Karin And David’s Leadership Articles

What’s Going to Happen? – It Will Be Predictably Unpredictable

If only you had a crystal ball to know what’s going to happen. The planning, the decisions, the choices would be so much easier. But you don’t. And those decisions and tradeoffs aren’t easy.

Will office work remain fully virtual, or move to a hybrid model?

Is that project still realistic with all this uncertainty? What if we reorganize … again?

If they sell our building, how will we do our training? Will we ever have a company off-site again?

What’s Going to Happen Next

There’s much you can’t possibly predict. But we’re confident…

  • A co-worker will really tick you off.
  • An unlikely subject will surprise you with their generosity.
  • Work you do will be vastly under-appreciated.
  • You’ll learn something new.
  • You’ll regret what you said.
  • He’ll take more credit than he should.
  • It will be one of those weeks.
  • The balance will get way off-kilter.
  • You will know you did the best you could.
  • You will screw it up.
  • The news will suck.
  • You will fix it.
  • You’ll have a big win.
  • It will be really frustrating.
  • You’ll laugh (and likely cry.)
  • And smile.
  • And grow.

Knowing that natural ups and downs are going to happen, and they are happening to everyone, will help you save vital energy for what matters most.

strategic leadership programsThere’s freedom in knowing that frustrations are not so much a matter of “if” but “when.” And, that when they do show up, you can say “Oh there you are… I’ve been expecting you” and keep your perspective focused on your bigger mission.

Leading Through Uncertainty

Once you’ve emotionally prepared yourself for the unknown, there are more leadership strategies you can use to empower your team, restore confidence, and achieve meaningful results.

Find Your Focus

No matter how much uncertainty you face, there are still facts you do know, outcomes you know you want to achieve—even if they are short-term, crisis response activities. It’s often helpful to narrow your focus—particularly when you face overwhelming projects.

When it’s uncertain and overwhelming, start with something small. Something at which you can’t fail. Something that takes 30–60 seconds.

  • Email your team to schedule a meeting.
  • Create a file for the topic, take notes on the email, and put it in the file.
  • Call a trusted colleague to get their perspective.
  • Open a document or get a piece of paper and write your next steps.
  • Write similar issues you’ve faced and what you did then.

When you take action, you build momentum. Your body assumes that it will continue doing what it’s doing. Almost without realizing it, that one small step turned into three or four more and before you know it, uncertainty recedes. Help your team to find their focus, get small, and get moving.

Pick Your Problems

In choosing to lead, you’ve chosen to have problems. The choice in front of you right now is which set of problems you want to have.

Effective leaders don’t try to avoid problems. Rather, they put their energy into working on the right set of problems–the ones that, once solved, get them closer to their goals.

When you don’t know what’s going to happen next, remember that you have choices. And one choice you’ll always have in every circumstance is how you choose to show up.

Remember Your Role

As you find your focus and pick your problems, you’ll ground yourself. Now it’s time to help your team. When they don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s natural for them to feel disoriented, discouraged, and scared – even when the changes have the potential to be outstanding. You can help your team with:

  • Consistent communication – use your 5×5 communication strategy (and maybe amp it up to 10 times or more). Use frequent checks for understanding to ensure everyone owns their next steps and that you are aware of how your people feel (and potential roadblocks).
  • Commit to clarity – “Here’s what we know … Here’s what we don’t know … When I know, here is how you will know.” Don’t allow yourself to hide behind ambiguity.  Even when it’s uncomfortable, acknowledge it and how you will communicate when the time comes.
  • Clarify your confidence – Remember that you’re in the hope business. Your team needs to know you believe in them and their ability to succeed. For example, “Yes, this is an uncertain situation—and I know we are up to the challenge and will navigate these waters successfully. Here’s the plan …”
  • Create Calm – there is a tendency during uncertainty to react. Take action. Don’t just stand there, do something! Sometimes action is useful, and other times, it creates ten times more problems to unwind. A moment’s rest, a thoughtful pause, and a little extra breathing room are all very useful disciplines during uncertainty. If crisis demands action, that’s okay, but otherwise, look for opportunities to create space for recovery and reflection. Your team will thrive and produce better results.

Your Turn

What’s going to happen next is both certain and anyone’s guess. And your ability to lead through it depends on your focus, your choices, and how you show up for your team.

We would love to hear from you: as you consider an uncertain future, what is your #1 strategy for empowering your team and helping them stay energized and productive?


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Karin Hurt And David Dye author photo

Karin Hurt and David Dye

Karin Hurt and David Dye help human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. As CEO and President of Let’s Grow Leaders, they are known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. Karin and David are the award-winning authors of five books including, Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. David Dye is a former executive and elected official. Karin and David are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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