Managing Uncertainty in a Time of Chaos and Shifting Realities

Confusion Diagram Shows Direction Or OptionsManaging Uncertainty

Change is inevitable, and it arrives from many sources. Last week, those in the United Kingdom, the European countries, and most places across the world felt a wave of uncertainty as the Brexit measure passed in the UK. This left governments, businesses and individuals with many uncertainties about jobs, trade, regulations and many other areas. This one event is precipitating uncertainty across the globe.

Closer to home, uncertainty is a huge issue in technology-heavy places like Silicon Valley, where many have worked for a company that has been acquired, re-organized, or perhaps just ceased operations.

We all face what I call the dysfunction of transition, the chaotic time of moving from one reality to the next. Individuals make a choice of letting the future happen to them, or participating in the co-creation of the future. Those who worry about protecting the past will likely find themselves on the wrong side of history. Those who help co-create the future also help find their place in the future.

As leaders we can help our team when facing uncertainty. Here are 4 practices that I redouble in times of uncertainty and ask of the leaders and managers in my organization:

  1. Keep moving – Manage deadlines and priorities. Uncertainty does not mean that things stop. Leaders must manage to deadlines with great vigilance in times of uncertainty because even the best employees start second guessing what is important. In less stressful times, it might only be necessary to reach an agreement, and the staff will go off and do what they have committed to. In times of stress, people get distracted and miss deadlines and let other responsibilities, like maintaining good customer or partner relationships, suffer. Unless a company is closing its doors, those partners and customers are part of the new future, and it is important to remind people that the best future is one that arrives from a strong present.
  2. Increase communication among the management team. It is very important that the management team be on the same page and deliver consistent messages. In times of uncertainty, knowing the right thing to say can be difficult, and just making a statement from experience may not result in the best statement to share with a team or individual. The management team needs to discuss any questions that aren’t clear and come to a consensus about how to answer those questions consistently. Managers need to look to each other to keep their own issues with uncertainty in check, and to shore up their personal safe guards in order to avoid making the already difficult situation of change into something negative.Businesspeople sitting at the table during a meeting in office
  3. Create as many learning opportunities as you can. One of the drivers of fear in the face of uncertainty comes from being too routine, or too personally connected to a particular skill or discipline. Most businesses give people opportunities to stretch their experiences, learn new areas and challenge themselves. I find that those who do this are much less fearful of uncertainty because they know they can align with whatever happens. Instead of wasting time worrying about what might happen, take that worry time and focus it on learning.
  4. Listen, console and coach. Not everyone has been through major changes in their lives or careers—and some don’t deal with change well, even if they have been through this before. Managers need to recognize this and make maintaining a cohesive, engaged and productive organization their priority. That means listening to people, coaching them through transitions and reminding them of priorities. Sometimes it may mean consoling them because something they believe is important is going away, be it a technology or a process, or perhaps a colleague. Good managers are at their best when they help the people who rightly or wrongly perceive themselves as facing the most risk, work their way through the transition.

It is important that we see change as a learning opportunity.

It is important that we see change as a learning opportunity. I learn something new about myself, my organization, about the world, every time change occurs. It is important for me to pass along this love for learning to my management team and to the entire organization, as I believe that only by actively learning from change do we find a way to face it without fear.

My Wellness Routine

My Wellness Routine

I received some immediate responses to my wellness post. Most of the questions were about my wellness routine, so I drafted a brief overview of my daily process of preparing my body to support my mind.

Early morning

I leverage a Priming My Mind exercise I borrowed from Anthony Robbins.
 This exercise activates my mind, helps me embrace gratitude, and focuses me on my goals. This exercise proves very powerful for me every day.

Running woman in forest fitness trainingI also exercise regularly before starting my work day (or alternatively late in the evening) at least three times a week. I go for a short run. I just put on my running shoes whether at home, or in a hotel when traveling, and I run.
On Saturday mornings, I share my social ritual with my husband and our running group for longer runs up to 12 miles. These Saturday rituals are as much about exercise as they are about catching up and bonding, killing two birds with one stone.
 Once a week, on Fridays, when training for a triathlon, my husband and I go for a long bike ride in the mountains close to home. The ozone I breathe brings so much to my body—and again this is a great bonding time with my partner which is much needed in our busy lives.

