Uncertainty is certainly a big theme in 2019, not only in Europe with the big Brexit (dare I say it!) debacle but worldwide with climate change, global economics and many more things playing their part. And I think it’s fair to say that we won’t ever enjoy the same levels of stability that we have for the past several decades. Uncertainty is here to stay and the VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world is a core part of our reality now.
Of course, this uncertainty has a massive impact upon people. People worry about the future, it’s what we humans do best. We all crave certainty and we try to create it where there may be little to be had. However it’s not the future itself we are anxious about, it’s the fear that we will not know what to do and that we will get it wrong, whatever it might be. So how do leaders best lead in the VUCA world?
1.Create as much clarity as possible
Create clarity where you can, talk about what we do know, rather than what is speculation. Focus on the here and now to keep people motivated – the goal that needs achieving, the project that needs to be completed. These are things people can get their heads around and give them a sense of achievement.
2.Leave the worrying to the leaders
All too often in the very positively intended spirit of transparency, leaders share the burden of worrying about uncertainty with their people. I think that’s just not fair. Their team on the ground may be able to do little about it, so why burden them with the worry of something they can do little about? Tell them about it, yes, but be clear it is not their job to worry about it. Leave that for the leaders.
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Communicate as much as you can, being clear about what you know and what you don’t, what you can communicate and what you can’t. Be transparent and honest, this builds trust. Be optimistic and realistic in your communication.
4. Take action
Waiting until you have all the answers is a hiding to nothing in uncertain times. Be decisive, plan several courses of action and execute them all, expecting 90% of them to fail. Be action oriented and you’ll beat your competition. In uncertainty , we feel better when there is progress. So we might not be clear about the end goal but we can see things moving. Share the progress with your team.
5. Keep Your Cool
Even when the uncertainty is stressful, maintain your composure in front of your team so that you are the rock that keeps them steady. This will help keep them focused.
6. Be a Self Disruptive Leader
Korn Ferry have recently published research about the 5 capabilities leaders need for the VUCA world and these 5 things distil into what they are calling the “Self Disruptive Leader”. More articles to come on this excellent model over the next few weeks.
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