Ep #85: What to Say in Times of Great Uncertainty

by | Podcast

We are in a state of unprecedented (in our lifetime) uncertainty. 

But here’s the little secret that is finally out of the bag… WE NEVER HAD CERTAINTY! 

It might have seemed like we had it. Some of us, more than others, had a gorgeous illusion going on of thinking we knew what was happening next, what would work and what wouldn’t. 

Others of us (and I’m in this camp) have been swirling around in uncertainty so much that we stopped looking for it. It’s possible that, for the first time ever, those of us who are a bit more acquainted with blatant uncertainty are feeling less lost.

Either way, in today’s episode I want to talk about what to say as a leader in times of uncertainty. Because regardless of how familiar it feels to you, none of us is an expert at the whole entire world being aware of the uncertainty from day to day, minute to minute.

As leaders, this is our time to rise up and serve in an even bigger way.  I hope you’ll dive in with me into today’s Brilliance at Work podcast episode.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why I believe this time of uncertainty belongs to and is happening for us
  • My personal experiences of dealing with uncertainty
  • What this collective pause is showing us
  • Why leaders are in a perfect psoition to help those you serve see the best in this situation
  • How to serve as a leader during periods of uncertainity by tapping into your own confidence, clarity and conviction

Listen to the Full Episode: 

Full Episode Transcript:

Welcome to the Brilliance At Work Podcast where we shine a light on where great work, charisma and leadership that makes a positive difference really comes from, I'm Michelle Barry Franco, I'm an executive coach speaking coach and your honored host and I'm delighted that you're here. Oh, hello my brilliant. Yeah.

What in the actual whole entire world is going on right now, right? It is just crazy town bananas everywhere. If you're like so many people in my world, myself included for a minute there especially, you might feel like you have no idea what to say or do in these absolutely unprecedented times. You, my friend are so not alone, but you actually know that right now, don't you? In fact, I'd venture that in some ways, so many of us feel less alone than we have in a really long time. Even while we're holed up in our homes in isolation or social distancing or however you're thinking about the ways we're trying to stay away from each other physically because this is happening to all of us, every single one of us, whether we're admitting it to ourselves or not, whether we're admitting how big it is or how pervasive it is or the possible incredible impact it can have on our world and on numbers of people.

I mean you see the people in denial who are partying on spring break or whatever, but even they can't get toilet paper or peanut butter. Seriously, I'm still searching for peanut butter. It's a staple at our house in the best of times. I mean that's always a staple in our house and I'm searching everywhere online just to get peanut butter. Things are so weird right now. Anyway, I really want to bring this home for you. For us, for all of us, this time of uncertainty, it belongs to and is happening for all of us everywhere in the world and that really is an unprecedented thing. Or at least it's unprecedented that we are seeing it, seeing how it impacts all of us all over the world at the same time. But here's the little secret that I feel like is finally coming out of the bag.

That uncertainty that we're seeing, actually the truth is we never had certainty. It might've seemed like we had it. I mean some of us more than others had a gorgeous illusion going on of thinking that we knew what was going to happen next. I mean even possibly the path that we've taken has indicated that they can expect more of the same going forward. So there was the expectation that we knew what would work and what wouldn't. Then there's others of us, and I'm in this camp, I got to say, who've been swirling around and uncertainty so much that we kind of stopped looking for it. It's possible for the first time ever that those of us who are a bit more acquainted with like blatant uncertainty with feeling like it was really in our face more often than we wanted for sure that we're even feeling and I just feel like it's so, I'm nervous to say it, but it's possible that we're feeling a little bit less lost and alone.

I'm not sure I have little glimmers of that I've taken some breaks recently in my work. There have been things going on just personally for me that have made it really clear to me that we don't have certainty. I certainly didn't have certainty and so seeing the whole world have that same view. There's a little bit of like feeling less alone. It's weird, but either way I want to talk about what to say as a leader in times of known uncertainty because you can be feeling anywhere on that gamut of I thought everything was figured out and now it's all falling apart too yet and know what I was doing anyway. When we know that we're called to lead and that we are supposed to and want to say things that help create a path forward, it's hard to know what to say during these uncertain times, these known uncertain times because regardless of how unfamiliar or familiar it feels to you, none of us is an expert at the whole entire world.

Being aware of the uncertainty from day to day. I mean minute to minute it's changing so your people, your team, they're probably looking to you for what to do next, how to handle this really to help them feel better and because you are called to serve as a leader and your heart is full of care, of course you wouldn't be here if that wasn't the case. You want to know what to say to them, how to say something to them when even you are probably feeling so much uncertainty when this whole thing, this whole Coronavirus crisis started to get very real. You could see in the news that it was starting to grow here and grow all over the world like so many others. I needed a minute, like some of us, I think many of us we need to survey what's going on, figure out like what's hype or is this like a big media exaggeration?

