How To Manage When The Future Is Unclear

Managers know the importance of leading a team with clarity and vision. However, this is difficult when the path ahead looks murky. With shifting market conditions, constrained resources and a constantly changing team, it can sometimes feel as though managers are slogging through the mud.

Adviser, consultant and coach Lisa Lai wrote an article for Harvard Business Review on the importance of moving your team and organization ahead, even when the path is unknown. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share Lai's guidance on how to help yourself and your team during times of uncertainty.

Take pragmatic action. It's better to do something in support of your team or company goals than nothing at all. Lai says the first step you can take is provide value by doing excellent work. Consider the clients you serve. How can you serve them better, faster or smarter? How can your team contribute to this top-level service? Managers can also place intelligent bets. Look ahead at what is known and what is likely to occur. Yes, many things could end up happening, but you can still work toward a future state. Finally, Lai suggests making short-term strategies by setting projects for your team to complete in 30, 60 or 90 days. It's always best to keep moving forward. Don't wait on a final answer.

Cultivate emotional steadiness. Your team is looking to you for direction. It's important in times of uncertainty to help your team navigate their unsettled emotions or anxiety. Lai says one way to do this is by learning as much as you can so you can be prepared for questions your team asks. It's also helpful to acknowledge how your team feels and remain calm, transparent and steady yourself. Keep lines of communication open and encourage dialogue.

Tap into others' expertise. You might feel as though you're alone, but you don't have to navigate murky waters yourself. You have a network of people who have faced similar challenges. Turn to them for guidance or even just consider how your most respected leader would respond in a similar situation. Lai recommends also turning to other managers for advice, counsel and support. Simply start the conversation with, "I could really use another point of view." You might be surprised how quickly the other person engages. Remember to look beyond your personal network to the wisdom of thought leaders. Consider how the brightest and most inspiring minds think about strategic agility and change leadership. Read books and articles, tune in to podcasts or attend webinars to expand your viewpoint and help you learn new approaches to your specific situation.

Every organization and team face uncertainty from time to time. Even in the most challenging of situations, leaders must inspire their teams to press forward. By following the guidance above, managers can rise above the ambiguity and lead with confidence.

Source: Lisa Lai serves as an adviser, consultant and coach for some of the world's most successful leaders and companies. She is also a moderator of global leadership development programs for Harvard Business School Publishing.

filed under January 2019
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