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Leading in the gray: 5 Quick tips for leading in uncertain times

Uncertain times and change
Uncertain times and change

Uncertain times, such as a major organizational process change, role restructuring, or ownership transition can significantly affect employee morale and an employee’s overall motivation and performance. These factors, if not addressed, can affect business outcomes, and ultimately the overall success of the organization. A leader’s role, which is critical during uncertain times, is to provide the appropriate amount of information and empower employees to make the necessary decisions and/or adjustments to be a valuable contributor to the organization's vision.

While uncertain times can be classified as personal or business related, the business environment calls for the leader to influence perceptions, manage business climate and team morale as best he or she can given the information that is available. The following are some quick tips to help leaders facilitate a climate that is conducive to positive perceptions during times where the organization’s future is unclear or when major change has occurred.

  1. Be real and transparent (Frame and Re-frame). Employees cannot feel like they are being misled. A healthy level of trust must be maintained throughout the process. It is the responsibility of leadership to set the tone for the team. Make it a goal to be as transparent as possible providing as much information about the circumstances as possible but also focus on putting a frame around the situation.
  2. Address doubt and rumors immediately. The internet and social media make the idea of withholding information virtually impossible. Share information as it becomes available. Of course, coordinate communication efforts with executive leadership and communications department, but act fast. The internet and social media enable the transfer of information so, odds are that someone is going to post something. If more time is needed to address the rumor, make a statement that states the facts
  3. Listen to your team. Listening to team members can help assess the need for communication or the need to address any uncertainty. Make it a point to listen to the negativity and work to re-frame as many of the negative ideas as possible.
  4. Create vision. Vision can be a hard topic when the certainty of business is unclear. However, there should always be a set of goals that help shape the work that is being conducted. Work with upper management to set goals and identify a focus for employees. Even in the most doubtful situations, such as an organization that is going out of business; clear vision should be communicated around what that event will look like from a goals perspective.
  5. Provide resources. Provide employees with resources to assist with adapting to the changes and business climate. Examples of resources include employee assistance programs (like counseling or legal support) or employment transition services.

Generally, not knowing what lies ahead can be a challenge. However, leaders can offset some of the angst by implementing a plan to address the issues.

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