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Leading in Uncertain Times

Updated: Oct 12, 2020

Government employees always face a climate of anxiety and uncertainty surrounding election cycles, and changes in administration. Prior to an election and during the transition, teams may not know how to proceed with projects that are currently underway. Here are a few moves that can support a general sense of stability and order, even when the future is uncertain.

Remain calm.

Leaders set the tone and establish standards for behavior and mood. Stay cool and composed, and don’t visibly worry about the future of your job, projects, or department. Your steady demeanor will set an example and help your teams maintain their perspective.

Reassure your teams—both collectively and individually—of their value.

Make sure they know that their overall efforts and their individual contributions have been and remain meaningful. Be honest about future events and decisions that fall outside of your control. Remind your staff that leadership changes are a fact of life. and have happened before and will happen again. Point out opportunities that may become available under the new leadership.

Document your accomplishments under the previous leadership to demonstrate how you and your team have improved operations and moved the organization forward.

Careful documentation can protect current projects and areas of investment that may otherwise be swept away with the currents of the arriving leadership. If you’re asked to present an overview of your team and projects, focus on your most important accomplishments and emphasize areas in which you see promising developments and efforts that you’d like to see continued. Prepare your overview in advance so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute and likely to forget important details.

Unless specifically directed, keep working on existing projects.

Capitalize as much as possible on current momentum and the valuable work that your team has already accomplished. If you need a decision from leadership during the transition, consider developing a presentation that explains the background and overview of your project, why you need a decision, and the pros and cons of all available options. Offer clear recommendations and make it easy for the new leadership to support your project and keep providing the resources you need.

Develop a three-to-five-year plan.

Use your plan to provide input during the initial strategy meetings the new leadership will hold once they are onboard.

Be patient.

Help the new leadership assemble a list of priorities and plans that respect your existing teams and their current projects. Give the new leadership time to understand the environment and time to recognize the value of your plans, presentations, and recommendations. At the same time, listen carefully and try hard to understand what their priorities may be and how they envision the future of the department and its goals. If you maintain an open mind, an engaged and optimistic team, and a clearly communicated set of interests, you’ll find it easier to align those interests with the interests of the new leadership, and you’ll find a place for yourself and your team within the new operational structure.

Does your team hold the core competencies necessary to execute change? More than 50% of new projects fail to meet expectations, but strong leadership skills can carry your team over the gap and put your organization on the path to growth. Learn how to build these competencies through our signature leadership development workshop, Leading Change through Projects. Click here for more information and a course overview.

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