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18 July 2021

Five tips on how to navigate uncertain times in the business world

Jairek Robbins

A recent Deloitte report predicts that the next economic boom will be fueled by companies and industries undergoing significant change. The question is: How can your business navigate these uncertain times while also pursuing opportunities?

Here are five tips for thriving in a world of constant change:

1) Embrace the knowledge gap.

While it’s true that today’s fast-paced environment requires leaders to make decisions faster, you should not attempt to close this so-called “knowledge gap” by absorbing all information about every issue before making a decision. This strategy won’t work because too much information will lead to more questions, uncertainty, and less confidence. Researchers at Wharton School found that when managers pursue many different ideas simultaneously, they run into more dead ends and rejections, which causes even more stress.

Instead of learning everything about every issue, focus on excelling in only a few activities or areas you know best.  This will allow you to be confident about your ability to influence the outcome of each activity because it’s an area where you have mastered knowledge and skills. The key is identifying these activities and then eliminating all distractions so you can remain focused on excelling at them.

2) Prioritize what’s most important.

Too many leaders get caught up in doing everything possible within their power during uncertain times rather than focusing on what they should accomplish first. As a result, they spread themselves too thin across multiple priorities and become stressed by all the activities they’re trying to complete.

Instead of focusing on everything essential, determine what’s most essential and prioritize your activities around achieving those goals first. It’s equally important to be honest about what can wait until later, so you can avoid making yourself even more stressed by attempting too much at once.

3) Develop a growth-oriented culture.

A unique Strategic Leadership Analysis (SLA) survey found that leaders who adopt a “culture of growth” outperform their peers during uncertain business times because they think and act differently from everyone else. For example, these leaders prioritize finding new areas for growth within their businesses — not as an afterthought or as personal enrichment, but as part of the company mission.

4) Gather feedback in real-time.

It’s easy to get stuck in your bubble and make decisions based solely on your available information. To better understand how others perceive your actions, ask a few critical supporters for their honest feedback. These individuals can be internal or external contacts that you consider knowledgeable about business issues. Rather than simply asking them for advice, try asking open-ended questions such as “What concerns do you see?” or “How would you improve this situation?” This allows them to share valuable insights about factors outside your awareness, especially when dealing with a changing business environment.

5) Overcommunicate.

While uncertainty may make people more cautious and hesitant when communicating, the opposite is true for engaged leaders during uncertain times. Communication helps people work together, share ideas, and align around a common goal. This is why it’s crucial to pick up the pace of your internal communications by sharing relevant information in multiple formats with different audiences.

The world is changing, and it can be hard to keep up with new trends, technologies, and business strategies. When you are faced with uncertainty in your work or when working in a leadership role for another company, these five tips will help guide you through uncertain times.

A few more tips that didn’t make the top five:

• Adopt an “I can” attitude. You aren’t responsible for solving all the world’s problems, and neither are your employees.  Don’t be afraid to empower people at lower levels in your organization because you never know who might have valuable knowledge and skills that you don’t possess.

• Check on people every day. The power of positive reinforcement during uncertain times is vital, so notice when employees go out of their way to help others or accomplish tasks. Over time, use this as a guidepost for recognizing what behaviors should be encouraged more often throughout your organization.

• Focus on growth-oriented activities. Rather than looking outwardly for new opportunities, look within to find ways to expand upon excellence in your current business.  This allows you to capitalize on your existing strengths while expanding the reach of your brand.

• Take it slow before jumping into new opportunities. When exploring possible changes, understand that everything takes longer than expected. Slow down and do things right, rather than rushing ahead with something half-baked so you can quickly move onto the next opportunity without thinking through all the potential consequences of moving too fast.

• Communicate early and often. Don’t hold back on sharing important information with others when there is a need to communicate — even if it’s difficult or uncomfortable for you. This doesn’t mean sharing trivial news about company events; instead, focus on passing along vital knowledge that people need to accomplish their responsibilities at work.

• Do it now. Waiting until uncertainty passes to start working on initiatives will make it more challenging to get things done later when people are even more stressed and busy. Start putting together a strategic plan for dealing with uncertainty in your organization today so that you’ll be ready when the time comes.

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