Leadership in Uncertain Times

posted by WMC

You’ve reorganized, cut discretionary spending and gotten close to your customers …now what?  The storm seems to have subsided but clouds hover on the horizon.

Calgary Storm

As a leader you must help your team face the future in a productive way or risk fueling a downward spiral of failure and regret.

Yet the forecast is unclear, worse yet the Meteorologists disagree and some are calling for more storms to come but they can’t say when.

Leadership in uncertain times is vitally important. Our clients have often employed these techniques:

1. Anchor on values
Just because the situation is uncertain, it does not mean your values should waver.  Anchoring your behavior on those values is a powerful way to provide stability.  Do not accept sub-standard behavior, performance or attitudes.  In fact, call for everyone to be their best and to live their values to the fullest.  Leaders who flip-flop during these times create irreparable damage to their credibility and their organization.

2. Build positive inertia
Inertia is the resistance of an object to any change in its state of motion, including changes to its speed and direction.  This means when morale or business performance is plummeting, it is increasingly difficult to turn things around.  Effective leaders must find ways to keep their teams moving in a positive direction.  Often this means pursuing challenging goals.

3. Invest in “no-regrets” deliverables
Much like ensuring you have water and food during a storm is a “no-brainer”, so too is focusing attention on customer service, process improvement and sales.  Regardless of how the winds blow, this will position your team for future success and help build positive inertia.

4. Speed up your cadence
Uncertainty requires closer monitoring of the situation and more frequent course corrections.  If you ordinarily have quarterly checkpoints, move them to monthly, if they are monthly, consider every two weeks.  This increases communication, engagement and sustains positive inertia!

5. Keep the plates spinning
Don’t let uncertainty undermine the success of things that are underway and working.  Often doubt will creep in and some will call for a hard stop and rethink on all fronts.  This is a costly and overly risk adverse move that will force an un-necessary hard “reboot”.  Sure, you may need to adjust some of the details, but keeping spinning plates spinning is critical to maintaining positive inertia, and staying nimble enough to react as the uncertainty clears up.

6. Celebrate wins, every win
Sometimes it is hard to know when to celebrate.  Identify wins throughout the organization and be sure to celebrate them widely.  Find some “Quick Hit” “No-Regret” deliverables that have a high probability of success and help push them over the finish line!  These wins illustrate that progress is possible and all is not lost!

Yes, the forecast is unclear, but good leaders stay calm, keep their eyes on the horizon and anchor on their values to lead through uncertainty.

Mauro Meneghetti, Director

The opinions represented here do not necessarily represent WMC’s views as a whole.