How to live in the Age of Uncertainty
- February 27, 2020
- Posted by: Yiannis Zarkadis
- Category: Change Management, Crisis Management, Leadership, Transformation
One to two decades ago things were different. And I was different too. I was one of them who were obsessed with the detail, clarity, predictability and perfection. I used to claim that “Planning and Predictability” were both among my top skills and I was proud for this. And I should be, because at that time things were different. The Anglo-Saxon model (Target and Fire) was prevailing in business at that time. “We don’t like surprises”, we used to say… Analysis, Synthesis, Planning and Control were the cornerstones of our approach.
And all of a sudden things changed.
First, in 2009 when the big crisis knocked on our door. Markets around us were falling aggressively, consumer behaviour was changing rapidly, customers went bankrupt and the traditional supply chain was disrupted.
And second in 2016. It was the time we had absorbed and adjusted to crisis. At least that’s what we thought. But we were wrong. Because that was when two new waves of change appeared on the agenda with bold letters this time: Climate Change and AI. And as I write these thoughts today on paper, a new epidemic, Covid-19 hits the globe, the markets, supply chains and mostly the way we live and behave.
Climate Change, AI, Inequality, Immigration, Geopolitics and Epidemics (as I read, we have to foresee an acceleration of similar incidents) are changing the landscape. This new landscape is very foggy but also unmapped. So, how do we get through it? As individuals, team members or leaders? In our personal life and in the workplace we belong or we lead?
Here below, we pick out and provide insights to six abilities, which among others we believe can help us to cross successfully these new uncharted waters.
- Get Aware
Know, learn, get cognisant of the events. Read, feel and understand their effects in a wide range of actions. How they affect the current trends, numbers, existing plans, infrastructures, systems, processes and people.
Call the experts and hear what they have to say. Use technology, because it offers incredible information and analysis capabilities nowadays. Make cross-functional teams with the best of your people, to close each other’s knowledge gaps, so that you can develop a complete and thorough picture.
- Embrace Change
You have three options.
The first is to ignore the fact that you are in front of a completely new situation. But then developments will overtake you.
The second is to resist. In this case you will be smashed.
The third is to accept and embrace. “Accept” doesn’t mean “Give Up”. In this case it means that you are conscious that there are some things that you can not control their development by yourself. It means that you understand that it is necessary to adapt. It is better to climb the wave, like a surfer does.
Clearly, among the three options, I choose the third.
- Comfort the Discomfort
In other words, make the uncomfortable your new comfortable! This is a mind’s game. And it relates to culture and attitude. If you are rightly and properly told and you accept it, then it is matter of time to adapt.
I will never forget a game I played with colleagues a few years ago. In this game, we were trying to resolve a situation, having our eyes closed. We were completely in the dark. We had to use the rest of our senses. The first play, although it was a big fun, it was a disaster in terms of result. We kept on trying and after 3-4 games, we reached a point at which the result was acceptable. And then we were further frustrated, because the instructor told us that we had to repeat the game but this time with one additional sense less, specifically the speech! But again the pattern was the same. We just needed a few repetitive games in order to adapt again in the new situation.
Ambiguity and risk create fear. And we don’t like fear. But fear is OK. Because it shows that you are aware and that you are in a meaningful crossroad. In order to get acquainted to this new and unknown situation, you don’t have to jump! Just take a few small steps. Remember when you were a child, the day that your father or your mother hugged you and put you in the water to learn how to swim. Do you remember? That feeling when full of agony and stress you were just touching the bottom and all of a sudden with a little push from your loved one an inch away…you felt the rise…and all was OK and great!
So, just take some little steps up to the point that you feel that you are just touching the bottom, take a breath and move a little further – and then you will be ready to rise. That’s when great things happen!
- Plan and Communicate
Planning and Communication will always be important. So have a plan backed up by a few What-If alternatives and communicate it effectively across the organisation. You need this for profound reasons and there is no need to expand more on this here. But what is meaningful is to highlight that the more robust and consistent your plan is and the more alternatives it provides, the more your people will trust you as a good “Captain”. Then it will be much easier to persuade them to dare and follow you in the “uncomfortable”, which will be your new “comfortable”. Personally, I strongly believe that high performing teams – among other things – have an extra characteristic: they feel Confident. And in order to feel confident – among others – you need to feel that you have a good captain and to be aware of the journey, from Vision To Action, no matter how difficult it is.
Have in mind that nowadays you don’t need heavy and cumbersome plans, like the ones we didi in the past. The pace of change is very high and so does the probability to become obsolete soon. Instead, you need light, agile and flexible plans, easy to understand and apply and very well linked with strategy, objectives and goals.
- Lead from the Front with Empathy and Resilience
When the time comes, lead from the front. Be the bright example. Show courage and confidence. Communicate and empower. Dare and care. Be on the battlefield. Get into the position of others. Listen to them and feel their feelings. Show them and let them know that you know what’s inside them and what they think. Show them that you know their fears and doubts. And take these thoughts and feelings into account in problem solving. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you will do what they say. It means that you include them inside the picture, when you deal with a difficult case.
In other words, show Empathy.
- Key Takeaway
As we are in front of a completely new situation in life and business, we have to change. What we should not do is to ignore this or to shut ourselves off. Instead, we have to embrace the new situation, open up our view and knowledge, get acquainted to it by doing little steps forward each time and in accordance with the plan we have. The leaders will be the ones to take the first step, they will be the bright examples. And with courage, resilience and empathy they will show others the way.
- What other ideas or thoughts can you add? Please leave a reply.