You know what's maybe more real, whatever that means. It's hard because if your experience has been like mine, you're having conversations also with friends and family and colleagues and people have different takes on it. I mean, I've talked to people who I know and love who are like, what is this, so why is everybody freaking out? I have other people who are like, Oh my gosh, we have got to sterilize their bedsheets every morning. Nobody's actually said that, but you get what I'm saying. Right. After a bit, we do start to see these little glimmers of truth. They just start to kind of show up in all of the overwhelm of information and ideas and thinking like the fact that we never had certainty anyway. Like that's one of those glimmers like, Oh, wait a minute. Actually, we never really had certainty.

We might've had some kind of illusion that we did, but we never did. Actually the whole human experience. That's the way it is. Really that part isn't as different as it looks and that's a glimmer and then second, another glimmer. We have this moment of pause that's happening collectively and it does feel like an absolute gift from the divine. Like we needed this so bad, but we didn't know it. Now, just to be clear, people getting sick, hospitalized and dying is not good and not a gift, and I'm not looking for the glimmer in that part. I'm not even looking there for that. This collective pause that many of us are taking is showing us something that we've needed to see for a long time. The wildly scheduled over everything way that we've been doing things is making us miserable. We didn't even know how miserable we were.

You've probably seen the reports on the measurable impact that this dramatic decrease in travel and running factories and all of the activity has had on air pollution everywhere, really notably in China, climate change and the care of our planet. This has felt like an impossible challenge and within a matter of days, we're seeing these dramatic impacts, these dramatic declines in the negative impact we have on our beautiful earth. This is something that we couldn't have even orchestrated. We couldn't figure out how to orchestrate it. We are capable of so much more than we realize in so many ways as individual humans and as a collective, we're seeing this by our ability to stop everything we're doing and stay home by our ability to distance from friends and activities that felt so critical. Now, of course, we're finding new ways to create connection. Connection is so, so important for us as humans or just learning how to do it differently in a way that we've never been able to do before.

As a leader, you are in a perfect position to help those that you serve. Really see the best in this situation. Not like as a Pollyanna, that's just annoying, right? I know that's not what you want to do. That's not what I want to do, but as a bright light to help them move forward. That's our job as leaders, as thought leaders, as leaders of our teams, as leaders in our families and all the places that people look to us to know what to do, how to think, at least to get glimmers and ideas right for how they can take this new situation and then move forward, move through it. This requires that you tap into your own confidence, your own clarity, your own conviction, and that's what we're focusing on here. You've seen me talk about my knowing stone illustration at some point somewhere and if you have, I'll put it in the show notes so you can see it in more detail, but I'm going to talk you through it right now because it's so relevant.

If we were together, I would draw this for you, but since we're not, I just want you to imagine with me, because I want you to picture, this is how I draw it on a sheet of paper, and again, you can see a copy of this in the show notes, but what you do is imagine an eight and a half by 11 sheet of paper and in the bottom left corner there's just sort of like marked off by kind of a squiggly line, the whole corner. There's all this craggy terrain. It's rocks and it's difficult and this is the difficult dark, stormy time of life. Then in the upper right corner, you just do another squiggly line, a third in or something. You're blocking off a corner of this sheet of paper and there you're going to draw flowers and sunshine.

This is the Nirvana and then of course you have this big chasm in between the two. This is like a fast, flowing river, and you must figure out how to get from this crackly difficult circumstance that you're into the Nirvana. You're looking for peace, wellness, prosperity, really the essentials that we all want, and you can bring this down into your own specific expertise. That's how I normally talk about it. Most of us have either been through a really difficult circumstance and we've come out the other side and that's why we're out there sharing this expertise. Even inside of our organizations, as leaders of our team, we've been through creation of amazing projects, projects that have failed, projects that have succeeded, and our ability to share stories of how we came out. The other side of difficult times is really essential.

First, we need to be able to see that for ourselves. When I'm sharing the knowing stone exercise, it's usually in this kind of a context, but it applies so much right now as well. We've got this chasm in the middle, we've got a fast flowing river. How do we get from the very difficult times to the happy well and good and sunshiny times that we are seeking. We've got to figure out how to cross this river. Well, good news. There are stones that are sticking up out of the water that create a path. It's not easy, but the creative path across this river, and so your job of course, if you want to get there, is to step onto each of these stones, find your footing, get stable enough to step onto the next one, and you do this across each of the stones until you get to this Nirvana.

Now obviously this is an illustration. Life doesn't work like this. There will always be some new crackly ground, a new river and a new Nirvana, whatever Nirvana means, but this is kind of what our human drive looks like. Right now you have basically you've been on one of those stones, you've been on a stone and you've been getting your footing and you have a great deal of confidence. There is a stone upon which you have found your footing so much that you were stable, stable enough to actually take one foot off and put it on the next stone. We've all been basically forced to step onto the next stone. This stone is how do we deal with whatever our world is? Whatever our expertise is, whatever our business or our work is in this current unprecedented time, none of us have our footing here.

