Leading in the Midst of Uncertainty

Leading in the Midst of Uncertainty

By Cara Sloman, CEO and President of Force4 

Running a company is never a walk in the park. Leading a team through uncertain and difficult times adds an extra level of challenge. During such times, it’s critical to offer empowering and encouraging leadership. In my experience, this entails exercising wise compassion, as well as openness, connection and resilience. Maintaining composure is crucial for helping people face problems with the greatest likelihood of overcoming them. 

What follows are some other leadership lessons I have learned while helming Force4 Technology Communications and throughout my career.  

Transparent communication is essential 

In the rapidly changing technology environment, I believe in equipping the team with the knowledge they need to grasp the big picture and relate their contributions to our overall success. With transparency, my team will have a clearer understanding of where we are heading and how we will get there. 

This occurred, for instance, at a recent all-hands meeting. While the economy has been undergoing a great deal of change, we’re seeing some of the strongest impacts in the tech sector with businesses cutting costs and announcing sizeable layoffs over the first half of the year. The failures of Silicon Valley Bank and First Republic Bank have increased market uncertainty and affected this sector further.  

We gathered our team for a discussion of the situation, including an examination of market difficulties and what’s required to succeed. We address difficulties collectively and equip our team to present solutions by building an environment in which the contributions of all team members are valued and considered. This is essential for our capacity to change course when necessary and advance together. 

Inspiring and engaging in your team 

When uncertainty looms, the best way to boost morale is to lead with a focus on seeking to meet the needs and preferences of its members. This can be done in a variety of ways. One of the most successful ways Force4 has found is holding regular summit meetings to discuss what’s working, what isn’t and how to improve. We also encourage work-life balance through remote work and flexible schedules, conducting team-building activities that includes personal as well as professional development, and getting together to have fun. 

Over the past several years, fun has taken many different shapes. We started a tradition of virtual events, activities, and a range of renowned guest speakers on various topics during the pandemic. As a virtual company, we still get together in person for team-building activities to celebrate our achievements, acquire new skills, foster connections, and make plans for the coming months. 

When we need to communicate difficult news to our team or our customers, it’s important to give them the facts in a straightforward manner while still being sympathetic. It’s essential to treat everyone with dignity and respect, just as you would like to be treated. It’s wise not to try to sugarcoat unpleasant news when it must be given. It is best to be open and truthful about what is happening and to be prepared with all potential remedies to help the issue. 

Staying effective during difficult times  

Here are the top five things a leader needs to do to be effective during tumultuous times: 

Cultivate empathy: The capacity to pay attention to and comprehend others’ feelings in a professional setting can lessen stress and foster the development of more enduring, gratifying relationships. 

Keep an open mind and be agile: Even though something has worked in the past, that doesn’t mean it will work forever. Look for opportunities born of market demands during unpredictable times and be prepared to pivot. 

Make short-term, mid-term and long-term plans: What do you want your company to look like three months from today? In a year? Create a strategy with measurable objectives and benchmarks that gets you there. Be succinct and clear. Next, chart a course with detailed directions. Make sure everyone knows how their job relates to the priorities. Work in small steps, evaluating and modifying as you go. Celebrate each victory along the path, no matter how small, because they all add up. 

Embrace your network: For leaders, times of ambiguity can feel isolating. Connect with others and gain from their knowledge and experience. 

Keep the lines of communication open: As mentioned above, when communicating about an issue, be honest. It’s essential for establishing trust, encouraging idea-sharing and forging closer connections. Because they are aware of everything that is going on and why, the team gains more trust in its leaders and the decisions being made within the organization. 

Lead with confidence 

Leadership is a set of responsibilities that require wisdom and resilience. Those qualities are particularly tested during turbulent and uncertain periods. Keep these best practices in mind as you navigate whatever your new normal looks like, and your employees and customers will thank you. 

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