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How To Lead In The Midst Of Uncertainty

Adam Weber
Adam Weber

At breakfast yesterday with a friend who also happens to be a business owner, the impact of COVID-19 inevitably came into conversation. We discussed how we’re thinking about it, how it’s impacting our businesses, and how to lead in the midst of uncertain times. He challenged me, saying that leaders would look to companies like Emplify for guidance during seasons like this.

He’s right, and I’ve long believed that our platform as an employee engagement company comes with an obligation to support leaders. In my role specifically, I’ve committed to peeling back the curtain publicly — on the projects I’m undertaking, how I use our own tool, and the successes and failures we experience — to help guide others.

This is a messy, complicated, real-time, situation, and leaders are looking for practical guidance. Candidly? So am I.

As I’ve studied the situation and talked it over with others, a few points have stood out.

Take care of yourself

As a leader, it is vitally important that you take care of yourself physically and mentally even in the midst of highly stressful situations. Please don’t fool yourself into thinking you are immune to how uncertainty is impacting you. Trust the routines that keep you at your healthiest and fight for those even more right now.

Pause before you act

When new obstacles and an overwhelming amount of details come at you, making decisions can feel paralyzing. Giving yourself space to think and process becomes critical. Time is of the essence, but pressure — especially in our already distracted and busy world — doesn’t generally lead to decisions you can stand behind. Make sure you give yourself time to pause, breathe, and digest the information. To gain that clarity, it is important that you process and decide rather than react.

Be authentic

Be your authentic and genuine self. If you have doubts, fears, and uncertainties (and yet are the one in “control”), imagine how your employees must feel right now. How do you empathize with what your team might be feeling right now? How can you share with them something sincere about how you are feeling?

Be transparent

You are likely about to make decisions that some people in the company won’t agree with; that’s a practical reality of any highly tense situation. Be willing to explain your decision-making process and help others understand how you weighed the options. As an example, here are some questions I thought through yesterday before sending an all-team email:

  • How are you thinking about the situation?
  • What decisions have you already made?
  • What things are you monitoring?

Care for your team

Remember as you make difficult decisions amidst uncertainty that it is an honor to lead others, and it is your responsibility to lead them well and with care. Your employees have families. They have lives outside of work. They have careers that will last long after they work at your company.

Put your employees at the forefront of your mind as you make your decision. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What am I looking for in a leader right now? (And know they are likely looking for those things from you.)
  • How can I care for my team through uncertainty?

Be decisive

You’ve given yourself the space you need to process; you’ve been transparent and authentic; and you are committed to treating your people with great care. You are now in the right place to make bold decisions with clarity and confidence.

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