A Leader’s Job is to Reduce Uncertainty

Posted by:

[Tweet “Part of a leader’s job—a big part—is to reduce uncertainty.”]Leaders have many jobs within an organization: setting a vision, motivating a team, increasing profit, making the bed (home-based businesses only). But there’s a big one that a lot of leaders miss—and it’s one that I’ve become keenly aware of as I work with more and more leaders whose organizations are undergoing significant change.

One inevitable byproduct of change is uncertainty. Employees become, quite rationally, uncertain about what the change will mean for them (first), and for the organization (a distant second). When employees are uncertain, they become—again, quite rationally—disengaged with the work itself.

So part of a leader’s job—a big part—is to reduce uncertainty.

Notice I didn’t say eliminate uncertainty. In many cases, possibly even most cases, that won’t be possible. But you can reduce uncertainty. How?

With regular, honest communication.

Regular. That means that you keep your team informed. As the situation changes and evolves, you keep them in the loop. Even if the situation stays the same, let them know that. Set a schedule—daily, weekly, twice a week—and stick to it. When your team knows that they can count on you to keep them updated on a regular basis, their anxiety level will naturally decrease.

Honest. That means you tell them the truth. If things aren’t going well, don’t try to sugar-coat it. Here are some of the outcomes that will happen if you try to sugar-coat bad news:

  • Right off the bat, some of your team members won’t believe you. That’s not good.
  • Some of your team members will believe you. That’s good, right? Nope. Because eventually they’ll find out the truth.
  • When both the believers and disbelievers find out the truth (and they will), they’ll stop trusting you. At that point, you can kiss your leadership effectiveness goodbye.

So be honest with them. Obviously, there may be times when you can’t tell them everything. But tell them as much as you can. And if you really don’t know what’s going on at a particular point, tell them that. And then try to find out the answer. But be honest.

When your team is facing uncertainty—about their jobs, about their workplace, about their future—it becomes all-encompassing. It’s all they can think about. I’m not saying they’ll stop working (although some might), but their focus on work will be less—sometimes much less—than 100%. By reducing uncertainty, you increase their focus. Even though you may not have all the answers, they’ll know that they can trust you, and that you’ve got their back.

And that’s leadership.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
  Related Posts