Certain in Uncertainty

You can always choose your reaction.

True. And your mindset. And when you sleep and what you eat. As Lisa O’Neill reminded us at TLBS this past week, we need to “control the controllables.” Lots of things lie within our sphere of control.

But there sure are a lot of things that don’t, and the uncertainty is taking its toll. As one client said to me recently, “My people just can’t seem to find much relief from the stress these days.”

Here are four effective approaches that I’m noticing strong leaders using to:

  1. Definite is better than perfect. Trying to choose between online and face-to-face for a gathering that’s coming up? Planning for multiple scenarios is exhausting. It might be worth holding it digitally simply to remove the stress of wondering which it’s going to be. Where your decisions can create certainty for your people, do so.
  2. Build in slack. Uncertainty calls for experimentation. None of us has lived through something like this before, so we need space to try things. Give your team lots of latitude to test things out and see what works. The Power of Wow by the staff at Zappos.com is inspiring in this regard.
  3. Remove choice. This advice may seem counterintuitive, but when people are stressed, they want fewer decisions to make, not more. Communicate frequently and decisively, and consider eliminating ambiguity wherever possible. At times this may even require limiting people’s options — they might thank you for it.
  4. Remember what’s the same. Not everything is shifting, despite it often feeling that way. Remind your team whenever you can of the north stars that are still in the north. Your mission, core values, key relationships, basic routines, your support…highlight the things that can be counted on so that people have some anchors in the midst of stormy seas. Familiarity can free up some cognitive space for us when we feel maxed out. (If you’ve ever experienced profound culture shock and found comfort in a beloved item or favourite meal from home, you’ll know what I’m talking about).

And in the midst of all of it, get the support you need too. This race is a long one — secure what you need to stay hydrated and strong.

Be well,

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