Leading with Impact in Times of Uncertainty

A tornado spawned from Hurricane Isaias, touched down in Bertie County, North Carolina, and left in its wake a path of destruction. As impacted families recover from this disaster and begin the recovery process, whom can they look to for leadership and guidance in the aftermath of this life-changing storm? In times of uncertainty, whether in personal life situations or business, strong, effective leadership is vital to maintain safety, trust, confidence, and morale. The COVID-19 global pandemic is changing the face of the workplace, perhaps forever, and to be effective, leaders must rise to a new level of leadership. Leaders must commit to doing more than providing daily guidance and instruction. They must lead with an impact that inspires their teams to maintain focus and stay on course for success!

Today, many employees are working remotely. Some employees may feel isolated from social interactions with co-workers and customers. Other employees may feel ‘out of the loop’ because of ineffective internal communication systems. They may not fully understand how to complete their assignments or understand how their work fits into the overall company strategy or how their role supports it. To lead effectively, some leaders may need to overhaul their current leadership style to shift from traditional to transformative or participative styles that empower team involvement in leadership. It was stated, “You don’t inspire people by showing how powerful you are. You inspire people by showing how powerful they are.”

In life and business, the stormy seas of a crisis can be unpredictable and test any leader’s strength. To successfully rise to the occasion, and lead with impact despite uncertainty, here are a few recommended actions for leaders:

  • Prepare before the Storm – Accept that storms will come and often unexpectedly, so prepare in advance. Do not wait for the storm to knock at your door to plan for its arrival. As so well stated by Alexander Graham Bell, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Determine the preparations (or anticipated preparations) you will need to complete and take the appropriate actions to ensure readiness in advance of a crisis.
  • Manage through Uncertainty – Prepare yourself and your team to manage through uncertainty and successfully transition through the various stages of the change. Arrange change management training for both leaders and team members in advance of the change. 
  • Include team members in the preparation stage – Often, crisis planning occurs at the leadership level only. As a result, relevant information that could be critical to successful outcomes is omitted and later discovered during the crisis. Be sure to include all viable information sources during the preparation stage. Solicit input from appropriate team members and encourage their suggestions.
  • Stay in close contact and keep communication channels open. Address issues as needed. – Maintain morale, engagement, and productivity. Maintain leader visibility and an environment where team members feel comfortable expressing ideas, opinions, and concerns. Arrange regular team meetings and one-to-one meetings with team members to review status, listen, and discuss any concerns or issues raised by team members and address as needed. If conflicts surface, take action to address and promptly resolve the problem so that the team’s focus remains on the completion of established goals and critical business priorities.
  • Recognize, reward, and celebrate success – To promote engagement and heighten morale, take time to recognize, reward, and celebrate individual and team success. Ensure that team members observe your genuine gratitude and appreciation for their contributions to the team’s success. Arrange these celebrations at the beginning or end of the team, department, or company meeting.

Leading with impact in times of uncertainty will also require a review in decision-making practices. In a recent Harvard Business School article, “It’s Time to Reset Decision-Making in Your Organization,” July 9, 2020, Boris Groysberg and Sarah Abbott offer five decision-making elements during a crisis. This proposed approach helps leaders make sound decisions during times of uncertainty. The suggested elements include:

  • Information gathering – Do not be content to utilize the same information sources; instead, deliberately locate new sources of data and a variety of perspectives.
  • Strategy – Ensure organization direction is clear, so team members understand what is important and to avoid an overload of information.
  • Action – Combine long-term thinking with short-term action.
  • Communication – Internal communication should be a top priority to build and maintain employee morale at the outset.
  • Review – After the crisis is over, arrange a review meeting to stop to reflect on what can be improved or enhanced in the future. The review meeting should be focused on improvement and not on assessing “blame.”

As a leader, you may face stormy seas and encounter times of uncertainty. Use these simple and practical suggestions to help you lead with impact and the confidence to maintain team focus and engagement to keep you on course for success!

We can help you prepare a successful change management plan, contact us today!

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