Five ways to thrive during uncertainty

Situations involving uncertainty, ambiguity and complexity go hand in hand with your EA role. Here, Michelle Gibbings shares her top tips on how to not just manage these but how to influence outcomes, too.

Every day, media outlets share new predictions and studies on the future of work. And while only some of the stories will become reality, many create uncertainty.  Meanwhile, you’ll be experiencing the rapid evolution of your EA role as the nature of the work and demands from bosses increase (check out this issue’s flagship feature for more on this).

You’re often at the epicentre of action when a workplace is in crisis. You’re problem-solving, managing stakeholders, balancing competing demands and constantly putting the needs of others ahead of your own. Being equipped to navigate these situations is crucial if you want to influence outcomes and secure results while maintaining your mental health and wellbeing.

Here’s how to go about it…

  • Manage your energy

During times of uncertainty and crisis, pressure increases.This can become unhealthy when you feel like you have no control, are making little progress and your workload feels overwhelming. It’s important to notice when these feelings arise and then take a moment to pause and reflect.

Taking time out helps ensure your actions are more mindful and less reactive. During your reflection, consider what you can and can’t control. It’s easy to spend loads of time focusing on the things you can’t change, rather than directing your energy towards those you can influence.

  • Don’t hold on too tight

People who know their purpose can more easily overcome obstacles to forge their way forward. They have the confidence to take a risk and make decisions. In the context of your career, your purpose is your ‘why’. When you’re clear on why you do what you do, you’re better placed to know what to say: “Yes” or “No” to.

Being clear on your purpose doesn’t mean you fixate on one approach or one outcome. In times of change and uncertainty, fixating in this way may mean you unintentionally let other good opportunities pass you by. When you are flexible and adaptable, you swiftly adjust expectations and alter course whilst staying aligned with your purpose. 

  • Be deliberate

Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, in their book Execution: The discipline of getting things done, write about how we don’t think ourselves into a new way of acting – we act ourselves into a new way of thinking.

So, to be change-ready, be willing to do things differently and be open to embracing self-mobilisation. With this approach, you seek to change first, rather than waiting for other people to tell you to change.

Think of it as being the early adopter for a new product. Volunteer for opportunities to get involved in fresh ways of working or new projects; offer to test new products. You’ll always be at the forefront of change.

  • Cultivate your bounce-back mentality

There are always times when things don’t go to plan – a project behind schedule, a missed appointment or a calculation error. To bounce-back from a setback, embrace a mindset where you grow through the challenge. By doing this, you’ll focus on the learning rather than the disappointment.

  • Maintain perspective

Qhile work is important, so are other aspects of your life. As the actor Amy Poehler puts it: “Your career won’t take care of you. It won’t call you back or introduce you to its parents. Your career will openly flirt with other people while you are around. It will forget your birthday and wreck your car.”

Find time to maintain strong connections with friends and family, exercise and eat well, meditate and laugh – all essential ingredients for releasing work’s pressure valve.