5 Ways to Face Uncertainty with Confidence
Responding to uncertainty establishes trajectory, impacts potential, and determines quality of life.
Uncertainty is the spotlight of leadership.
The dark side of uncertainty:
- Intolerance and quick tempers.
- Lost perspective and poor judgments. Things that didn’t bother you yesterday, bother you today.
- Anxiety and helplessness. Imagining an uncertain future invites you to feel helpless today.
When uncertainty goes up, anxiety makes you feel like it doesn’t matter what you do. But, it matters more.
The future is uncertain – behaviors you choose today are not.
5 ways to face uncertainty with confidence:
- Describe more – explain less.
- Leaders who always understand why things are happening are blind to their own ignorance.
- Foolish judgements are the result of false certainty.
- Describe challenges. The reason they exist is often up for grabs.
- Make decisions that reflect your values. Values are points of stability in uncertain times. Allow turbulence to clarify:
- What’s important?
- Who you choose to be?
- How you choose to treat each other, today?
- Reconnect with key behaviors that expresses who you are. For example, I love curiosity, but under stress, curiosity shuts down. I get aggressive. Key behaviors include:
- Lower my voice.
- Soften my tone.
- Ask a question when I feel like defending, telling, or convincing.
- Lighten up. The ability to lighten up during uncertainty allows you to re-energize.
- Take a break or a walk.
- Shoot some hoops.
- Play a game.
- Get an outside perspective.
- Find a listener who helps you think your own thoughts. (Be this for others.)
- Connect with the voice of experience.
- Avoid people who offer quick solutions.
Bonus: Tell stories about grit in the past. I remember when days were dark and …. We can do it again.
Things may not work out, but you can be proud of how you faced uncertainty, today.
How might leaders face uncertainty with confidence?
Quoting: “The future is uncertain – behaviors you choose today are not.” As I believe and say / write often, things that we can deal with ALWAYS depend upon our choices.
The other point I’d add to your five ways to face uncertainty: It’s important to assess the uncertainty with and the importance of the decision or action – and then to choose a reaction AND MOVE FORWARD!!! Always self-assess regularly and refine the reaction, more frequently the greater the uncertainty and/or the importance.
Thanks John. As I read your comment, I start to feel the distracting power of uncertainty. For example, it takes discipline to reflect when times are volatile. But, it’s even more important.
Agreed. The more important something is, the more an assessment of level of uncertainty, a response to it, AND self-assessment / refinement are critical.
Thanks for the insightful write-up on the specific behaviour one should adopt during times of uncertainty. This becomes all the more critical and can have wide ranging ramifications when one manages a startup.
Thanks Saifi. Yes! Startup by their nature are uncertain environments.
Over-dependence on self created assumption creates uncertainty. We need to understand the external context and its dynamics. I appreciate your concern about describing more and explaining less. It is so true. When we describe, we explore and try to understand things. This helps us to look inward keeping outside world in mind. But when we explain, it seems we know more and that is our over assumption.
I feel, people with bigger focus can deal uncertainty more than people with small focus. At the same time, complacent people face turbulent in facing uncertainty. The reason is simple- they develop a comfort zone and expect it to remain forever which is not possible.
So, the best way to face uncertainty with confidence is to understand limitation of our assumption, and systems where we work. We need to diversify our dependency. That provides greater confidence.
Thanks Dr. Gupta. I’m so glad you added ideas about opening up to this conversation. Your expression, “diversify our dependency” is very helpful.
I equate uncertainty to change. No matter how much we fight change it’s going to happen and we as leaders have to embrace the culture of change. Uncertainty is very much the same principle so I try create enthusiasm for change/uncertainty. For this is where opportunity is found and where the next BIG “thing” is waiting to be discovered.
Thanks for meeting me right where I am. I love your point that values are points of stability in uncertain times. While decisions and actions are something we can and should focus on in the midst of uncertainty, it must start with who we are. I believe staying in touch with our values is the guide that will steer us through the troubled waters of uncertainty. Thanks Dan!
Dan, your topic of uncertainty is one of many facets. For example, the bible tells us, life is not easy but it is simple and must be kept simple. Then, there’s the reason we learn algebra: To solve for X…the unknown or “uncertain” in life. The scientific community seems to take uncertainty in stride as they say “Apart from the known and the unknown–what else is there?” Ultimately, there’s the word “secure.”
The word secure comes from two Latin words: “se” meaning “without,” and “cure” meaning “care”—being without care, or freedom from anxiety.
To be truly secure is to do what needs to be done with impeccability at the highest motivation for the greatest good and “to leave the result to itself.” Focus on action and process. In order to acquire anything, we must relinquish our attachment to it. This doesn’t mean we give up our intention to create our desire: We give up our attachment to the result. The moment we detach to the result, we will have that which we desire.
Letting go of our focus on uncertainty, our mind is more open to the “process” of securing what we desire. Uncertainty, then, becomes like a road in the country where there never was one—until we lead others to walk on it and the road comes into existence.
Very inspiring Dan, one of your bests!
Uncertainty is part of life. So long as we are aware and ready to face this, it will not be problem to surmount. As mentioned elsewhere , we are a start up Management Consulting outfit and two years into it, we still face uncertain times, But we have taken it in our stride and continue to strive for good work and clients for we are sure that we will hit it off one day. Deserting of the ship by two of the promoters has not shaken our faith.
Hi Dan, thank you for your thoughts on leadership facing uncertainty. My workplace is evolving on a regular basis, and it can be a challenge for the folks I work with to feel secure. I like your tip about the focus on values in decision making – it’s the one thing that remains consistent (at least it should)! It’s important to remain vocal about the important things even when it’s easier to go silent and wait things out. Thanks for the insight!