How to create stability in uncertain situations

The emerging hybrid work environment creates new challenges for leaders, including:

  • How to keep everyone focused  
  • When and how to communicate with a team working in different locations
  • How to manage conflict when the team are out of sight and out of mind

Leaders can view the hybrid workplace as a challenge to overcome or an opportunity. The most innovative leaders can use this time of instability and uncertainty to define leadership of the future.

Here are some ways leaders can create stability in an uncertain and ever changing work environment.

1. Clarity

Hybrid leaders use clarity as their key tool for getting results. Clarity can be as simple as guiding a team member to the next right step, sharing a big vision for the future, or accurately describing a desired outcome.

The number one rule I share with my clients is this: In all times of uncertainty there’s always a lack of clarity. Where there’s confusion, the first question you should ask is not “Who’s at fault?” but “Where is there a lack of clarity?”

Here’s a checklist of areas that contribute to a lack of clarity:

  • Constantly changing priorities
  • Ineffective digital communications
  • Rules that are outdated  
  • Unclear accountability
  • Misunderstanding about how decisions are made
  • Unclear job descriptions

Increased clarity leads to focus and focus leads to results. The skill comes in knowing what contributes to a lack of clarity and knowing what kind of clarity is needed in the present moment.

2. Communication

It’s no longer possible to rely totally on unplanned conversations, water cooler meetings, or planned meetings in a physical room. Today’s hybrid leader must acquire good writing and speaking skills across various platforms.

Hybrid leaders excel at using digital communications such as email and text, and they adapt to various meeting platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

Here are some quick tips to become a better communicator in a hybrid work environment:

  • Text is okay for short updates  
  • Keep emails simple and short with the action item as the end
  • Format emails for easy reading
  • Difficult conversations require   in-person meetings
  •  For complex issues use phone not email

It’s through communication that we get results. If there’s too much confusion, excessive unresolved conflict, and lack of follow-through, it could be due to ineffective communication, lack of skills for using various platforms, or using the wrong tools for what the situation requires. Always remember “true communication is the response you get”.

3. Manage conflict

Today’s workplace requires leaders to have the capacity to manage conflict among remote workers, virtual teammates, suppliers, partners, and contractors.

These complexities can add additional stress, stretching a leader’s conflict capacity. A key skill for expanding conflict capacity is learning how to self-regulate before engaging in difficult conversations. When we’re angry, we lose the ability to think critically, and we react emotionally by sending a short email, raising voices, or avoiding altogether.

Here are some skills to practice self-regulation before handling difficult situations.

  • Feel the emotion, but don’t act until you have calmed down.
  • Instead of sending the email, send a calendar invite for a meeting.
  • Plan your conversation, and clarify your intended result.
  • Clarify the situation by stating what’s happening that should not be happening.

Hybrid, remote, and virtual environments increase the likelihood of conflict. However, conflict is not the problem, mismanagement is. When leaders mismanage conflict, the environment becomes unstable.

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