enable participants to address fear of the unknown in a supportive environment and can help people to let go of discomfort back in the workplace.

4.       Develop agility
Agility is important in responding to immediate, short-term challenges. It’s even more important to embed the long-term capability to identify and respond quickly to emerging threats and challenges in a world with high levels of complexity and uncertainty.  Agility is based on learning, evolving to changing circumstances, so ask people what they are learning, and encourage them to share it with others in similar roles.

5.       Devolve decision making
During tough times, it’s tempting to pull control back at the centre. However, setting clear parameters that enable others to make decisions in the best interests of your organisation allows people to exercise control and maintain a sense of responsibility. You may see some surprising and successful outcomes.

6.       Boost collaboration
Encouraging collaboration and the sharing of best practice across your organisation will open up new possibilities. Breaking down silos often initiates new ways of working and the collective power of cross-team working often leads to unexpected – and very positive – results.  So get teams talking along the process to help speed up handovers and increase interdependence.

7.       Encourage curiosity
Uncertain times bring surprises. While some may be unwelcome, others can present opportunity. Encourage others to look out for emerging trends, changing market conditions and shifts in customer behaviour. You may make some discoveries that give your business an edge.

8.       Be positive
Optimism can be a casualty of uncertainty. Help people to focus on the positive. Highlight what is working well and look at areas that can realistically be changed for the better.  Optimism is a driver of action which will drive a more active response to the seeds of uncertainty.

9.        Be authentic
During periods of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to say what you mean and mean what you say. It doesn’t matter if you occasionally feel vulnerable or unsure. Being open will build trust between you and colleagues.  It builds deeper connections between colleagues which gives work more meaning and purpose.

10.   Reflect and review
As situations constantly change, we need to keep our plans under review. Shift from decision-making to sense-making. You need to be more adaptive in uncertain times and be open to changing your tactics.  By making sense of what’s going around you, you can help others to adapt as well.

Discover more about our Leading Through Uncertainty development programme.

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