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  • Writer's pictureEva-Maria Zoll

For leaders: Creating more clarity and trust in times of uncertainty

Uncertainty sucks energy from us because we try to figure out what is right and wrong.  Us humans, tend to aim for a state of coherence because that’s where we don’t need a lot of energy. That is why we love eating the same things, doing the same things and in general don’t change things, because it gives us comfort.  A situation with high uncertainty puts us in stress because suddenly things seem unclear:  Do I have to cancel trips now? — Will we be able to pay a salary? — Will clients walk away? — Will my family be safe? — How can we pivot our business? 

Clarity is something that puts people at ease. Clarity is closely linked to a high state of coherence. I put together a bunch of questions and tools which hopefully help you to gain more clarity and feel more at ease. 

Mindset and Emotions

10 questions to ask yourself and your team

  • What do I need right now? More information? Money, people, time, answers, verified facts? 

  • Do I have enough information to be able to act and communicate at the moment? If not, what else would I need for the moment? 

  • What is the biggest blocker for me at the moment? 

  • What is not urgent at the moment but still worries me? 

  • What is the next step? What can I do as the next step without having figured out how step 2 looks like. 

  • Would it be ok for now to just decide on step 1 and be ok with it? Can I keep going without being fully aware of how steps 2 and 3 and 4 look like in full detail?

  • What is the biggest element creating stress for you? Let’s get it out there and not pretend it’s all cool. What can we do together to ease the stress for you?

  • What can we do to get more clarity on what seems unclear?

  • What can be a good next step for now?

  • What would you need from me in order to find solutions? How can I be of actual help?

Check-in with your emotions

  • How am I feeling at the moment? Calm, anxious, stressed?  If so, why do I feel stressed? What are the thoughts or facts or things I heard which create stress? 

  • What can I do to find answers and clarity to be less stressed? What does usually help me to shift in a different mindset? Whatever it is, do it now! 

  • What can I do to find calmness and coolness in order to be able to think clearly?

Write or talk to someone about your worries and fears. This might seem simple but can be extremely helpful and the first step to solutions and more clarity.

Two exercises that are simple to do, highly powerful and will boost your level of clarity

1. The Circle of Concern and influence exercise by Stephen R. Covey is a simple and helpful tool. It challenges you to put down all worries in your head, helps you to cluster them, and empowers you to understand, what is under your control and what are the things you can influence. You can do it by yourself or with your team. 

2. Another simple and powerful exercise is to use the questions for inquiry of “The Work” by Byron Katie. Ask yourself those four questions if you have stressful thoughts and worries.

- Is it true?“ - „Can you absolutely know that it’s true?“ - „How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?“ - „Who or what would you be without the thought?“

When we are in a state of fear, our brains are actually not able to think clearly. What helps is to get an understanding of our own thoughts and emotions. When things seem out of control, we can remember, that there is always something we have control over: It is our thoughts and emotions. We do have power over us. We do have the power to make choices and decisions about what we think and feel. Realizing that is a powerful act itself.

Establishing and maintaining trust 

Two leaders asked me this week, “How do I communicate with my team but avoid them to panic? “ When you don’t know what is going to happen, it often seems easier to avoid communicating in order to avoid confusion, panic, or fear. When you as a leader don’t have all the answers, it can feel like walking on thin ice. My own experiences taught me, that being honest, open, and showing yourself vulnerable is always a good strategy because it shows you are also “just human” and it does foster trust and connection. There is nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know ”, as a leader. I have often found it to be way more helpful and authentic to hear leaders say, “I don’t know” in unknown/uncertain situations than to pretend to have all the answers or to make up answers just to be able to say something. I have also learned, that you can not communicate enough in challenging times. So make sure to double down on check-ins, messages to the team and do your best to feel the pulse of the team more often than normal. 

Questions to ask yourself on the topic of trust

  • What do I do to create trust with my team? 

  • What do I do that might create mistrust? (If you don’t have answers, ask the people you work with). 

  • Are there feelings of shame creeping up my arms for not knowing how to handle such an extreme situation? If so, how do I let those feelings of shame influence my actions and what can I do to change that? 

  • Can I be more open, share, and actually name things and emotions by its name? 

  • Does my team feel safe to share how they really feel at the moment? If not, what can I do to create safe spaces? (Ask the people you work with, they usually do know it). 

I’m finishing this post with another quote that hints on the opportunities in crisis and chaos. Let me know how you are doing with finding answers to those questions and reach out if you need support. 

“Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.” Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Picture credit: Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash


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