Embrace Uncertainty in the Business World

question marks on doors, man standing in the middle covering his face with his hands

Over the last couple of months, I have heard many people referring to the uncertain times that we live in and how that has impacted and sometimes even crippled businesses. The events of the last two years have brought the importance of leading in uncertain times to the top of many businesses’ agendas.  However, this is not the first time that we had to deal with high levels of uncertainty. One only has to think of the following occurrences in our recent past to realize that uncertainty has been with us all the time.  The sooner we “embrace” uncertainty and develop the skills to better deal with it – the better for us. Here we have to recognize that some people thrive on uncertainty and some people avoid it at all costs. Either way, it is not going to go away, and as leaders in business – we need to embrace it as well as assist our teams to better cope with uncertainty. Before we look at techniques or strategies to better deal with uncertainty we need to understand the difference between uncertainty and risk. The difference between the two has to do with the level of predictability between the two.  Risk always has the possibility of certain scenarios playing themselves out and can be measured whereas uncertainty involves situations with unknown variables that are almost impossible to predict or control, and are very difficult to measure the outcome.  Seven techniques that you should consider to better deal with uncertainty:  

  1. Be Transparent with your Team. Be open with your team about the fact that you might not have all the answers and that through further discussion and evaluation you will be able to get to a point where you have sufficient information to make the necessary decisions.
  2. Ready, Fire, Aim. One of the worst things you can do in uncertain times is to do nothing. This principle makes provision for decisions to be made when sufficient information is available to make a decision and more importantly to frequently review and make corrections along the way. It is important for you and your team to build this flexibility into the decisions that you have made and not to be afraid to change them when it proves that the desired result will not materialise.
  3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Never allow a void or a vacuum to exist in your communication with your team, suppliers, and customers. This requires a detailed communication plan that ensures that all players are kept up to date with the latest state of affairs.
  4. Focus on that which you can control. Learn to distinguish between the factors that you have no control over, the factors that you can or cannot influence, and those that you have control over – ensure that you have a plan in place to exploit that to its fullest.
  5. Keep things in perspective. Scan the horizon, engage with a wide variety of people or sources of information to be able to be in a better position to be able to put things into perspective. All uncertain times have opportunities that have resulted in some of the world’s most unique inventions or products being developed during these times. Scan the horizon for the unique opportunities that exist.
  6. Celebrate small wins along the way. This is extremely important to keep you and your team focused on the progress that is being made and that every win keeps you on track – no matter how small.
  7. Keep the team focused on the Vision and long-term goal.  Leading in uncertain times requires that you keep your team focused on the Vision. This is important for you and the team to focus on the purpose, the why of what you are doing in the market, and how that impacts the communities that you interact with.

In closing, leading in uncertain times requires you to “fall in love” or embrace uncertainty and build the necessary skills or “muscles” in your business or team to better manage through uncertain times. Uncertainty has and will always be with us – embrace it with open arms or face the risk of being left behind or being dictated to by the forces that are causing the uncertainty.  

Pieter Scholtz, ActionCOACH Country Partner
Watch Pieter Scholtz share the ActionCOACH Story here.