How Managers Can Confidently Lead in an Uncertain Future
For the past year, leadership has been challenged through many changes and turbulence. Read this blog to learn how you can lead in this uncertain future.
There are many pressing issues facing people leaders in this everchanging pandemic and highly volatile political world—to name a few:
- Mounting pressures to deliver results,
- Unanswered open job postings for critical roles,
- Unsatisfied and antsy team members leaving their jobs in huge numbers,
- Critical need to answer the call for stronger DEI efforts, and so much more!
It has never been more important for companies to find, hire, and/or promote people who are up for these ambiguous challenges. But, for those of us who are currently leaders, how do you become a confident leader amid the absolute madness that surrounds you and your team today? How do you lead and, at the same time, navigate the uncertain future?
You are a human who has emotions!
First, let’s talk about being human! It is absolutely normal in uncertain times to have moments of fear, anger, and insecurity. I find that leaders who deny this reality fall prey to the negative consequences of these emotions quite often. These emotions are real, and they happen to everyone. These emotions are not wrong or bad. The negative consequences come when they are denied or stuffed. Personally, I am a bonafide stuffer—a trait I have worked for many years to overcome. It may be the Minnesotan in me.
How you respond to these very normal emotions will make or break the trust between you and your team, and between you and your senior leadership team. Here are some techniques I have learned to help turn these emotions that get a bad name into something helpful:
- Start by simply acknowledging that you and those you work with, regardless of their title, will at some point experience and react to these emotions.
- Learn some easy, in the moment, techniques to help your physical body deal with the emotion while also helping your mind to think more clearly—things like breathing, walking, vacations (this is necessary when things are particularly stressful) and chatting with a friend helps me.
- Apologize if you allowed your emotion to get the best of you, which is also very normal because remember—you are a human after all!
- Use these intense and powerful emotions as a catalyst to help fuel passion in your job and for your team. If you go a little deeper as to why you may be experiencing these things, then you may find that there are some underlying issues or unattended values that you care deeply about. These emotions will signal what really matters to you and can give you energy to sustain your quest to make a difference.
It is absolutely normal in uncertain times to have moments of fear, anger, and insecurity. Leaders who deny this reality fall prey to the negative consequences of these emotions quite often.
Learn the art of living in the gray
One of the most difficult aspects of management and leadership is being the “in between”. You can make some decisions but are most often asked to carry out the decisions of others and sometimes with little context. This can often happen around high stakes, highly emotional topics like department budgets, employee raises, and strategic direction, to name a few.
And lately there have not been answers: when is it safe to go back to the office? Should we require people to be vaccinated? How do we keep people engaged at work?
Your employees look to you for confidence and stability, especially in a time when those things do not come easily whether in the landscape of work or the overall global environment. There are ways to brighten up “the place” while living in a constant state of gray.
BE YOU. There is something special about you that no one else has. Finding this and unlocking it is empowering and attractive. It does not stop there—every single person in your team has something special to unlock as well. When they feel like someone cares enough about them to investigate the magic that makes them THEM, then you will help lead your people to a new level of engagement, productivity, and loyalty. Here are a few suggestions (tangible and intangible) for how to do this:
- Maintain consistent 1:1s with each person on your team. This seems like a no brainer but there are so many leaders that do not ever meet with their staff and the lack of trust and alignment shows. That time should be used whether you have work to talk about or not. There is always something to learn and discover about each other, which will greatly increase trust over time as well as your ability to learn more about their strengths and areas for growth.
- Grow your curiosity of the whole person. Your team members bring much more to the table then a set of skills to accomplish business outcomes. They have families, interests, and personal goals. And, most likely, they are very cool! Finding out more about each of your team members will not only make your job more fun and interesting, but it will also help you grow a deeper understanding of the potential that exists beyond what that person does today.
- Listen, observe, and notice the big and little things your team members say and do. I am not talking about in a micro-managing kind of way. The intention here is to observe the unique gems that that person brings to the table. When you begin noticing them, talking about them, and assigning work based on them, then the person feels seen, heard, and valued beyond the job they initially signed up for.
We are living in some really difficult days, and leading people continues to be a major challenge as people look to their management for answers at work. Learning how to embrace your humanity through emotion and understanding the unique value of one another will truly create confidence and stability in your team and business.
Identify people managers who have what it takes to lead in this uncertain future, and be ready to elevate your organizations to the next level.