Make Uncertain Times – Work for You

Below you’ll find principles that keep me grounded during uncertain times. Please take a moment to share a principle that works for you.

In grade five I was asked by my favourite teacher if I’d be coming back to my school for grade six. This may seem an odd question, but quite normal when you live on a military base where families move at least every four years. It was a simple administrative question and one I was horrified to answer. The fact was, I did not know where I’d be living or going to school. As a compliant student, I felt compelled to reveal to the entire class that my parents had just separated, and our next move was uncertain. I felt exposed, vulnerable, and scared. Growing up with a lot of uncertainty has made me a student of how to spend each day moving forward. For thirty years following that grade five school year, my goal was to move toward a more certain future or what others call greater security.

The desire for certainty and security does not explain why I’ve chosen to spend my professional life as an entrepreneur. A topic to be explored in another article!

What I’ve discovered recently and feels especially true right now, is that we don’t move towards a more certain future. You’ve seen the list of Fortune 500 companies that change from decade to decade, we see industry sectors thriving one year and down and out the next, cities whose housing markets look unstoppable until they aren’t. Today’s headline news is, “Oil prices go negative with the collapse of worldwide demand for oil”; no one was imaging this in 2012 when oil was trading at $90 per barrel.  The future was never certain.

The greatest catalyst for uncertainty in my lifetime is upon us with COVID-19. I hear many colleagues and friends say with desperation, “If I knew the date COVID-19 would be over, I could manage.” Uncertainty is defined by not knowing for certain what tomorrow will bring and moving forward anyway. The great news is we’ve all moved through uncertainty before and we can do it again.

Here are some principles that help me work through uncertainty. I hope they resonate, remind you of what you know and serve you.

·       Respect of the past.

·       Look past the horizon, imagine, hope, be inspired.

·       Do what is needed today, so you are strong and capable of contributing in the future, regardless of what that future looks like.

·       Be compassionate and have empathy for all those on the journey, including yourself.

·       When and how you need help may not be evident today, but you will need help. Find your tribe, support system, network and contribute to it.

·       Take pride in and celebrate progress no matter how small.

·       Feel the fear, feel the sadness, remember feeling is ok and then move through it.

·       Take the time needed to truly understand what is most important to you, your values. Live them consistently, especially during times of greatest uncertainty.

·       Dedicate time to truly listen to your team members, direct reports and clients.

·       Feel prepared for many eventualities. Keep forecasts simple, updated and run multiple scenarios.

·       In uncertainty, no one knows for certain. That’s why they’re called uncertain times. You are equipped to make good choices based on known information. Move forward, no decision is a decision.

·       Continuously improve processes to get better. Focusing on the how is rewarding when the what and why feel out of reach.

·       If feeling overwhelmed by daily change and new information. Track trends but spend more time on daily management. Ask yourself, what can I do today.

Most of my friends are entrepreneurs running incredible businesses in a wide range of industries from Health Tech to fruit farming, from cruise destination services to financial services. My incredibly capable friends could (and should) add to this list. They’ve worked through the devastation of hurricanes tearing up orchards and Caribbean islands and have managed to grow through volatile markets hit by black swan events. What I’ve learned from watching these exceptional business leaders, reinforces my own belief. External conditions do not define our ability to be positive, progress and prosper. Our daily actions do.