Leading Through Uncertainty

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It seems like we should be somewhat used to uncertainty by now, right? We’ve been trying to figure out how to navigate this altered reality since March. But eight months later, we find many are still waiting for it to all be over and for life to just go back to “normal”.

I get it. This pandemic and all the turmoil it has created and revealed are totally outside of many people’s experience, which makes it hard to adjust. I loved watching the ways it seemed all parts of the community came together in solidarity at the beginning. It was easier to act in solidarity before it became inconvenient. Before it became clear that life may never return to pre-COVID-19 standards. Before this public health crisis became a political football.

All of those things make this an extra challenging time to lead. I’ve heard one leader compare it to navigating a minefield. It’s difficult to know what will trigger people to react in adverse ways. The baseline of our reality has been totally disrupted, making it much more difficult to predict reactions to new policies and procedures of all kinds. There isn’t a responsible workplace out there that isn’t having to adapt in some way.

There are tools with which you can arm yourself to see what’s coming. Metal detectors for people, to take the minefield analogy a step further.

Go back to basics. Have you noticed that when you have a good, solid relationship with someone, things are just easier? That underlying second-guessing just isn’t there when trust is solid. Investment in solidifying that trust is never time wasted.

As a starting place, take stock of how solid your relationships are with every member of your team. Take time to sit down, even virtually (cameras on) for a coffee catch up. Ask how they are doing and be willing to go beyond the superficial surface. Ask about what they’ve noticed, or liked, or been thrown off by, during this pandemic. Ask how you can best support them. Follow the conversation wherever they go. Be a good listener. And keep the conversation focused on them, not their work.

Get into the habit of checking in more. Regardless of how well you think you do this, up your game. Checking in is not about checking up on their work tasks. It’s about asking how the overall process is going for them. Listening for ways you can support them. Paying attention to anything they may not be saying.

Don’t make assumptions. Be the metal detector. Slow down a little bit and make sure you’re really listening, not just listening for something specific. You might be surprised by what you can hear.

As always, we’re here to help. Reach out if a conversation interests you. Be safe, be well, and be kind.

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