Issue #73
#73 - Tips + Tools For Leaders For Taming Uncertainty
June 30, 2023

Hi folks,

Last week, we explored AI and the uncertainty and angst that such a fast-moving technology often brings. But it's not just AI that's causing anxiety: international conflicts, climate change; Covid and loneliness pandemics; and an economy grappling with layoffs, inflation and rising interest rates all make for a general feeling of unease. Then, to top it all off, we're dealing with the remarkable speed at which changes in so many realms are taking place.

Dror Poleg, an insightful observer of work, sums things up evocatively with regard to the economy:

"We live in a non-linear economy where the relationship between input and output is increasingly unclear. Nobody knows what’s going on because there’s simply no way to know. No one is in charge because there is nothing to be in charge of. We are all ants running around in different directions in an effort to find some sugar. It doesn’t mean our work is meaningless, but it means we must operate under growing uncertainty.

And here's the thing: the external ambiguity we live with and the apprehension it causes are not easily compartmentalized; we can't just leave them behind when we head to work. On the contrary, we bring this angst with us, and in ways both subtle and overt it can affect our productivity, decisions and job satisfaction. Making it incumbent on organizations to acknowledge and address the uncertainty, and on leaders to be able to lead through it. Let's be crystal clear:

Increasingly, being able to lead through uncertainty IS the job.

So the job requirements are to set the right tone, to set direction, to foster trust and resilience, and to model the belief that the team will find a way through a murky present, and future.

This week then, we use our Stories to explore different tools and tips for taming the uncertainty our organizations face, and that our teams feel:

🎯 Story #1 - A management guru ID's some of the levers leaders can use to tame ambiguity and provide clarity to their teams. And we add a few more ideas to the list. 🙌

🎯 Story #2 -
An organizational psychologist suggests that in the face of uncertainty, especially, we get huge ROI from posing good questions, in the right way. We explain his argument in our second Story.
🎯 Story #3 - Author-historian Yuval Harari has a prescription for dealing with uncertainty that applies as much to leaders and organizations as it does to the individuals who comprise them. The core requirement? In a word: "reinvention".

Thank you for reading and exploring with us -- and have a great week!

Aki + Usman


#Uncertainty #Ambiguity #TipsAndTools #Clarity

Ali is a management and leadership trainer. He rightly ID's ambiguity as a virus that threatens our teams, and shares that by setting clear expectations, and communicating how your employee is doing against those expectations, you can greatly reduce ambiguity.

That said, expectations are far from the only lever at our disposal. Companies and leaders can also provide clarity around:

  • Goals: company-wide goals, employee-level goals, etc.
  • "Flexibility", and specifically what it means to work remotely.
  • Purpose: clarity around why you do what you do, who you do it for, and why that's so exciting.
  • Culture, the values that drive it, and the behaviors that are "safe" and rewarded.
  • What it means to learn and develop at your company.

Most of us can't impact things like a war in Europe, the rate of inflation, or the trajectory of AI. 🙃 And that's fine. There are internal levers that we do control though, and providing clarity to our teams helps ease the overall feeling of uncertainty, and fosters engagement. ✌️


#Uncertainty #TipsAndTools #AskBigQuestions

John is a management consultant and author with decades of operational experience under his belt. He writes at the opening of a piece in the Harvard Business Review:

Leaders today need to revisit an overlooked skill: asking questions. In my 40 years as an executive and advisor in Silicon Valley, I’ve often seen leaders assume that people look to them for answers — bold assertions that build people’s confidence in their competence.
But in reality, that kind of approach erodes trust, especially at a time when so much is manifestly uncertain. You think you have the answers to all important questions? That suggests that you are either clueless — you have no idea how rapidly the world is changing — or that you are lying. In either case, you won’t find that trust that you’ve been looking for.

Instead, leaders should ask powerful and inspiring questions, convey that they don’t have the answers, and solicit others’ help to find them.

Hagel explains in our image above that the right types of questions, counterintuitively, help you connect and earn trust with your team. And he explicitly calls out that in volatile and uncertain times, these types of "bold" questions help settle people, reduce anxiety and overwhelm, and create calm.

For example:

* What is a game-changing opportunity that could create much more value than we have delivered in the past?
* What are emerging unmet needs of our customers that could provide the foundation for an entirely new business?
* How could we leverage the resources of third parties to address a broader range of the needs of our customers?

Per Hagel, these kinds of questions communicate that you value questioning, allow you to model that it's OK to ask for help, and also foster an overall culture of learning.


#Uncertainty #TipsAndTools #Reinvention #Learning

Yuval Noah Harari is an Israeli scholar best known for his blockbuster book, "Sapiens". And his ability to distill big lessons for humanity from his study of thousands of years of history makes his take on how to navigate the next few years worth considering.

He starts this article out with some very direct advice:

Forget programming - the best skill to teach children is reinvention.
Humankind is facing unprecedented revolutions, all our old stories are crumbling and no new story has so far emerged to replace them. How can we prepare ourselves and our children for a world of such unprecedented transformations and radical uncertainties?
What should we teach [a] baby that will help him or her survive and flourish in the world of 2050 or of the 22nd century? What kind of skills will he or she need in order to get a job, understand what is happening around them and navigate the maze of life?
Unfortunately, since nobody knows how the world will look in 2050 we don’t know the answer to these questions. Of course, humans have never been able to predict the future with accuracy. But today it is more difficult than ever before, because once technology enables us to engineer bodies, brains and minds, we can no longer be certain about anything – including things that previously seemed fixed and eternal.

So what is the recommendation, in light of such extreme change and uncertainty?

For Harari, the need is not just to evolve or adapt, but to reinvent. And relevance -- economic, even social -- will require not just one-time reinvention, but the ability to continually learn and reinvent ourselves. Early on in our careers, to be sure, but also "at a young age like 50". 😮

In the same vein then, it's increasingly clear that organizations will need to attract employees capable of this constant reinvention in order to thrive -- and reinvent themselves, just the same.

Thanks for reading. 🙏🏻

Work moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
Join over 1,000 subscribers — sign up today for free.
© 2021 TalentStories, Inc. All rights reserved.