Dealing with uncertainty … what to do when you can’t make it to the fortune teller.

Posted on April 9, 2012 by


As leaders, managers and everyday people we are surrounded by uncertainty and ambiguity on daily basis.  Being able to cope and thrive in situations where there is no certain outcome or incomplete/unknown information will help you excel in your life.

So how can you deal with uncertainty and manage the anxiety that goes along with it?

Here are a few ideas that I have observed through out my professional life and MBA experience.

Acknowledge That There is Uncertainty

Take a moment to reflect internally on how you are feeling about the situation – are you anxious? What is driving your emotions? Are your emotions linked to the current situation or historical baggage?  Having an objective view on how you are feeling about the situation will help you keep a good grip on your emotions and remain level-headed in decision-making.

Research and Knowledge 

Knowledge is power and a great way to mitigate anxiety. By adequately preparing and researching the key factors of the situation you will arm yourself with information that will help you navigate the waters of uncertainty. You may even find you have more options available to you than first thought. Thorough research and preparation can also help prevent you being ‘surprised’ later on in the process.

Plan to Succeed! 

When dealing with uncertainty contingency planning and scenario analysis become extremely important parts of your preparation process. Developing a solid understand of the situation and the options available to you can increase your comfort level that ‘everything will be ok’ no matter what. When developing scenarios and contingency plans I have found it useful to brainstorm with others to ensure a more complete analysis. Also appointing a devil’s advocate is also helpful in making sure you have adequately thought through the implications and scenarios at hand.

Strong Team – The right people in the right roles

Surrounding yourself with right people who are in the right role (for the situation) will increase the probability of your success with dealing with uncertainty. Identifying individual’s strengths and aligning them to the desired outcome and challenges combined with effective coaching can help get the most of your team in such situations.

Focus on Execution

The best laid plans are useless unless you can effectively execute on them – a fact I feel people quite often overlook.  Make sure you take the time to train and/or coach your team on how to execute your plan.

Keeping your finger on the pulse

Building in flexibility and incremental execution into your strategy will ensure that you are able to change direction as soon as more information or clarity in received. While contingency and scenario planning help with flexibility you also need to develop an effective reporting  (or early warning) system that helps you  monitor your progress and make adjustments accordingly.

While uncertainty in business and life can be difficult to deal with having a solid approach to dealing with it will position you well to capitalize on any opportunities that emerge out such situations.

Happy Monday!