5 for 5 blog – Handling uncertainty’s smack in the face

14 Sep


Good morning everyone.

Friday started off like every other day. I actually had a good meeting with one of our executive team on some subjects that we had been back and forth on. When….BAM. I got a nasty 1-2 combination punch from my old nemesis, Uncertainty. Two issues popped on Friday that really knocked me off the rails. The fact is though that if we are leading our organizations and challenging status quo thinking, we are constantly surrounded by uncertainty. And as Andy Stanley said in the 2012 Leadercast:

“Uncertainty is the reason you are a leader.”

I have also heard it said that is a typical day, 95% of a leaders decisions could likely be made by someone else in the organization. The reason you are a leader is to make the 5% decisions…..those that are not black and white…..those that are chock full of uncertainty.

And while I believe we have written about uncertainty and leading through it on the blog before, here are some of the ideas and questions I have been putting to myself to rein in the challenges ahead of me and my team:

“What would my replacement do?”

  • Again this is a question posed by Andy Stanley in the 2012 Leadercast event. This question is about bringing objectivity to the situation. Often uncertainty can cloud our vision and increase anxiety if we are solely focused “a plan”. The nice thing about this question is that your replacement will not see situations with the same emotion or ties that you do. It is not to say we should be unemotional as leaders, but in critical situations we need to see with clarity. Clarity about what the real issue is and clarity as to whether our plan is really aligned with our WHY.

“What is the very next step?”

  • Often times, I have seen individuals and teams in the midst of uncertainty and crisis, trying to plan five activites at once, and there is no coordination and ownership on “THE” key next step. As the leader you need to be clear and ensure others can explain with clarity, exactly what needs to happen next, who the owner is, when it is due, and what the output is that we are looking for. IT may sounds like micromanagement, but in the fog of uncertainty, it may be the exact grounding function you need.

“What would you tell your best friend to do in the same situation?”

“Are you dreaming big enough?”

  • This comes from a blog post by John Maeda, the former President of RISD (The Rhode Island School of Design). The idea here is the a period of uncertainty does not need to spell doom and gloom. It could actually be a great opportunity to start a project, realign resources, or move into new markets. The point here is that it is not enough to resolve the uncertainty by solving a problem, don’t miss the chance to make the big decisions that will move you even further ahead.

“Be strong and courageous.”

Stockdale Paradox: “maintaining an unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, AND at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

This is what makes us leaders.

How do you manage uncertainty? Leave me a note in the comments.

Here are this week’s 5 for 5 articles:

Which part do you disagree with? – by Seth Godin – via @thisisethsblog

It’s All About Cultural Contribution, Not Cultural Fit – by Diego Rodriguez – via LinkedIn

Six Reasons To Set New Year’s Resolutions In September – by Gwen Moran – via Fast Company

6 Ways to Keep Good Ideas from Dying at Your Company – by Scott Kirsner – via Harvard Business Review

Make Your Morning Routine Stick With These 3 Powerful Strategies – by Chris Winfield – via INC

All the best, kevin