Why Leaders Need To Reduce Uncertainty

Given where we are with all that is going on in the world, I thought I would update and reshare this article I wrote on uncertainty a couple of years ago as it seems very pertinent.

Nothing kills productivity faster than uncertainty!

This uncertainty can be over the future of the company, who will be the new boss, what direction will we take, or what will my new position be.

Whenever we have uncertainty it seems everyone’s focus is on trying to find clarity, direction, and certainty.

The uncertainty becomes the main topic of conversation which then leads to rumors, counter rumors all of which increase the level of uncertainty, and it becomes a self-fueling cycle that can become very destructive.

Usually, people’s fears are worse than the probable reality, but it is these fears which form the basis of rumors, which destabilize the situation further.

With these unanswered questions and rumors nagging away at us, our focus on the tasks in hand just disappears.

As leaders, our job is to provide certainty or to highlight what certainty there is that will allow us to focus. Imagine a football team with a manager who has resigned and everyone is wondering who the new manager will be, what tactics will we play, which players will he bring in.

That is a lot of uncertainty, but as a pro footballer, we could just continue to focus on training hard, developing our skills and working on tactics, all of which will improve our overall play.

These actions will be beneficial whoever comes in as manager, so we should focus on that rather than worrying about things that are out of our control.

We have three circles of importance to us.

  • Circle of Concern: which are things that important to us but over which we have no control or influence.
  • Circle of Influence: which are those things which important to us which, over which we have some influence but no control
  • Circle of Control: which are those things which are important to us, and over which we have control.

When we are dealing with a lot of negative uncertainty it’s usually in the circle of concern, and its here where we have no control and it’s this lack of control which causes anxiety, frustration and lack of productivity.

We need to focus back onto those things that we can influence and those that we can control, and it’s here that we can find some certainty.

It might not be the certainty we would like, but it will give us something to focus on and maintain some level of productivity.

As mentioned in the football example, we can just focus on our core tasks and look to keep doing our best, everything else it outside of our control.

As leaders we need to focus people on what we can influence and what they can control. Control will reduce the anxiety, reduce the stress and get reduce the impact of the uncertainty. We can’t remove the uncertainty but we can reduce it’s impact.

This is what people are looking for from their leaders.