You know how when you're standing on one of those stones and a river and you're like, you could fall off in any minute, right? You're trying to figure out where to put your feet so that you have the greatest stability. That's where we all are, and if we try to speak with confidence, if we try to lead with confidence from that stone, a couple things happen. We do not express ourselves with the greatest, with great confidence. We don't because it's not real. We're not grounded in confidence. We're actually grounded in learning and growth and figuring things out. We're exploring what will work. Now, that doesn't mean you can't lead from that stone. It means no when you're leading from that stone, right? Hey y'all, we're figuring this out together, but we're in this together. There's a lot of, here's what I'm seeing right now. Here are some of the things I'm trying.

What I want you to remember is that you have a stone behind you and that is the stone where you have a great deal of confidence and clarity and an ability to lead with a kind of grounding that will help, uh, bring more ease. For those who are looking to you to lead sometimes, often, the stone that we're on is juiciest. So we tend to want it, and I see this with clients all the time. We want to speak from that stone. We want to talk about what we're learning and it's so exciting and it's new and, but we feel like we need to talk about it with a confidence that we don't yet have. We try to manufacture the confidence, but here's the thing about humans. There's so much that we communicate that is unspoken. It's like this energetic field that communicates whether we like it or not.

Some people will say it happens non-verbally and I think you can read some of that. I also believe deeply that some of it is just energetic. It's in the little even micro-expressions, which is a fascinating field to study. If we just try to speak from that stone, but we try to speak with the confidence that we're used to from our previous grounding, it will not come off. It will not come off as confident and will really, we could lose a little credibility thereof to ourselves as well as to others. Again, you still want to recognize current circumstances. Whoa, here's what we're dealing with right now, but don't forget that grounded stone, go back there. Remind your people that there are things that we know for sure. The thing to focus on in deciding what to say during these times of great uncertainty is what you see, what you see in that confident, deep way with grounded confidence.

It's usually from that previous stone or the one before that. This is your grounding. Go back to that grounding. Bring them there with you. This might mean taking them back to shared values that you've previously established, reminding them that this is the exact kind of circumstance for which you or they did that deep work long ago, right? If everything was plugging along, fine. You haven't had to revisit your values. You haven't had to go back to what is our mission again, but now's the time, right? You did that work. It's grounded work. That core essential set of values and mission. It's a guiding light for them, for you, and if relevant for all kinds of shared decisions going forward in these uncertain times that is grounded for you. This could also mean just depending on your scenario, this could mean going back to the basics of your own expertise if you're in physical health and wellness, that's your area of expertise.

That's how you serve in the world. This might mean going back to the basics, let's just say of plant based eating or whole food, eating and moving your body every day and then helping people see that they have that simple essential, grounded place to go. Yeah. Even in the midst of much uncertainty, whatever your expertise and your value is, these are your guideposts right now. They are your knowing stone. That's the stone from which you can speak with grounded confidence. Of course you can and will speak from the new stone. You're on that wavering, Oh, I hope I don't fall in place, but know that it will feel different and that's okay. It's still a powerful way of creating connection. It's just going to have a different energy and it will bring up different feelings in your audience or your team.

When you know that this is what you're doing, that you're exploring the new domain together, you're offering up insights and ideas in the moment, then you can name it that, and no one starts looking for a kind of grounded confidence that on this sort of wobbly stone, in this new circumstance that simply doesn't exist. That's not real. Here's what I know for sure, and I feel like this is being highlighted so much in our world right now. Our external circumstances are never, ever the source of our wellbeing. They never have been. It feels like they are like the job, the thriving business, the health money. I mean, they feel real. They feel real to me too, but what we're seeing right now, I said all of this can flux in ways that we would have never imagined and here we are still kicking along.

I mean it might not be pretty, but we really can look for the glimmers. I bet you chuckled or giggled or something. Even once yesterday or maybe this morning or maybe you saw the sunrise and it just one second or a minute or maybe a few minutes. It blew your heart open even just for a passing second or maybe you watched your baby sleep or your teenagers sleep in when they would've had to go to school or you listen to your dog snoring peacefully knew your desk like I am right now, and your heart just kind of warmed over. It just filled up. Those are glimmers. These are moments to see and to invite an expansion of that feeling from those kind of glimmers. You really can help your team and your people, your family see the path forward possibly even with a new glimmer of their own that they've never experienced before too. Here's the thing, my brilliant leader friends, you don't get that call to serve unless it's meant for you. That is the divine message. That's your sign. You were made for this, yes, this to this absolutely two and it is an honor to be on the journey with you.

I'm about you so much, sending you so much love, and I already can't wait to be here with you next week. Take good care. Thank you so much for being here with me on the brilliance at work podcast. If you want to know how to tap your own most natural charisma as a leader and a speaker, you can download a free copy of Lead with Your Natural Charisma, Inspire and Motivate Your Team and Beyond with Ease at http://brillianceatwork.com/naturalcharisma.


Enjoy The Show?