Leading a Team in Uncertain Times

Uncertainty is something leaders must contend with during the best of times. Business is filled with market ups and downs, change initiatives, changes in personnel and business model pivots that make it difficult to create a sense of equilibrium for a team. Add to that major disruptions in the economy and the fear of Covid-19 and day to day operations can feel like they are on very shaky ground indeed.

Here are 5 non-negotiables you need to bring to your team to create a sense of solidity and solidarity:

Keep your emotional reactions in check. The reality is that you are not immune to the same stress your team is under. The difference is that your team not only looks to you for direction when times are uncertain, they also look to you (consciously or unconsciously) as a role model on how to meet that uncertainty. If you are flying off the handle or acting like the world is falling apart, you will create even more uncertainty for your team.

This doesn’t mean you need to be inauthentic. It’s ok to acknowledge that you also feel stressed over the situation, but hold the emotional outbursts and venting for a mentor or peer - not for those who look to you for leadership.

The best way to hold yourself in check is to make sure you have good self-care practices in place. Get plenty of sleep, eat well and exercise. Taking periodic 1-minute breaks throughout the day to focus on your breath will have surprisingly positive effects on your well-being. Something as simple as making sure you are consuming enough water throughout the day will help keep your focus and ability to think through problems in top form. Encourage your team to take the same measures.

Promote a “we have each others’ backs” culture. When under stress, short tempers quickly lead to blame, defensiveness and other reactions that can undermine communication and collaboration. Shifting the team toward having each others’ backs will help everyone feel more supported. This makes the team stronger than the sum of its individuals.