How to Lead Decisively When You Don't Know What's Next

How to Lead Decisively When You Don’t Know What’s Next

How do you lead decisively when you just don’t know what’s coming next?

You don’t know what you don’t know, and even what you DO know you know, could change.

In a recent conversation, “Joe,” a senior leader in the assisted living industry, recounted his first days of the COVID crisis in what turned out to be an early hotspot.

In those first few days we had so little information about this virus or how it spread and no guidance on what to do next. The only thing we knew for certain is that our residents were the definition of vulnerable—so I told my staff ,”Close the doors. No more visitors. Period.”

“But the families will be angry,” my staff warned. “Yes, they will—our primary mission is resident safety, I repeat close the doors.”

“But, what about …” (insert all the reasons why a bold, decisive move like this will be unpopular.   “I hear you. Close the doors.”

He shared, “I’m certain that early decision saved lives.”

A courageous culture needs clarity.  Knowing your values. Understanding what’s at stake and being willing to lead decisively with the information you have at the time.

And, staying curious and open while the situation evolves and be open to ideas of what must happen next.

5 Ways to Lead Decisively When You Don’t Know

When leading during times of uncertainty and change, it’s easy to feel like you don’t know anything. But you do.  Start there.

1. Ground yourself in your values.

The most decisive leaders we know have a clear set of values that guide their decision making. The wafflers are the ones who are more focused on optics or popularity than doing what is right.

2. Stay focused on what matters most.

Joe could act decisively because he knew saving lives trumped satisfaction ratings or anything else. Of course, he cared about his residents and their families. He understands the importance of quality of life and the need for human connection. All that matters, a lot.

And in this moment, saving lives came first. In a time of crisis, being laser-focused on what matters is key when you have to make a quick, tough call.

3. Make the best, next, small, bold decision.

You don’t have to make all the moves to act decisively. Your equivalent of “shutting the door” doesn’t have to be for a month. But, 48 hours can buy some time to get more information. You can tell your team, “I don’t have all the answers. And our direction may change. But for today, this is what we’re going to do.”

4. Show up with confident humility.

We were talking with “Jane,” another healthcare leader who had been given an enormous responsibility for operational safety during the early COVID preparation.

I was given a yellow vest to wear which meant that if there was a tough decision to make, it was up to me to make the final call. Sometimes this meant I was being asked to make decisions in departments where I was not the functional expert. I had to show up confident, people needed to see that in their leader—but also incredibly humble, to ask a lot of questions of the right people and to really listen to their point of view, including watching the looks on their faces while I weighed options. And then take that information in to make the best rationale call.

5. Prepare for the pivot.

We’re all living in a world where the news could change tomorrow. Leading decisively at a time like this also means being willing to remain detached from the decision and be ready to pivot when new information comes along. It’s okay to say, “Yesterday I said we were going to do this ___ and that made sense with what we knew at the time. And now we also know ____. So here’s what we’re going to do now and why.”

And sometimes…

“Let’s wait and see” is also an appropriate answer when you just don’t know. Some decisions don’t need to be made right now. Deciding when to decide is also a decision worth making.

See also: How to Change your Mind and Not Lose Their Trust and Support

How to Disrupt the Disruption and Help Your Team Move Forward

You can download a FREE chapter of our new book Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates here.


how to find the best ideas to make remote work easier

How to Find the Best Ideas to Make Remote Work Easier

Whether you’ve been leading remote teams for years, or you’ve been pushed into the deep end of remote leadership without much time to prepare, we imagine you’ve learned more than you could ever dream of over the last few months about leading remote teams.

Was “Zoom fatigue” even a thing before this mess? You’ve figured out the basics and how you’re ready for more. How do you tap into your team’s best ideas to make remote work easier?

How to Help Your Team Make Remote Work Easier

Over the last month, we’ve been working with teams all over the world to help them capture what they’re learning during this crisis.

What we’re finding is that when teams simply carve out a few minutes and …

(1) Ask: How can we make remote work easier?

(2) Give them a framework to vet their best ideas (see the video below)

(3) Respond with regard and do something with their ideas

they can easily generate GREAT ideas that improve both the employee and customer experience.

