Corporate

4 Tips for Leading in Times of Uncertainty

April 15, 2020

Contributed by Mark Lipscomb, Vice President, Global Talent

As we know all too well, we are truly living in “unprecedented” times. The health crisis is devastating and the toll on human life is unimaginable. In the midst of all the fear and uncertainty, one thing is absolutely certain right now: leadership is more critical than ever. While none of us have ever faced a global pandemic and nothing compares to what we are dealing with today, we can use lessons from the past to help us lead through these times. Here are some tips I’ve learned over the years on leading in times of uncertainty:

  1. Don’t lower the bar. Reset the bar.

As I watched my team over the past few weeks, I noticed that we were trying hard to work at 100% (or even 110%) and maintain some form of normalcy. While we were trying to “do it all,” we have to be realistic–this current climate is far from normal. Many of us are working at home with our spouses also working, kids attending school virtually, families competing for home wifi bandwidth, all while watching the devastating news each day. The goals that we set out earlier in the year may not necessarily be as relevant anymore. We’re making decisions on the fly, with many unknowns and without all the facts, and we’re adjusting strategies on a daily basis. This doesn’t mean lowering the bar. It’s resetting the bar. Be very clear about your priorities (including the tough but necessary tradeoffs), transparent about the situation, and understand that success for you and your team looks different now.

  1. Empower others.

There’s no doubt that all of us are having to pivot to adjust to the current reality. With this in mind, now is the best time to connect more deeply with others, learn and understand different perspectives, and encourage new ways of thinking. Having strong leaders is critical and we need them to lead. Leaders have both the responsibility and opportunity to serve their teams.  As I’ve shared before, now is not the time for top-down, command and control leadership. I believe the best leaders serve and empower their teams and when they do, their teams will rise to the occasion. Empowerment unleashes creativity.  I’ve seen so much innovation in the last few weeks from all corners of the organization. I’m proud of the fact that my own team is working quickly and re-writing our playbook for the current environment.

  1. Stay calm.

If my military experience taught me anything, it’s that in times of uncertainty, you have to remain calm. While many people are panicking and adding to the negativity, leaders have to remain calm, steadfast and hopeful. Breathe. Think about the bigger picture and be resolute with the decisions you have to make. Staying calm and positive helps provide your teams with some sense of much needed stability during these times.

  1. Empathy matters most.

We need to empathize more than ever before and show true compassion. What is happening right now is obviously something we’ve never experienced in our lifetime and we are all going through this in our own way. Pay most of your attention to how you can support your team. Give them permission to take a break. I recently sent a message to my global team with the simple ask to “take it easy.” I explained that while our work is important, I don’t want them stressing about it right now. We’re all trying to survive a global pandemic so the most important “success metric” right now is staying safe and healthy. Showing sincere empathy for the individuals on your team now will build long term loyalty and define you as a leader long after we get through this crisis.

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