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(UPDATED) 5 Questions for Leaders Navigating Uncertain Times

Questions for Leaders Navigating Uncertain Times | Fahrenheit Advisors | October 2020

When this article was published seven months ago, many of us believed that we would move quickly through and be back to “normal” and the office by now. Alas, that is not the case. Human resource business owner and change management expert, Joan Hibdon has refreshed her highly read article originally entitled “COVID-19: What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do” reminding business leaders to check in on where they are now and continue to revisit this self-assessment.

Wow! How did we get to this place of disruption so quickly? Who knew we would still be here? We’ve never been in this place before and it’s hard to know what to do next.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 (coronavirus) a pandemic on March 10, 2020 and it has rocked our world for over two years. As leaders in business, we’ve never been faced with this before. The continued and complex ramifications of this experience make it hard to know what to do next. But we know we need to stay abreast of the situation and remain agile. As a leader in your business, let’s do a check-in on how you are supporting yourself, family, business, employees, customers and community. Leaders should consciously revisit this self-assessment while managing through this complex situation.

Here are 5 questions for leaders navigating uncertain times:

#1) How Are You Doing?

Before and while you care for anyone else, you need to focus (and continuously) on yourself.  After many months of uncertainty and unrest (pandemic, social unrest, political landscape and educational challenges), where are you in the stages of change? Take stock for yourself and see what you can shift and/or create. Remember, people can feel your stress and when that exists it only creates more stress for others. Your role as a leader is more critical today than it has ever been before.

Check in with yourself. What have you learned over the past seven months? What resources have you tapped into that have helped you? What is the vision for the future of your business? Where are you feeling stress, anxiety, fear and other emotions? Where are you noticing resistance? Resilience? Pay attention to how you are feeling and breathe.  Studies show that deep cleansing breaths slow down our hearts, clear our minds and help us to center on what is important. As a leader, you’ll need to be fully grounded so that you can continue to support others.

#2) How Are Your Employees Doing?

Employees are equally concerned about what is going on across the world. They are likely looking to you for reassurance, guidance and direction. The  best thing you can do now with your employees is to understand what’s going on for them as a group and individually:

  • What are their concerns?
  • What are their fears?
  • Where do they need support?
  • What do they see possible in this situation?
  • Where can they help?

The best thing when dealing with uncertainty is to listen to what’s going on for others first. From that information, providing them with guidance and direction will help to calm the overall anxiety and uncertainty that people are experiencing.

Don’t minimize what employees are going through. Remember, your reaction to this situation will not only impact employees today; your decisions may impact the future retention your key employees.

#3) What Resources are Available to Help?

As you have a better understanding of what your employee’s needs are, you’ll want to ensure that you have proper resources to help. As a leader, it’s important to remain factual, credible, calm and optimistic during these times. What resources are available to help guide you through this uncertainty? What should be shared with your employees?

Continue to check in with your insurance providers to see what is available related to important services and resources they have available for you and your employees. These include employee counseling through EAP programs, testing processes and other guidance. Most insurance carriers and brokers have been extremely proactive in having material ready. Check with them to see what that have that should be communicated. Other resources for you to use include:

#4) What’s Needed for the Business?

You more than anyone know that amidst all of this chaos, there’s still a business to run. Running your business during these uncertain times means first of all, protecting your employees which was covered earlier in this article.

Secondly, make sure that you have the right cross-functional team in place available to make sound decisions regarding the shifts needed in the business. In this area, create several different scenarios using different perspectives and “what if” questions. There’s a lot we don’t know and can’t predict; however, staying focused may help guide you through this ‘storm’.

Finally, stay close to your customers:

  • What do they need?
  • What can you provide?
  • What’s missing?
  • What’s next? 

Knowing that we’re all impacted should encourage curiosity and compassion.

#5) Where Are the Community Needs?

During a time of ‘protecting’ ourselves, certain areas of the grocery store aisles continue to be bare. It’s like people are stocking up for the next wave of isolation. This may also present an opportunity to step back and access what’s happening in our communities. As an example, children who are accustomed to receiving meals at schools won’t have access to food during school closures. How can we use this opportunity to ‘hit the reset button’ and help others who can’t help themselves? The notion of corporate social responsibility is more important now than ever.

These are uncertain times for sure. What is needed across the world are leaders that are calm and resilient. Resilient people are aware of situations, their own emotional reactions and the behavior of those around them. By remaining aware, resilient people can maintain control of situations and think of new ways to navigate through uncertainty.

If you need help navigating uncertain times, Fahrenheit Advisors’ experienced coaches would like to engage with you for an initial and free

About the Author

Joan Hibdon, Owner of jdh Insights, LLC, is a consultant for Fahrenheit Advisors in Phoenix, AZ.  Joan builds and maintains strong relationships with clients by connecting with all of the relevant human aspects of business. Joan has over 25 years of experience leading all aspects of human resources in a variety of global organizations. Her expertise includes coaching, consulting, and providing learning and development services focused on cultivating leadership and creating extraordinary employee experiences in public, private and nonprofit organizations. She is also adept at converting strategy into practical applications and guiding companies through change management initiatives to achieve organizational success. Questions for Joan?  Email her at