Being a strong voice in uncertain times

28 Jan 20

Public finance leaders will inevitably face periods of instability, but there are strategies you can adopt to successfully get through them


Key takeaways

  • Be aware of changes in advance
  • Embrace the inevitability of change
  • Put collaboration at the core
  • Set the right tone
  • Remain purpose-driven

Do you have your ear to the ground?

When times are uncertain knowing what is coming around the corner is harder to predict than usual. Nevertheless, whether this instability is related to national or even international events or confined to within your own organisation, your team members will hear rumours and engage in speculation. They will ultimately be looking to their leaders for clarity, so make sure you are as informed as you can be and make time to answer their questions, which may be about some delicate matters. Wherever possible try to anticipate the changing times before they arrive.

Can you embrace change?

When everything is going well it can be tempting to become complacent and simply carry on using tried and tested methods – but what if these methods stop working? Be prepared not only for specific changes but for the inevitability of change itself, accepting it as a fact of life and not something to resent or resist.

Uncertainty is unsettling, partly because the details are often vague – what exactly will happen, and what won’t? When will it come and how will it affect me? By making sure your team is informed you give them the reassurance to not panic about the unknowable. Acknowledge that they are worried, and then make sure that your actions help to ease this worry, rather than fuel it.

Do you have a collaborative mindset?

A manager is only as good as the team around them. Certainly it is no good to retreat into a shell when faced with challenges in an attempt to solve everything by yourself. The ‘hero model’ of management is antiquated; today’s leaders seek to empower their colleagues from all levels to lead. Similarly, when the going gets tough it is not advisable to increase supervision and micro-manage. Once everyone understands the situation and what is expected of the team, people still need to be given the space and trust to do their jobs. Don’t pull back on delegation.

Are you setting the right tone?

There are some personal qualities that you can develop to help you stand firm through harder times. These qualities include being:

  • dedicated to ethics
  • dependable
  • fair and just
  • a good communicator
  • firm and consistent.

Being this kind of person sets a tone and presents a model of what you expect from others. A team that shares these characteristics is geared towards positivity, which counteracts fear and produces hope – and hope inspires confidence, bringing a better chance of success.

Can you stay focused?

No amount of positivity, collaboration and trust will help if you lose focus on what you ultimately wish to achieve. An organisation is on a journey to meet its goals, and like any journey you need to know where you want to go. The path you take may deviate in reaction to circumstances, but any deviation should still be in service of reaching your destination.

Solving the immediate challenges to the detriment of your purpose will only lead to more challenges. Even when faced with multiple short-term issues, remember that your organisation needs to focus on long-term goals.

Questions for you:

  • Are you the kind of leader who inspires the hope that gives your colleagues the confidence to get through uncertain periods?
  • Do you embrace collaboration, during hard times as well as the good?
  • Do you always look around for what is going to happen and what might happen – and make a distinction between the two?


Further information

CIPFA’s Leadership skills training

CIPFA Leadership Development Programme

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