Leading Through Uncertainty: 5 Ways to Generate Trust and Commitment in ‘Murky’ Times

Thursday, February 16, 2017 - 11:55

Being a dynamic leader that employees want to follow during times of uncertainty requires high levels of self-assuredness.  One of the most important attributes to rely upon is that of one’s creativity.  Proactive managers, who are able to take ownership of each shifting tide using adaptive ingenuity, will be the flag bearers of dedicated, energised teams.  Leaders instead, who tread water while waiting for more solid ground, perpetuate team insecurity and allow outside forces to mold their fate.  The following five points outline steps you can take to ensure that your team is motivated to maintain high performance levels through the haze of ambiguity.

1. Be Supple

A leader’s ability to be flexible, adapting and open to change in an atmosphere of uncertainty relates to personal value systems, inherent to some, but not default for others.  Each will have an individualised emotional response - Do they succumb or surmount? Do they see the situation as a threat or a challenge? Are they out of control or in control? Do they tread or swim? Leaders that are able to summon mindsets of optimism, opportunity and proactivity have the best chance to succeed in engendering trust and commitment.

2. Be Inventive

Not having a crisp picture of an outcome to drive toward in times of change is a recipe for disaster. It’s imperative, that out of the murk, you provide your team with a sense of clarity and this requires being imaginative and visionary. Roll up your sleeves and do the best you can with whatever information you have. Create an end goal and desired result based on the situation as it stands today, so that you have a framework upon which to anchor your current decisions and actions, even though they may need to change tomorrow. 

3. Be Deliberate

During periods of uncertainty, your team will suffer a sense of loss of legacy security and grounding in what ‘was’. This is the time to demonstrate strategic prowess. Build a solid plan to support the vision that is to become their new reality. Be purposeful in setting new goals and re-calibrating the team’s direction. Find an alternative route and a new destination if required. Believe strongly in it and refocus the team toward individual and group contribution to the new or amended cause.

4. Be Bold

Communicate your strategy with passion, conviction, and excitement.  Role model the behaviours you wish to see in your team, without concerns about failure or success. Drive the team with courage and purpose, staying cool and centered. Your energetic presence becomes contagious to them. The leader that flounders, doubts, or delays decisions creates a vortex of negativity and distrust.

5. Be Ready

Your key to success will be the ‘art of anticipation’.  It’s easy to rest on laurels but we know that ‘ambiguity and uncertainty’ are always waiting in the performers lounge. Be the leader that anticipates the changes that welcome them on stage. Constantly scan and plan for them, sniffing the horizon watching for cues and signs. Being surprised by their arrival means you’ll find yourself on the back foot, trying to play catch up in an environment where having a consistently high performing, well tuned team means everything.

Being a dynamic leader through murky times requires a confident, purposeful, can-do, follow-me mindset. This can be immensely challenging when the attributes required must fight against the natural tendency to play a ‘wait and see’ game. The successful leader will be the one capable of pushing through these testing times by being flexible, creative, courageous, proactive and passionate about a new vision. In doing this they will have the best chance at generating trust and continued commitment from their team.

About the Author: Muffy Churches

Muffy Churches is the author of Coach Yourself, A 7-Step Guide to Personal Fulfilment (Love & Write Publishing) and Director of Beyond Focal Point, based in Sydney. As an executive coach, leadership trainer, speaker, and counsellor, she has extensive experience in inspiring and initiating positive behavioural change in clients around the world.