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5 Tips to Lead Through Times of Uncertainty

Change is scary.  It can make us feel uncomfortable.  But it is a necessity in the workplace if your organization is going to remain on the cutting edge and evolve over time.  How leaders manage change sets the stage for whether change will be embraced or rebuffed throughout the larger organization.

Following are five tips to help you lead through times of uncertainty:

Lead with Integrity and Truth

Share everything that you’re able to clearly and honestly.  Don’t convolute or sugar coat the message – be direct.  Be honest about what you don’t know as well.  This demonstrates integrity and builds trust in your employees.  That credibility will be critical for team member tenacity and loyalty throughout stressful times of change.  If people feel like they can’t trust their leaders, or information is being kept from them, they will soon be looking for other opportunities.

Listen as Much as You Speak

ListeningEspecially during times of change, soliciting feedback and listening to others is paramount.  It is critical that you keep a hand on the pulse of what team members are thinking, talking about, and worried about.  This allows you to set the record straight where necessary, as well as focus on specific areas of concerns as you share information.  Likewise, asking for feedback on how you and your fellow leaders are delivering messages or handling change is important to ensure that you’re always improving and keeping in mind the greater organizational good.

Acknowledge the Change and Concerns

Many leaders attempt to dodge tough conversations by avoiding the topic altogether, or speaking only of the benefits of the change.  It is equally important to acknowledge the current state of flux, concerns that you or your team members may have, and potential outcomes – both positive and negative.  This again builds your credibility, likewise increasing the confidence that your employees will have in you as a leader and the organization as a whole.

Be Aware of Your Body Language

Team members will take their cue from you as to how to react to change.  Even more important than what you say is how you say it.  Remain relaxed, calm, and optimistic.  Make good eye contact, don’t cross your arms, and don’t display overt annoyance at questions or challenges you may face.  Instead, remain empathetic and understanding, sharing what you know in a way that helps to minimize employees’ fear of upcoming change and the unknown.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

If you think you’re communicating enough, then you’re not.  If you worry that you are actually over-communicating, then you are probably right on target.  During times of change, over-communication in multiple formats is critical to not only share information, but also to help relieve anxiety.  People become suspicious when formal messages aren’t being shared, leading to conclusions that are many times worse than reality.  Don’t let that happen in your organization.  Make communications to your employees, customers, and others as transparent and frequent as possible.

Remember that as a leader, you are a role model for how you respond and react to change.  Be sure that you’re modeling behaviors that you want your team members to follow to cultivate an environment that is flexible and adaptable, and where change is seen as a positive.