Executive Coach Executive CoachExecutive Coach
Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

5 Rules for Leading Through Uncertainty

ARCHIVES
NagyDodo/Shutterstock.com

A lot of my clients work in Washington, DC. They’re either executives in Federal agencies or executives in companies that do a lot of business with Federal agencies. Right now, they’re all talking about sequestration – that wonderful process in which Congress mandates across the board budget cuts without any guidance about how to implement those cuts.

You may not be paying a lot of attention to sequestration if you live and work in LA, for example, but to the folks in DC, it’s a big freaking deal. Just about everyone in and around Washington is trying to figure out what to do next. It’s a classic case of leaders having to lead through uncertainty. Even if you’re not dealing with the impact of sequestration, leading through uncertainty is worth thinking about. You may think that everything is crystal clear right now but chances are that’s going to change sooner or later. Probably sooner.

So, since leading through uncertainty is eventually a universal opportunity for leaders, I thought I’d offer five rules for how to do it more effectively. These rules are based on talking with a lot of clients over the past week who are either figuring out how to do it or who are watching in disbelief as their leaders fail at it.

Here, then, are five rules for leading through uncertainty:

1. Share what you know: People crave information when things are uncertain. Share what you know. Focus on the impact. Offer guidelines for decision making.

2. Say what you don’t know: Don’t fake your way through it. Your people have a sixth sense for when you’re doing that. Acknowledge what you don’t know. Call out what’s in your collective control and what’s not.

3. Cut the crap: If you have fifteen minutes worth of useful information, keep the conversation to fifteen minutes. Don’t expand it to an hour and fill up the remaining forty five minutes with platitudes that don’t do anyone any good. Think about it. If you were on the receiving end, how would you react to a lot of meaningless fluff? Your people are going to react the same way you would.

4. Ask for input: Don’t assume you have to make all the decisions yourself. The people who are closest to the action likely have a lot of good ideas about how to move forward. Ask them for their input and ideas.

5. Stay engaged: Don’t assume that one call does it all. Stay engaged with your organization. Keep sharing what you know when you know it and can share it. Keep asking for input. Nature abhors a vacuum and so do organizations. In the absence of clear and relevant communications from you and with you, people are going to fill the vacuum with stuff they’re making up. You don’t want that. Stay engaged.

What other rules work for you when you have to lead through uncertainty?

(Image via NagyDodo/Shutterstock.com)

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.