During your career its likely you will encounter periods of massive uncertainty where everything gets turned upside down and there is no clear path to clarity. This may be through an acquisition, retrenchments en masse, a lack of company direction or even having a new-born!
Being in the position where you have to deal with uncertainty means something has gone wrong. In a perfect world this shouldn’t happen but unfortunately life is far from perfect and clarity isn’t always possible.
This is when leaders really need to step up and grab the bull by the horns.
It is the responsibility of leaders to provide clarity and ensure it persists. If you see yourself as a leader, ask yourself if you are doing this. If not, you may need to revisit your perspective on leadership.
Do not fall into the trap that execs and managers are necessarily leaders, leaders are significantly more rare and anyone who helps provides clarity is a leader.
If your business is experiencing periods of uncertainty the below techniques can help leaders shine through the fog of uncertainty and get you to a point of clarity.
- People want to buy in; listen to their input and take it into account.
- This cannot be lip service, like a suggestion box at a restaurant. If you are not open to changing your plans, do not bother listening.
- Listen not only to what is being said but also for the underlying concerns.
- As a simple example, if someone is asking about why a fellow employee was let go its implicit that they want to understand if their job is secure.
- You may need to dig deep to get to the real thoughts so be prepared to probe.
- Be explicit. Clarity cannot exist if everyone understands what is happening and why.
- The difficult questions are the ones people are most interested in, hence they most important. Do not neglect them, tackle them head on.
- Be careful not to over communicate, its annoying and will cause people to switch off.
- People will look to you to understand how to act, respond and check if your actions match your words.
- If there is any inconsistency you will lose credibility, traction and hence the clarity you were trying to bring.
Going out of your way, be informal
- Its ironic however employees often think that the higher ups live in ivory towers that can not be approached.
- Having informal chats with people, with your guards down, can make people feel closer and more relaxed.
- Simple gestures such as offering to grab a coffee can go a long way.
Providing direction and clarity is extremely difficult and is really the ultimate test of a leader. Do whatever you can to provide it.
Clarity is truly a strange beast, its invisible when it exists but glaringly obvious when it’s absent.
It’s time to step up.