Land the Plane

Leaders manage uncertainty. They don’t always make it go away.

Tension is our friend (see below), but the unknown also creates stress. How do we know when it’s time to land the plane?

While very little in life is very certain, our routines and systems make life feel more predictable. Change disrupts that predictability, unsettling that which helped us feel safe.

Some of that disruption is our fault.

Leaders create urgency by creating or naming uncertainty. You may name it by identifying new trends, data, or conditions. You may create it with new vision, relationships, or expectations.

Uncertainty creates conditions where people are more open to change. At least, for a while.

When we see things in a new light, we’re more open to try things in a new way. When we recognize what we’re doing isn’t working, we are more likely to try a different approach.

If we’re too quick to resolve a tension we miss the opportunity for people to feel the need for a new direction.

Tension can draw attention in a new direction. Use it.

Tension is like the lift that pushes an airplane into the air. Once airborne, the plane can rise and turn more quickly.

Unresolved tension also creates stress.

While a leader draws attention to the way things could be, too much tension creates rebellion or exhaustion

  • Rebellion. Without trust in you and the process, followers pull back to the safety of the way things were. The result of uncertainty about you and frustration about the new is rebellion.
  • Exhaustion. Even for those who trust you, the unknown creates fatigue. Questions without answers add weight to people who are probably already weighed down.

Before too long, the leader has to land the plane. 

You will not solve every problem immediately, but you should give clarity as soon as you have it. Then, begin working on the next problem.

During change: introduce a tension, get people moving in the same direction, and land the plane.

Want to learn more about change? Start with The Change Inventory, a free assessment to identify where change gets stuck.

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