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Why Uncertainty Causes Stress for Business Leaders

April 04, 20234 min read

...And 5 Tips to Reduce it Fast in Any Situation

As a business leader, uncertainty is a constant challenge, and the primary cause of stress and anxiety. Whether it's dealing with market shifts, unexpected challenges, staffing issues, or rapid changes in technology, uncertainty makes it difficult to plan for the future, or even know what your next move should be, let alone how you can respond to emerging opportunities.

Why does uncertainty cause stress? There are several reasons:

  1. Fear of the unknown: (note: Fear is almost always because of the unknown)  When the future is uncertain, it can be difficult to predict the outcomes of different decisions. This can lead to fear and anxiety.  In fact, we tend to imagine and ‘fear the worst’...   As business leaders, we  worry about making the wrong choices and facing negative consequences.

  2. Lack of control: Uncertainty can also create a sense of powerlessness and lack of control. When the future is changing and  unclear, we  often feel like they we’re at the mercy of external forces, making it difficult to plan and make informed decisions.

  3. Increased pressure: Uncertainty often increases pressure on business leaders to make decisions quickly and without full information. This can compound stress and anxiety as we struggle to balance the need for speed and decisive action with the need for thoughtfulness and positive outcomes.

What can you do about it? Here are five tips to reduce uncertainty, and the stress it causes, that business leaders can use in any situation:

  1. Focus on what you can control

One way to reduce uncertainty is to focus on what you can control.  Identify areas of your business that are stable and predictable and double down on those.  For example: You can’t control whether a new competitor is entering your market.  But you can control the level of satisfaction, value, and relationships you provide for your customers.  By focusing on what you can control, you can create a sense of stability and reduce the feeling of powerlessness that comes from the things you can’t.

  1. Get more information - to ease decision-making

As simple as it sounds, if uncertainty and fear come from the unknown, get more information!  By gathering input and analyzing data from a variety of sources, you can gain a more comprehensive understanding of your business landscape and make more informed decisions. Turn to people you know and trust for their insight and assistance.  They can often provide insight, perspective, inspiration, and even resources that will lead you to a confident direction. This can reduce the feeling of fear and anxiety that comes from being under-informed.

  1. Implement a risk management plan

To reduce uncertainty and the stress it causes, it's also important to have, and be ready to implement, a risk management plan.  Identify potential risks in advance and develop contingency plans to address them.  

A large trade association I know has a ‘fail-safe plan’ that they create every year, just in case sponsorship and membership support doesn’t meet budget.  Four months into the year, if they’re not on track, they implement their fail-safe plan.  No one panics.  Everyone knows what has to be done. And they remain fiscally solvent.   

By having a plan in place, you can reduce the feeling of pressure that comes with uncertainty, maintain stability with your team, and increase their confidence in your leadership.

  1. Communicate effectively

Effective communication is critical for reducing the uncertainty of others. By keeping your employees and stakeholders informed about your plans and progress, you can reduce their feelings of fear and anxiety. This includes regular communication through channels such as company-wide meetings, emails, internal social media platforms, team meetings, and one-on-one calls or conversations.

  1. Be adaptable

Finally, it's important to be adaptable in the face of uncertainty. This may require being open to new ideas and approaches, and being willing to pivot quickly in response to changing circumstances. By being adaptable, you can reduce the feeling of pressure that comes with uncertainty and increase your ability to respond to what may really be emerging opportunities.  

Uncertainty is easily the biggest cause of stress and anxiety for business leaders.  

By focusing on what you can control, getting more information to guide decisions, implementing a risk management plan, communicating effectively, and being adaptable, you can reduce uncertainty and the stress it causes in any situation. 

With a proactive approach, you can be a better business leader and position your organization for success, even in the most challenging of times.

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Uncertainty in BusinessReduce UncertaintyBusiness Leadership Reduce Stress and Anxiety
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Tim Rhode

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