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5 ways that leaders can transform uncertainty into opportunity

Many of the leaders I’ve been coaching have talked about feeling an extra layer of anxiety in themselves and in their teams due to such turbulent times both externally and internally within their organisation. In order to thrive in a constantly changing environment we need to shift in the way we lead. I recently had the privilege to watch Stephen M Covey speak about what is needed from leaders in today’s world and the following phrase stuck with me:

“in order to win in the marketplace, we first need to win in the workplace”

In uncertain times it’s even more important to focus on your people first. “To create a high trust culture that can attract, retain, engage and inspire the best people and bring out the best in people.”

Here are 5 ways that can help build trust, collaboration and high performance during uncertain times:

1. Be CLEAR in with any change. Whether it’s a restructure, or establishing a hybrid way of working, it’s important to communicate a CLEAR change vision to gain the buy in from your team. It’s all about clarity and simplicity. We’ve taken inspiration from Kotter’s work on change to create a framework for communicating change. You can also adapt this for a change you want to make individually such as a career change.

Clarify change goals, and specific outcomes. Dare to dream.

Listen to your team and listen to your underlying beliefs, aspirations and values.

Easy to understand by everyone and can be communicated in 1 minute.

Appeal to people’s hearts and minds (emotional pull & rational benefits)

Reinforce the WHY with simplicity and repetition.

2. “Treat others how THEY wish to be treated.” Dr Tony Alessandra, founder of assessments 24×7 calls this ‘the Platinum rule.’ We are certified practitioners in  DISC which is an ideal starting point for raising individual and team self-awareness.

We use their DISC assessments regularly with leaders and teams to help them identify and gain more understanding of individual and collective team behaviour preferences AND how to adapt them.  It can also lead to promoting a more positive culture, and effective collaboration within the team. One of the key skills of the great leaders I’ve worked with is their ability to adapt their behaviour style to get the best out of every individual in their team whilst remaining authentic and true to their values.

3. Dial up your change agility.  Our brains are designed to keep us safe, hence our natural resistance to change. If the ‘human behaviour’ side of change is not taken into account in any change iniative within an organisation, it is highly likely to fail. This helpful article from forbes offers further detail on the neuroscience and also sets out ways to optimize the brains response to change.

“There is no magic bullet to dealing with change. Ultimately, it requires alteration of neural pathways in our brains. New solutions cannot be created in old ways. Perhaps reframing uncertainty to curiosity can inspire us to act differently and eventually to come up against ourselves and our own old habits” Kasia Jamroz Forbes Councils Member

I’ve always found the change curve model (taken and adapted from Elizabeth Kluber-Ross’s 5 stages of grief) a really helpful framework for evaluating your own reactions to change and how to respond to the reactions of your team. It’s important for leaders to have an acute level of self-awareness of where they might be at that moment on the change curve (ie denial, anger, acceptance, exploration, growth or commitment) AND take a ‘listen first’ approach so that they can identify where their team members are and respond, and support appropriately.

4. Promote a learning culture. ‘Permission to get things wrong’ has to be a necessary part of your culture at work if you want to create high value creating teams.

The most effective teams are future focussed and take the time to evaluate their entire system, both internally and externally:  1. Stakeholder Expectations,  2. Team Tasks (including roles and responsibilities) 3. Team Dynamics 4. Stakeholder Relationships and 5. Team Learning. As accredited team coaches we are trained to use this Peter Hawkins 5 Disciplines Model as a framework with teams based on leading research on team performance. One of the critical success factors is allowing the time and space for reflection and learning as a team. Team learning needs to be built into BAU in order for teams to continue to grow, and develop mutual accountability.

“It isn’t by building individual resilience that you create group resilience, it is by building group resilience that you actually foster individual resilience” Eric McNulty.

5. Focus on small wins and what is in your control. The uncertainty has taken its toll on everyone’s mental health. In order to be open to opportunity in a period of uncertainty your mindset has to be in a healthy place. If progress feels slow and you are feeling increasingly anxious focus on small achievable goals and celebrate small wins. Keep a note of these each day.  There are many things that might feel out of your control, and in your ‘circle of concern.’ It’s particularly important to focus on what is in your circle of influence, and let go of what is not which is easy to say but difficult to do. We find Stephen R Covey’s tool a helpful exercise. Think of one or two actions for each of your points in your circle of influence and schedule them in your diary. “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities” There more tips on dealing with uncertainty from Life’s Work coach Donna Weston

If you are looking for futher support to gain clarity and opportunity through this period of uncertainty please do get in touch to find out how we might support you on Or book a call with on Calendly link on

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