Some ideas generated so far include:

  • Eliminate that meeting and meet in smaller groups instead.
  • Create work schedule flexibility for working parents and caregivers.
  • Find ways to up the fun! (One of our clients even held a “prom.”)
  • Create new roles and job descriptions focused on shifting priorities.
  • Eliminate unnecessary work (and then got specific.)
  • Use breakout rooms for more intimate conversation.
  • Host a resiliency series to give people a chance to talk and exhale.
  • Shift our approach to mid-year reviews.

Introduce our I.D.E.A. Technique to Help Your Team Vet and Share Their Ideas

Join others Looking to Tap into Their Teams Best I.D.E.A.s

In addition to our private sessions with clients, we have some FREE I.D.E.A. Inspiration Summits coming up, where you can learn more about our tools, and to hear what others are doing.

July 23rd: Let’s Grow Leaders I.D.E.A. Inspiration Summit


June 23rd: In partnership with Careers in Government

How to Start Your Next Zoom Meeting in a More Meaningful Way

How to Start Your Next Zoom Meeting In a More Meaningful Way

Have you noticed that most Zoom meetings start one of two ways?

Friendly banter. “Hey Lauren, why did you choose Tiger King as your virtual background?” “Oh my gosh, I need a haircut.”   “Haha, not me. There are some advantages to being bald.”

Or, you jump right into the Zoom meeting agenda because “everyone’s so busy there’s no time to waste.”

No wonder we have Zoom fatigue.

Most of us are doing the best we can with what we have from where we are. We’re human beings navigating uncharted territory, experiencing the wild ride of emotions that shift by the minute. There’s not a lot of time to process. Most people I talk with are yearning for deeper conversation.

So, I’ve been thinking about an easy way to help you start your next Zoom meeting in a collective deep breath. Give people a minute to reflect on and share what’s on their minds. I hope you will give it a try and let me know how it goes.

An Easy Way to Start Your Next Zoom Meeting By Connecting a Level Deeper

Share this article with your team a day or so before the meeting.

Invite them to pick one of the quotations below that really resonates with them right now (or to bring a favorite quote of their own).

Then, start your Zoom meeting, but asking each person to share which quote they chose and why they find it valuable right now.

And watch the magical conversation unfold.

Inspirational Quotes For Difficult Times

Start here, or bring your own. In fact, I’d love for you to add your favorite to the list in the comments to give others even more choices.


“All courage is a threshold crossing. Often there is a choice: to enter the burning building or not, to speak the truth or not … But there is another sort of courage we are talking about here—the kind when afterward, the courageous are puzzled to be singled out as brave. They often say I had no choice.” -Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I’ll try again tomorrow.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

“I believe the most important single thing, beyond discipline and creativity … is daring to dare. – Maya Angelou


“Hang onto your hat. Hang onto your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.” -E.B. White

“Fall seven times, get up eight.” – Japanese Proverb

“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” -Margaret Thatcher

“Never interrupt someone doing something you said couldn’t be done.” -Amelia Earhart

“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword help in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of patter and a pitter. -J.R.R. Tolkien

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere or endure despite overwhelming obstacles.” -Christopher Reeve


“First tell yourself what kind of person you want to be, then do what you have to do.” -Epictetus

“If things start happening don’t worry, don’t stew. Just go right along you’ll start happening too.” – Dr. Seuss

“I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refused to be reduced by it.” -Maya Angelou

“All you need are these: certainty of judgment in the present moment; action for good in the present moment; an attitude of gratitude in the present moment for anything that comes your way.” – Marcus Aurelius


“There is a better way to do it. Find it.” -Thomas Edison

“The secret to change is to focus all your energy, not on figuring out the old, but on building this now.” -Socrates

“A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” -Duke Ellington

“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.” – Mister Rodgers

“The type of disruption most companies and government agencies are facing right now is a once-in-every-few-centuries-event … More than changes in technology, or channel, or competitors—it’s all of them all at once” (and this was said BEFORE this crisis, even more true now). -Steve Blank, Professor of Entrepreneurship, Stanford

“The most promising ideas begin from novelty and then add familiarity.” -Adam Grant

Shifting Perspective

“My barn having burned down, I can now see the moon.” -Minutia Masahide

“You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing the small things, so all the small things go in the right direction.” -Alvin Toffler, Future Shock

“When the winds of change blow, some build walls and others build windmills.” -Chinese Proverb

Your turn.

