Managing Employee Relationships: Balancing Uncertainty and OpportunityPosted on December 2, 2013

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

Every leader within every organization has to face uncertainty.  Healthcare, as an industry, is on a particularly bumpy “uncertainty rollercoaster”.  Leaders regularly have to make decisions on issues when the causes and the outcomes are not always known in advance.  Making decisions when the outcome is unpredictable is uncomfortable and anxiety-producing to the workforce and leadership.  Sometimes in an effort to find certainty and solutions to ease our discomfort, leaders will miss seeing the opportunities that uncertainty can reveal.  The tendency to hunker down and engage in “prevent defense” to protect what certainties we DO know still exist may lock blinders in place to the opportunity knocking around the corner.

Why is it important to do anyway?

Uncertainty is a normal part of business.  And great leaders are always looking for opportunities.  Trustworthy leaders that have confidence in their skills and who surround themselves with quality people are more likely to successfully balance the uncertainty of business situations with identifying opportunities for improvement or change.  The more engaged our workforces are the more they are depending on us as leaders to anticipate and acknowledge the environmental factors contributing to uncertainty.  Trustworthy leaders view their team as invested stakeholders and critical to uncovering the improvement opportunities that exist and the potential short- and long-term solutions.

How can you do it?

  1. Keep your workforce up-to-date on uncertainties impacting your organization.  It is hard to look at the faces of those you serve and share with them all you know and have there be as many (if not more) unknown factors affecting your organization than known.  Trustworthy leaders acknowledge what they don’t know and commit to keeping their workforce informed as new information becomes available.  And…you have to keep that commitment if you want people you serve to be engaged in the solutions.
  2. Consider all options and make choices consistent with your values.  It is very critical that leaders do the tough work up front on clarifying current reality and generating every possible solution option when faced with uncertainty.  Generate a list of pro’s and con’s for each option.  Engage those you serve in adding to and participating in this list.  Trustworthy leaders balance all of this feedback and review each option against the organization’s mission and values to make the best decision.
  3. Involve your workforce in implementing the solutions.  Involve key staff members in implementing the improvement solutions.  Ask them about necessary implementation steps, what ideas they have for successful change, and about possible barriers to getting the work done.  After implementation, involve staff members in evaluating the implementation and the changes – what went well, what did not go so well, what improvements can be made for the long-term solution.  Listen to their suggestions and implement those that make sense.

What are some additional strategies you can think of to balance uncertainty while looking for opportunities?

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