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  • Jill Helmer

The Four P's of Leading in Uncertain Times

Updated: Jun 27, 2020

I am continuing to go "old school" with tips on managing change as we establish our new normal. Last week, I emphasized the importance of taking care of yourself and your people, while over-communicating. We are now in week 2 of remote working without a fixed end date. You may be tempted to think...I have nothing new to say. But you do...


In times of change, people look for a Purpose, a Picture, a Plan, and a Part to Play (first taught to me by William Bridges in his work on "Managing Transitions"). Purpose: you have that...it is the why of COVID-19 and the need to social distance that has us working differently. Picture: this is more challenging. As a leader, this is where you want to illustrate for people how what they are doing today will have them prepared and able to hit the ground running when things return to some form of normal. For example, an incredible, award winning restaurant in our community opened up its take out service last week. The picture for them is delivering their award winning cuisine to customers in this time period so that they can fill their tables when the current ban is lifted. By drawing the picture of what this looks like when current restrictions are lifted, you get people to buy into why they are doing what they are doing today. Plan: this is incredibly challenging but necessary. You need to let people know what the short term plan is...in some industries, this plan will be for the day; in others, it will be for a week; and for many, it will be until we hear more from our state and national government. An important note here is that some of your employees will respond well to the picture...visualizing the finish line will be an important motivator. Many other employees will respond less to the picture and more to the plan. They will want you to tell them what to do on Monday. A good leader will communicate to both types to keep them engaged and motivated during this time period. Lastly, what all employees want right now is a Part to Play. They want to know how the work that they do can and will contribute to business stabilization during this period of time. They want to know that you are counting on them to do it, and they want to feel like they are part of the team, regardless of where they are working and how they are contributing during this time period.


I know these are unchartered waters, and I wish you the best as you navigate them. Please remember to take care of yourself, check in on your people, and keep communicating. The tips above will help you do the best you can in these challenging times. Be well.


Many thanks to William Bridges for his work many years ago that can guide us today.






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