What inspirational quote is speaking to you most now?

See Also:

Lead Remote Meetings That Build Trust and Relationships

How to Build a Better Live-Online Leadership Training

Lead remote meetings to build results and relationships

Lead Remote Meetings that Get Results and Build Relationships


Even after social distancing ends, remote meetings are here to stay. In this episode you’ll get several ways to ensure that your remote meetings are the best use of everyone’s time – including how to take advantage of technology to do things you can’t do in a face-to-face meeting. Every meeting should lead to results and build relationships – and remote meetings are no exception.

In this time of extraordinary uncertainty and change, your team has learned to adapt quickly and do the best they can, with what they have, from where they are.

You’ve seen what can be done, despite constraints, as you worked to find creative, sometimes even Herculean solutions to serve your customers while keeping everyone safe.
As we look beyond this immediate crisis to establish a new normal, how will you leverage this spirit of micro-innovation, problem-solving, and customer advocacy on your team? Join us for a free IDEA Inspiration Rally to unleash your team’s best ideas for a better, bolder future.
how to lead a team that suddently has to work from home

How to Lead a Team That Suddenly Has to Work From Home

This week we’ve received so many calls like this from managers faced with implementing new work from home policies.

“I get the safety issues, I really do. But my team is used to being together in the same office. We collaborate all day long. That’s what makes us so successful. I’m concerned that this work from home policy is going to tank engagement, stifle communication and reduce productivity. What can I do?”

“I love sitting out on the floor with my team. That’s how I know what’s going on. How can I stay connected if everyone is working from home?”

“The timing couldn’t be worse. We’re in the middle of a huge project. How can I ensure my team stays focused when they’re working from home and distracted by fear?”

5 Ways to Keep Your Team Productive and Engaged While They Work From Home

These are all very real and legitimate concerns. Not everyone is cut out to work from home.

And it’s tricky to lead a remote team, particularly if you never have before.

So how do you keep your team focused and engaged when working from home is the only option?

1. Require video for your meetings and one-on-ones.

Your team may resist. Be clear from the beginning this is not optional. Being able to look one another in the eye leads to better listening (body language matters) and prevents multi-tasking.

This human connection is even more vital now that we’re all afraid to shake hands and see every human we interact with as a potential threat to disinfect.

2. Formalize informal communication.

When you’re in an office it’s natural to connect first before jumping into work. “How was your weekend?” When everyone is working remotely, it’s tempting to skip the small talk. Be deliberate about finding ways to communicate at a human level.

Last week, we sat in on a remote team meeting where they started with a virtual chorus of happy birthday. Not the best rendition we’ve ever heard. But, it was a brilliant minute well spent as everyone laughed before jumping into the stressful topic of coronavirus contingency planning.

Here’s a list of meaningful icebreaker conversation starters to keep your team connecting.

3. Over-communicate your most important priorities.

Your team is likely stressed and distracted about their health and the health of the vulnerable people they love, tanking stock prices, and what’s going to happen next. On top of all that, now they have a new routine at work. In times of uncertainty and change, you’ve got to overcommunicate more than you think is necessary.

Mix it up with as many techniques as possible For example, you can start the day with a quick team huddle  (over video of course).  Then follow-up with a recap email. Up your frequency of one-on-one check-ins. And be sure you’re deliberately asking your team for their best thinking for ways to work effectively in this new environment Or look for more creative ways to reinforce key messages such as starting an internal podcast.

4. Encourage people to work together (without you.)

When everyone is remote, it’s easy to become the hub for all communication. Which of course is a huge time suck for you and a missed opportunity for them. Assign people to work on projects together (over video). Encourage brainstorming and best practice sharing (over video). Consider assigning collaborative homework in advance of your team meeting or huddles.

5. Learn the art of great remote meetings.

Take time to establish new norms for your remote meetings. How will you ensure everyone participates? What’s the rule on multi-tasking? See How to Take Charge of Your Remote Meetings,  for a quick primer you can share with your team.

Just like any other change, a shift to a work-at-home policy will take some adjusting for you and your team. Be sure you’re checking in with your team to see what’s working and what more they need from you and from one another.

See Also:

7 Ways To Help Your Team Deal with Ambiguity 

Seth Godin: Stuck at Home