Most of us have become accustomed to living with higher levels of uncertainty. How can employers help their teams cope with the feelings that continuous change, crises or uncertainty bring up? Whether people are feeling overwhelmed or dealing with the reality of stretched financial resources, their job security, or the lasting effects of the pandemic on loved ones, there are many things employers can do.
Practical Ways to Lead Through Uncertainty
Keeping communication lines open is important
Depending on the circumstances, daily, weekly, monthly, or ad-hoc updates or meetings can help your teams stay better informed and reduce any anxieties. You could also try encouraging them to share anything they might be struggling with to help everyone feel their concerns are being heard and supported. Even if you don’t have an update, saying something like “I don’t have more information on this yet, but I will let you know as soon as I do” can leave everyone feeling less anxious or stressed.
Keep people focused on what they can control
Help teams realise what they cannot change and restructure their to-do lists to other valuable contributions.
Help your team acknowledge the things they can control (e.g. developing a workable budget, seeking support from your partner or manager) can leave them feeling more capable and confident in dealing with uncertainty. People can also feel more able to deal with changes as active ‘problem solvers’ instead of passive ‘recipients’ of events happening to them, leaving them feeling less stressed, and much more productive.
Ensure everyone knows what’s expected of them
Anxieties can go up when we are faced with constantly changing or non-specific goals – or we receive no guidance on how to achieve these. Eliminating confusion by assigning clear tasks and responsibilities to everyone can also greatly impact team cohesion and efficiency. The clearer your expectations for everyone, the easier it is for your team to work together and achieve their goals. Moreover, involving your teams in setting targets can keep goals realistic and help people stay focused and motivated despite challenging circumstances.
Personalise support and schedule regular check-ins
Take a few minutes to ask how your teams feel outside of work before starting with your meeting agenda. You could ask something like “It seems like a tough time. What would be most helpful to you right now?”
Listen with an empathetic ear and try to increase their sense of control over their work. For example, they may need some extra help and guidance around re-prioritising their tasks or better aligning these with their interests, reducing distractions, delegating, and working more flexibly.
Readjust your goals
At every level of the organisation, people may feel the pressure of uncertainty. In times like these, try encouraging your teams to be adaptable and be there to support and guide them along the way. For example, managers are often asked to do more with fewer resources, while they may already feel stretched by their day-to-day work, improving task performance, and addressing their team burnout. If that’s the case, try re-adjusting your goals accordingly, even if it means encouraging them to say no to new projects or de-prioritise existing ones if their team lacks capacity.
Encourage and model self-care
Many of us feel overwhelmed, stressed, upset, and anxious when faced with uncertainty. You could help normalize and encourage self-care by weaving moments of self-care as a regular part of everyone’s daily routine. For example, you could encourage people to have a few extra minutes to spare between meetings, avoid eating lunch at the computer, or you could all go for a quick walk outside together. You can also set a good example for others by living by your own self-care rules: these may involve building pauses into your working day, going for regular walks, shutting down your computer when you have finished work, and letting people know that it’s okay to prioritise their own needs sometimes.
The world may continue changing, but the fundamentals of a supportive team culture do not. By providing the necessary resources and support across your organisation, employees can navigate uncertainty easier, whatever changes come their way.