20 Mar Leading During Uncertain Times

It’s human nature to seek stability. Times of uncertainty, doubt, and crisis can lead to leaders and line staff freezing up as they process a flood of information and try to decide on the correct course of action. Here are some things to fall back on when you or your colleagues are unsure of what to do: 

Calm is contagious: Your colleagues, patients, and staff unconsciously pick up on your actions and tone (not the content) of your words- most of us will have seen or heard that 80% of communication is nonverbal. As physicians, you’re trained experts at projecting a sense of calm when you’re caring for patients- take the same approach with your staff. 

Communicate with a goal: As data-driven individuals, it’s instinctive to seek out all the known facts before making a decision and communicating all of it with those around you. Your staff and patients, like many laypeople, may be more emotionally-driven. Stop and consider the three most important things for them to know, and share those pieces. By being judicious in what and how information is shared, you can help guide how people react. 

Slow down: In the modern world, we’re facing a constant firehose flow of information, misinformation, rumor, and conjecture. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of reacting to inputs as quickly as they come. Resist the urge! Poor decision-making comes from being too hasty- thirty seconds of stopping to consider an issue or situation can be enough. Set a timer if you have to. 

Be as patient as you can: Anxiety and fear impact people’s memories and ability to focus and process information. Your staff may develop issues understanding and following instructions, even for tasks they’ve done a thousand times before. Do your best to understand and flex your communication to deal with that anxiety before starting over with walking them through what needs to be done. 

Work backwards: Decide what your overarching goals are, then come up with most of the action steps needed to reach that goal. You may be tempted to come up with a 100% step-by-step plan, but don’t forget to build in some flexibility. Situations evolve rapidly, and you and your team need to be able to pivot as needed. 

Embrace openness: Set aside some time for your staff to openly share their anxieties. Even if there are no easy answers, just by bringing people’s fears out into the open and showing that you care and support them will help to reduce employees’ anxiety levels.

Finally, fall back on your practice’s core values and guiding principles. Make sure everyone is in agreement on the behaviors associated with those values. They will be your GPS helping you navigate through the fog of uncertainty.

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