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Leading A Team in A Time of Uncertainties and Complexity

By May 18, 2020August 3rd, 2020No Comments
leading during uncertainties complexity

How many times during the last 60 days have you heard someone say, “we are in an unprecedented time of uncertainty and complexity”?

There have been other epidemics and diseases that have spread throughout the country, but our reaction to this one is unprecedented.

The result of our reaction and handling has resulted in vast uncertainty and complexity for businesses today. How we manage our reactions and thinking impacts how we will come through the uncertainty and complexity.

Think back to your psychology 101 class and the basic model of behavior. Modeled behavior has shown:

  1. a trigger event happens
  2. we develop a thought based on that trigger
  3. an emotion forms from the thought which then…
  4. leads to action.

Dr. Robert Young of Ascend Talent Strategies recently facilitated a discussion of dealing with a VUCA world. The VUCA acronym was first developed by the US Army War College to describe the multilateral world which resulted from the end of the Cold War (Kinsinger & Walch, 2012). VUCA described that world as:

  • Volatile
  • Uncertain
  • Complex
  • Ambiguous

In his presentation, Young pointed out that we can change how we feel and behave by neutralizing the trigger event. According to Young, “Thoughts create feelings, and feelings create behaviors, and behaviors reinforce thoughts”. It all comes down to how we think about the VUCA world.

Responding confidently when uncertainty hits business

A prime example of dealing with uncertainty and complexity can be found in a seasoned captain sailing his or her vessel in a raging storm. Although the weather must be respected, and while sailing through a storm is complex, how the captain thinks and reacts determines how the crew reacts and behaves.

leadership tough times
Images by The Ocean Race

If the captain communicates with confidence and bravery, the crew remains calm and sails through the storm. If the captain communicates fear, the whole crew responds with fear and the situation spirals out of control.

The same thing happens in offices and factories across the country when uncertainty hits business.

If the leader reacts with fear and trepidation, the staff becomes uncertain of their future. Workers take these fears and uncertainty into their homes and family life spins out of control. When a leader reacts with confidence and poise in uncertain times, their staff pull together for the greater good of the company and each other, much like a crew on a sailboat in a storm.

Addressing employee needs in times of crisis

Gallup recently published an article that described the four universal needs that followers have of leaders in times of crisis. These needs include:

  1. Trust
  2. Compassion
  3. Stability
  4. Hope

followers basic needsIn a recent article in TD magazine (the trade magazine of the Association for Talent Development) titled “Building Trust in Uncertain Times”, author Tracy Washington discussed the need for human beings to connect, and how this is magnified in uncertain times. Her premise in this article is that “trust is the bridge that connects people and contributes to business success or failure”.

She goes on to point out that if leaders really want to engage, connect, and influence, they must get to know their team member’s wants, needs and desires. This means learning where they would like to grow and contribute. Learning what is preventing them from doing so.

In unclear, and uncertain times, Washington offers these suggestions to maintain trust. These include:

Share insight

Let people know what you know and solicit feedback from the team on how they feel they can be part of the solution.

Encourage action

Washington points out how fear and doubt can paralyze people when they cannot see what is ahead. I have seen that happen in stormy situations on sailboats. Help people see what they can and cannot control and to act on what they know.

Stay engaged and remain visible

People are looking for guidance from their leaders. Just like a captain of a ship in a storm must portray confidence and ability to their crew, so a leader in today’s uncertain business environment must stay positive, visible, and engaged with their team.

Caring for your workplace in disruptive times

The storm of the coronavirus outbreak has blown uncertainty into our lives. Millions of people are working from home. Millions of kids are learning from home under the supervision of working parents. The blending of work and home-life adds to the complication. All this has created unprecedented stress on employees’ wellbeing.

Everything Rises and Falls on leadership
John Maxwell

A key predictor of an employees’ well-being is whether each employee believes that the organization is looking out for their best interest. Gallup research shows that employees ask themselves on a regular basis:

  • Does my leadership have a clear plan of action?
  • Do I feel well-prepared to do my job?
  • Does my supervisor keep me informed about what is going on?
  • Does my organization care about my wellbeing?

Through these uncertain and complex times, show your team that you care – connect with your team. Check-in with team members. Ask them how they are doing. Demonstrate confidence and certainty within yourself.

When you do this, you are building a resilient team that is ready to face the next crisis.

Tim Dittloff

Tim Dittloff

Tim is Founder of Full Sail Leadership Academy and provides leadership coaching and seminars to company leaders and their teams to help businesses transform both personally and professionally.

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