Yoga

Days off are not really off.
 On days without a run or bike ride, I start with a fifteen-minute Yoga routine to awaken my body for the day and get my energy rolling.

What I eat

Of course, what you eat is also very important. 80% of what I eat comes from high water content foods, like fruits and vegetables. 50% of my food is raw, the source of most of my vitamins.

I know that not everybody has the time or the inclination to create a wellness routine like mine, but I encourage everybody I know to create a routine that works for them. Wellness drives my continuous learning as much as anything else in my life.

Wellness at Work: Take Time to Manage Wellness into Your Day

Wellness at Work: business man practice yoga at network server room

Wellness at Work

I have always been an active person, but until a few years ago, much of that activity was directed toward work.

When I moved to the US, the culture of working both on one’s mind and body enabled me to commit for my first half marathon. Now six half marathons and three Olympic triathlons later, exercising is part of my everyday life. Three days without exercise significantly impacts my mind and my body.

While I was preparing for the marathon, I realized that there is an inverse relationship between health and mind. Elite athletes talk about their mental preparation all of the time. In the most recent football season, quarterbacks in college and on professional teams used virtual reality systems to help them learn to read defenses. Golfers practice swings on courses around the world in simulations. These are all examples of mental preparation.

Rarely, though, do I hear executives get out and talk about physical preparation for work. For those of us who spend most of our day with a computer, it is the organ in our skull that we think is most valuable. But that organ, our brain, requires blood and oxygen—and it requires it efficiently.

Wellness at Work: Decisions and Empathy

I talked to a few of my CEO peers about exercise and work, and while our roles might differ, we all spend a lot of our time on two key areas that are highly impacted by wellness: decision making and empathy.

First, a large part of our day is spent making decisions on matters which cannot be resolved before we arrive at our desk. For most of the issues we deal with, there are no black or white answers. It is really making a decision as the Latin origin of this word means – de caedere, a cut off, or the death of one option over another.  Decisions are never perfect.

Second, we spend a lot of time working with our teams—managing challenges, dealing with emotion situations and helping people and our ecosystem to thrive. It often requires a lot of empathy, compassion and patience which we never have enough of in our very active business life.

Wellness at Work: Closeup of metal dumbbell holded by young woman athleteIn both of these instances, I heard too many times that my fellow CEOs all had bad memories of actions and behaviors influenced because they were on the edge—too stressed, not enough sleep, mentally exhausted.

We live in an era where there are plenty of studies that establish a clear linkage between mind and body. The ability to manage both our mind and body to operate at peak performance is our responsibility as leaders.

Let’s be honest, I’m not an elite athlete, but I am proud of what I’ve accomplished in terms of operating at my optimal self – this is what matters, not the volume of muscles or how fast I finish a race. In fact, we have to be cautious for as much as exercise is good for the mind, some people can become obsessed with it to the point that they suffer from conditions like “excessive exercise” and “overtraining syndrome”.

Wellness at Work: Finding Time

When I decided to add more regular exercise to my day, the biggest challenge for me was finding the time. My preparation exercises taught me that I have to make real time for staying healthy. I can’t just work it into my routine and do a couple of crunches in the lunch room, or knee bends waiting for a conference call to start. I think in a way my body knows when I’m paying attention to it. It is part of the design of my life. This body & mind preparation became an official block on my business calendar.

I have to make time for my body—for my heart and lungs and muscles—as much as I make time for strategy, evaluating the competition and nurturing the career goals of my staff. Balance is an important idea in design. We must find a balance that lets us be whole people, not just brains with bodies or bodies with brains. We have to design our own personal mind-body experience.

This isn’t new wisdom, just a new realization.

As the Buddha said:

To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.