Coping with uncertainty

How long can you handle things being unclear?

Uncertainty and lack of clarity can be paralysing. “We have to wait until we know how [this thing] will turn out before deciding what to do and how to do it.”

Sometimes the leadership thing to do is cut through uncertainty, identify the key point, create clarity for the team and get things moving forward. 

But.

Often… the thing to do… is wait. 

Live with the uncertainty. Hold the jaws of the situation open for a while. Help your colleagues cope with things being unclear.  

Because sometimes the situation just IS unclear and will remain so. 

Letting things play out, rather than rushing to an answer, can let the context emerge or settle, and opinions shift towards a consensus. Your own understanding and ideas will develop. Eventually the answer can just appear as an obvious truth. 

You have to choose. Decide quickly and get moving? Or live with the uncertainty and let the answers emerge?

Remembering you have this choice is a leadership skill in itself. 

Moments to review and reset

My job is in higher education. Lots of things are tied to an academic year schedule. There’s a rhythm to it that’s helpful. 

Because it gives natural opportunities to assess and reset. 

Whatever your role, wherever you are in the hierarchy, it’s really important to regularly look at your priorities, your plans and your progress. To review the internal and external context. And ask yourself…  

What’s changed? 

What’s finished? 

What’s started?

Do your priorities still make sense? Or has the world moved on?

Are your plans delivering what you thought they would? And is what you thought then still relevant?

So… When is your next opportunity to review and reset? 

Take a moment to identify one to four slots in the year that makes sense with your organisation’s flow of activity and block out a little time to make sure you, and your colleagues, are on the right track. 

Kids these days

A friend of mine is a teacher in America. She’s been teaching a long time. As she was thinking about the start of the new year she posted this…

The climate of education has changed a lot since I started teaching sixteen years ago, but do you know what hasn’t changed? Kids. Despite what some will tell you, “kids these days”, at their core, are the same as they have always been: they are funny, they are figuring things out, they want to please, and they desperately want to know that someone sees them.

I’ll say a bit of that again.

They are figuring things out, they want to please, and they desperately want to know that someone sees them.

I strikes me that this applies to just about everyone I know.

Sure. You could probably name a couple of people who don’t “want to please” anyone at all and maybe even revel in being awkward. But I’d bet that they are figuring things out (really) and are desperate to know that someone sees them.

Most people get a lift when they feel noticed for doing things well.

Keep an eye on your colleagues. Catch them doing something right. Thank them for it.

Task, team, individuals

John Adair. A proper academic thinker and leader on leadership. He proposed a model usually called “action centred leadership” that starts with three things that leaders have to pay attention to.

adair-1

Following on from my post about People vs Process it is all too easy to focus energy and attention on “achieving the task” and neglect “building the team” and “growing the individuals”.

“Get it done, get it done, you’re really close to the deadline, are you going to make it, we have to meet the target, have you started that other thing yet…” Achieve the task. Achieve the task. Achieve the task.

Build the team….

“Let’s get together for ten minutes and talk about how things are going. I don’t want to discuss the timeline or workflow or deadlines or the project itself. I just want to talk about how we’re working. Are we communicating well enough? Is everyone clear what they’re doing and where we’re up to? Are we getting all the points of view on the table?”

Grow the individuals…

“How are you doing? You look a little stressed. What’s happening? Have you got what you need to get done what you’ve been tasked with? Do you just need a break? How would you like to lead the stakeholder meeting on Thursday? I think you’re ready… I can get someone else to handle that task you’re on now so you can prepare…”

As ever on this blog about leading from wherever you are, this all applies wherever you are in the team.

If you’re not in charge… challenge and encourage everyone (including your boss) to be working in all three circles. Suggest ways for the team to work better. Reach out to individuals and lift them up.

If you’re in charge… challenge and encourage everyone (including yourself) to be working in all three circles!

FREE eBook – 6 Keys to Leadership

I’ve written a FREE eBook on 6 key leadership characteristics.

“But there are so many lists of leadership characteristics…” I hear you say. “What’s different about yours?”

Well… In the eBook you do get my list of 6 key characteristics: Vision, Focus, Confidence, Humility, Consultation and Decisiveness.

Then I give you something else. I discuss how four of them sit in tension with each other and what you can do about it.

How can you be both confident and humble?

How do you stay decisive when the consultation brings out wide-ranging views on opposite sides of the fence?

And then I give you a little bit more. A simple step by step approach to reflecting on how you’re doing in these areas, figure out your strengths and weaknesses, AND take steps to improve.

It’s only a short read. I hope it will really help you.

Grab your copy here.

People vs Process

How do you see your organisation?

Is it a group of people trying to achieve a common aim?

Or a set of processes, policies and structures designed to facilitate smooth working and success?

Obviously it’s both. But where do you put your energy? Your thinking? Your leadership?

Better processes? Or more fulfilled people?

Again… I would hope it’s both. And often the intent is: “better processes will create space and time for the people and lead to more fulfilment”. Which can work. 

But be careful. If you’re always talking about the processes, if you always tackle difficulties and change and opportunities from the process side, the people will notice. Without thinking about it. And they’ll subconsciously draw the obvious conclusion.

That you care more about the processes than you do about them. 

Promote yourself

Are you stepping into your first “leadership role”? Or a new one?

It can be daunting. New things to learn. People to manage. Larger responsibilities. More on your plate. 

The most important thing to do in your first day, week and month, is promote yourself. 

You’re capable. You’re ready. You’re the person who’s been given the responsibility and the opportunity to make a difference. 

Drop some of the things you used to do. You don’t have time any more. 

Do what you think is best. That’s why they gave you the job. They trust your judgement will be up to the task. 

You have to trust it too.